Remembering Unger Mgouch

On Thursday, January 22, Armenian Revolutionary Federation leader and activist Mgrdich Mdrdichian passed away, leaving a great legacy for future generation and lifetime of memories for those who knew him. He was laid to rest on Saturday, January 31 at Memorial Mass, officiated by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, at St. Mary’s Church in Glendale with hundreds of relatives, friends and colleagues in attendance. Below is an overview of Unger Mgouch’s life and memories from his son, Ara, and daughter, Ani, delivered at a memorial luncheon following the service.

Mgrdich (Mike) Mgrdichian–known by his endearing moniker, Unger Mgouch–was born November 17, 1930, in Beirut Lebanon, the youngest of Karekin and Anna Mgrdichian’s three children. His parents, both natives of Erzeroum (Garin), Armenia, were survivors of the Armenian Genocide and despite the many obstacles they necessarily encountered as survivors, the Mgrdichians made their children’s education and upbringing their first priority. Mike attended the Nshan Palandjian Armenian College under the mentorship of the likes of Levon Shant, Nigol Aghbalian, Garo Sassouni and others, all of whom shaped him as an individual, an Armenian and a Tashnagztagan. Upon graduation, he entered the banking sector, in management, and was an entrepreneur.

From early on, Mgouch dedicated the great balance of his time and energy to the Armenian community and the Armenian Cause. His first experiences in this regard were as an HMEM scout, followed by his membership in the ARF Youth Organization, then Zavarian Student Organization, and then, of course in the ARF where he assumed various leadership positions, dedicating his efforts to significant ARF endeavors here and abroad, particularly to the implementation of special programs geared toward the realization of Armenian national interests, under the leadership of Trasdamard (Tro) Ganayan.

In 1960, Mike met the woman who would become his wife and lifelong partner, Makrouhi (Mako) Boyadjian and they were married in January of the following year. However, as a result of the deteriorating political climate in the Middle East in the early 1960’s, and the subsequent persecution, pursuit and in absentia conviction of ARF ungers, Mgouch was required to leave Lebanon and his then pregnant wife, Mako. In 1962, the Mgrdichian’s were blessed with a son, Ara, born during Mgouch’s brief stay in Germany and in 1963, his wife and son joined him in Paris, where Mgouch met his one and a half year old son for the first time. Here, he was offered and took a position with Petrossian Caviar. However, adhering to their earlier plans, the young family left Paris in 1964, to embark upon a new life in the United States and relocated to Los Angeles, where they were blessed with two additional children, Ani, in 1965, and Karekin, in 1969.

Over the next several decades, Mgouch worked tirelessly in a variety of capacities both in the community and in his professional life aiming to provide the best of everything for his family and greater community, particularly for the education of his children. Despite long hours at work, Mgouch remained very active in the then burgeoning Los Angeles Armenian Community, spending many years in leadership positions and behind the scenes guiding the Western Region and dedicating himself to help create and advance its newly forming infrastructure, always with an eye toward continued growth and future development.

He was a man of principle and action, always brief and to the point, a strategic thinker, with a “tell it as it is” and “can do” philosophy’scharacteristics not always appreciated by some. He was a loving, nurturing, exceedingly responsible husband and father; a doting and tender grandfather, whose love of family knew no bounds’sthere was nothing Mgouch would not do to secure his family’s health and well-being. He loved his friends purely and completely’she was loyal and trustworthy, someone you could count on for anything, day or night.

In 2001, sadly, upon the loss of his youngest son Karekin, Mgouch’s world was shattered, and with it, it seemed his very soul. The death left an indelible mark upon him and his loved ones, changing their lives forever, but his in particular. This social being became more and more isolated and reticent. Though he suffered from a variety of ailmen’s during the last few years, he was always self-sufficient, never wanting to trouble those around him, and his sudden passing seemed to parallel his attitude in life.

Mgouch was a pillar–a great supporting beam–both of this community and of his family. His loss is a source of vast grief and leaves an enormous vacuum in the lives of his wife, Mako, his children Ara and Ani, his grandchildren, Aram, Armen and Kara and his sister, Alice, as well as in those of his friends and his community.

He will be sorely missed.
May God rest his soul.
May his memory be eternal.

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Ungerus

BY ARA MGRDICHIAN

"Everyone cannot drink of my water; My water is a different water;"
–Sayat Nova

I have had the great honor to have known Mgrdich Mgrdichian for a great many years. I have known him as a father, as a colleague, as an Unger, and, most importantly, as my friend–my closest friend and confidante. My most trusted counselor and brother in arms. Without him, this world–nay this universe–would be empty. Fortunately, he–as ever–is with me, always–my ace in the hole, my salvation. He was and is my Master–in the truest and classical sense of the term. He is my captain and I his adjutant. The relationship we had, and still have, was uncanny.

