A Tribute to Mayor Zarian

Catherine Yesayan


A week after the passing away of Larry Zarian, from an aggressive blood cancer, I am still in shock. I cannot imagine Glendale without him. He had so much energy and a bright attitude towards life, one would’ve thought that he would live forever. I would joke and say, “Larry, I’m not sure that I’ll be around, but you’re going to celebrate your 100th birthday.”  He was a staunch Republican and I am a Democrat, and we joked about that too.

Larry Zarian was a pivotal figure in my life. I can’t remember exactly when I first learned about Zarian, but I do remember the first time I met him in the early 1980s. I was at a grocery store buying fruit and he was doing the same.  I approached him, introduced myself and we started talking.  I told him how proud I was that we had an Armenian in our city’s politics. He appreciated my cajoling and told me that we Armenians should work together and be involved in our community.  From that moment on, he kindled the fire inside me to become an active member in our community.

In 2001, I ran for the School Board, he offered great support and assistance to my campaign. I learned a lot about politics through him.  He was an admirable member of Glendale’s Armenian-American community.  In his 16 years on Glendale’s city council, he advocated his time for many causes and served on many boards within our city and throughout the state. I always wondered how he could make time to be on the board of so many organizations.  According to City of Glendale, his public service was recognized by presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and governors: George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Years ago at a time when there were no cellphones and no computers, when our only mode of communication was the telephone landline, he would answer his messages timely and not leave any message unanswered. He was known for that.  He seemed to have such great skills for time management.  I always looked up to him and and wanted to be like him. 

We remained in touch throughout the years; he was a good listener, always encouraging, and exuded a lot of energy.  I admired him for these wonderful qualities and the many others that shaped his character.  In recent years I didn’t see him as much, but it happened that I saw him in July of this year and I had the opportunity to catch up with him.  We met at the 12th Annual Awards Luncheon for Women in Business at the Castaway Banquet Hall in Burbank.

The personable person he was, he mentioned that he hadn’t seen any letters written by me in the opinion page of the Glendale News Press lately.  I thought to myself how rewarding it was to know that he had actually taken the time to read my past submissions and even he recalled them.

He also mentioned that lately he had noticed in the Glendale News Press an Armenian woman writing a column about Armenians.  He was not happy about the fact that she was pointing out to the negative elements of Armenian life in Glendale and in the homeland. Now that I’m thinking back I am so much more impressed that he took the time and effort while he was sick to read the newspaper. 

From my first conversation I had with him at the grocery store in the early 80s to the last one when I spoke with him at the Castaway’s luncheon a few months ago, he had this incredible zest for life.  His death has definitely created a void in our city especially in the Armenian community, but his legacy will live on forever.  His tireless efforts set an exemplary  precedent for our new Armenian-American generation to become active in the city’s politics. His love for Glendale and the Armenian causes was evident in the actions he took. He was nicknamed “The People’s Mayor,” and indeed he was.

Catherine Yesayan is a contributor to Asbarez. You may reach her at cyesayan@gmail.com or read her stories on her blog.

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