Seboo Hovanessian was born in 1928 in Tabriz, Iran to Moushegh and Goharik Hovanessian. His early years were spent in the port city of Pahlavi, near the Caspian Sea, where Moushegh was the principal of the local Armenian school, and Goharik, the director of the Armenian preschool. With the closure of the Armenian school in Pahlavi, the family moved to Tehran when Seboo was 5 or 6, where eventually he attended Tamadon Elementary School and graduated from Alborz High School. He subsequently obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from Tehran University.
At the tender age of sixteen, Seboo was one of the founding members of Tehran’s Ararat Organization. Established in 1944, Ararat was a consolidation of several smaller Armenian youth groups that pooled resources and talents to become a single organization with separate divisions for athletics, scouting, literature, music, and theater. In the post WWII years, Ararat thrived by providing the Armenian youth of Tehran the ability to partake of a variety of cultural and athletic events. Seboo served on the board of directors of this fledgling organization for more than three decades It was during this time that he met Elma Hovsepian – a member of Ararat’s choir – and they eventually married in 1957. When Ararat’s board decided to establish a branch in the city of Tabriz in the 1960’s, Seboo was the one who took on this responsibility. Later in Los Angeles, Seboo was instrumental in organizing Ararat’s 50th and 60th anniversary celebrations. To this day, the organization continues to flourish.
Seboo also joined the ARF in his youth and remained a lifelong member, rising in is ranks and holding leadership positions both in Tehran and later in Los Angeles. He remained a staunch supporter of Armenia and Armenian causes. One of his main concerns was the long-term viability of the Armenian diaspora, given the political instability in countries that have long sustained stable Armenian communities.
As an engineer, Seboo was project manager for the construction of a number of sugar factories in various parts of Iran. While engineering provided him the means to earn a living, Seboo’s true interests spanned the realms of music, philosophy, literature and his Armenian heritage. From an early age he played the violin. He taught philosophy at the graduate level in Tehran University and became adept at Armenian oratory and writing without obtaining a formal degree in philosophy or ever attending an Armenian school. He continued to add to his vast collection of Armenian, English and Persian books.
In 1976, as Tehran was becoming politically unstable, the Hovanessian family moved to Los Angeles where Seboo spent the remaining forty years of his life. In Los Angeles, he pursued his lifelong interest in a liberal arts education by attending Cal State Northridge and obtaining a master’s degree in sociology. He translated several works from English to Armenian, including Frost Jr’s “The Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers.” He was an avid reader of Armenian and English works, as well as classic and contemporary Persian poetry.
During the last two decades, Seboo’s pride and joy were his four grandchildren: Taleen, Christine, Ara and Eric. One of his wishes was to visit Armenia with his entire family, and he realized this dream in the summer of 2007. He always looked forward to Friday dinners with his children and grandchildren. This was a tradition that started before the birth of the younger two grandchildren and continued until the last Friday of his life.
Seboo had a unique sense of humor and outlook on life. He was loved and respected by his colleagues from work, Ararat, ARF, as well as friends and relatives. Whenever anyone asked how he was doing he would say “I am always fine” (Yes meeshd lav em).
Seboo took his last breath on July 28, 2016 in the morning, while getting ready for his daily 7am walk in the park. He is resting in a better place now and will forever be “always fine.”