We had a deep abiding respect, love and caring for one another, although sometimes it was expressed in our own unique, baffling way. These feelings were translated into real actions great and small. It was truly and dizzyingly multi-faceted. To this day, I seek his counsel, I long for his nimbleness and depth of mind, and his rare coupling of an immense, passionate heart and challenging intellect–the combination of the head and the hand.

And, I miss his smell, his warmth and his tenderness.

Not many truly knew the polyvalent nature of his character–its complexities, its subtleties, its nuances–intellectually, as a strategic thinker and planner, academically, and as a superior man of action. The Samurai adage, from the Hagakure, is apt in his regard: "A samurai must take his decisions and act upon them within the span of seven breathes."

In his case it may have been three or four;

And, for the greater part of his life, his actions were commensurate to his beliefs, and in the case of such a focused, committed and passionate man, this is no small feat. I will not dwell upon the details of his existence–he would not want or allow that. He was of another breed. However, I will note that he was, particularly in his prime and by all accounts, highly disciplined, wielding a great will to power and living by the protocols and operational codes indigenous to his particular sort.

My father was also a truly transcendental man and in many ways very open minded. He was inextricably wound up with the creation and gleaning of truth, not only in the absolute, but in the context of time, and this must have been his forte–doing what had to be done, when it had to be done. He went beyond this world of shadow and light, often beyond himself, to do what had to be done. Not only to be ensconced in history, but to create it as well. He had transcended this world and its foibles, long before his physical form had passed.

Even now, although I am speaking to you, I am at his feet–not asleep, but in that half awake, "always-at-the-ready" state of the canine–waiting, ready, wanting. The native Americans tell a tale of how the dog became man’s best friend, how when the gods separated the animal kingdom from the human a great chasm was created in its wake and that only the dog, at risk of his being, jumped across that vastness to be with man and to remain with him. I am that dog and I learned my devotion from my master, my father. I learned so many things from him, so many manner of doing things, feeling things, knowing things, so many unquantifiable subtleties. His commitment to his nation and family and friends was beyond words, to the point of causing him grief and sorrow when he felt he did not measure up to his own high and absolute standards.

This man, my father, all 5 foot 3 inches of him, cast a great shadow–his command presence was impressive and all those who have known him even briefly have been touched by his great love of life, his great sense of humor and his penetrating gaze. I have experienced the full spectrum of life with him and I am the better for it.

I will miss him sorely–until we regroup and fight again;
I do so wish I had known him as a child.
My endless friend,
My terminal colleague,
My loving father.

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Baba

BY ANI MGRDICHIAN-GARIKIAN

Many of you have known my father as a friend, as a member of this community, as a worker, as a leader, a man of integrity, who spoke and pursued the truth often to a fault; most of you did not know the man who is my baba, and I want to give you just a tiny window into that person today, as we honor his life and mourn his loss.

When he walked in the door of his sanctuary which was our home, he shed the proud, principle defending, no compromise (some might even say stern) persona that many of you saw, and became my loving, nurturing father, who, believe it or not, in all my life, never uttered a harsh word to me, never broke a promise big or small, and never, ever turned me down, even if he sometimes did not agree with my position. Khatres yerpek cher godrer, and he tolerated much from me, which he would never have accepted from anyone else.

If my father was extreme in some things, so too was he in his love for us, as it was always clear to me until the very day that he died, that there were no boundaries there, nor in what he would actually, physically do for me. There was no end to that rope, no cup to get full. And if I did not feel that enough in my experience as his daughter, it was even more apparent as I observed him in his relationship with my own children as he doted over them in ways, did things for them and said things to them that often made me chuckle because I knew no one in the outside world would believe it if I told them of his behavior. Interestingly, particularly in his later years, it was also apparent that despite all that he had given us, particularly in light of all the difficulties that life had dealt him, he never felt that he had done enough, despite my trying to convince him to the contrary, and it pained me to know that he remained self-critical and unsatisfied in that respect.

Though I am grateful for many things I learned from my father and which he gave me over his lifetime, I am most grateful for what I learned from him about how to love my children. The hole his loss leaves in my heart, right alongside that gaping hole left by the loss of my brother, Karekin, cannot be filled by anyone and I will miss him forever.

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