Remembering Dr. Jacob Orphali

Dr. Jacob Orphali

A year has passed since the community lost one of its more compassionate and generous members, Dr. Jacob Orphali, who died unexpectedly on October 15, 2010. Dr. Orphali will always be remembered for his warmth, humor, but most important, for his generosity and compassion toward his family, friends, patients and his unwavering commitment to elevate Armenian community institutions.

Dr. Orphali was born on December 3, 1948 in Beirut, Lebanon. He was the second child of Joseph and Hermine Orphali, who left Palestine as a consequence of World War II and made their home in Lebanon.

Some time later and due to work considerations the Orphalis moved to Jordan, where Jacob attended the local Armenian school and later completed his studies at the Amman State High School.

1968 was a fortuitous year for Jacob. He received word that he was accepted into the Yerevan Medical University. So, the 18-year-old Jacob moved to Armenia to complete his studies.

In the shadow of Mount Ararat and on the soil of his homeland, he worked hard and received his medical degree, with high honors. He moved to the United States to complete his doctorate degree and finished his residency in Gary, Indiana.

In 1984 he became a Medical Doctor specializing in family medicine and set-up his practice in Los Angeles.

That same year, Jacob met his life partner, Verona Meliksetian, with whom he married and created his traditional Armenian family. The Orphalis were blessed with three children, Jayna, Raffi and Cindy, who became the light of Jacob and Verona’s life.

Jacob was of the second generation of Genocide survivors, who as a result of the great calamity were forced to rebuild their lives from scratch, through determination and belief in God as only Armenians can.

Jacob’s family was poor and lacked resources, so the late Jacob was forced to work and study at a very early age. At the young age of 10 he worked with his father and uncle, who were cobblers. Then he worked in the printing field and later as a jeweler and then at a photography studio.

Before graduating high school, Jacob was already an accomplished photographer and was able to make a living and also support his family.

Despite the dire financial condition of the Orphali family, Jacob’s mother, Hermine, always insisted and encouraged Jacob to continue his studies and become a doctor. Heeding his mother’s encouraging words, Jacob applied and was accepted to the Yerevan Medical University and arrived in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, with $10 in his pocket. This is when Jacob starts wrestling with life’s realities and strives to better himself through hard work and perseverance to reach his goals.

Dr. Orphali with his wife, Verona and children Jaina, Rafi and Cindy

It wouldn’t be fair to describe Jacob as just a doctor. He was more than. First and foremost he was a human being—in capital letters. He had an eternal love for his family, his friends and acquaintances, and more importantly for his homeland, the Armenian language, culture and the Armenian Church.

Jacob firmly believed that it was better to give that to receive and therefore his door was open to all, without exception, be they a political office holder, the Catholicos or a poor worker; be they a colleague or a stranger.

It is difficult to describe the manner in which he treated people, young and old. His heart was filled with love for all.

Jacob’s commitment to his nation and the church was evident from a young age when he became a cub scout and a boy scout, and as an adult he was a national delegate representing the Pasadena Armenian Apostolic Church and later a member of the Western Prelacy Executive Council and constant and generous supporter of community organizations and institutions.

During the worst days of the Nagorno-Karabakh liberation struggle, Dr. Jacob Orphali spared nothing to morally and financially assist the heroic people of Artsakh, and continued his contribution until his untimely death. He and his wife, Verona, became active members of the Armenian National Committee where they gave their utmost to ensure the success and advancement of the Armenian Cause.

For Jacob, his homeland, Armenia was a sacred altar to which he bowed and dedicated himself.

Jacob was a staunch supporter of Armenian culture and he often sponsored cultural events and projects. In 1999, through his leadership and dedicated work, the Yerevan Medical University was able to have a modern library on the occasion of the school’s 70th anniversary.

As a physician, Jacob became one of the first Armenian doctors to become Board Certified and later he deservedly became the chairman of the well-renowned Hollywood Presbyterian and St. Joseph hospitals.

Jacob Orphali was dedicated to his field and his specialty. Hundreds of people can attest to the level of care they have received from the late doctor. For many years, Dr. Orphali had designated Wednesdays as the day when he would treat patients free of charge, providing care and medical attention to a wide-spectrum of people and earning their respect and love.

For 50 years Jacob worked relentlessly, without once thinking about his comfort or taking vacations. He had decided that in 2011 he would lighten his workload and take his family to visit Amman, Jordan to show his children the place of his humble beginnings and the place that provided him the impetus to flourish and success. Unfortunately, his untimely death put an end to those plans and dreams.

His death is mourned by his family, his brothers and sisters, his relatives, friends, colleagues, patients—everyone. His passing is a big loss for the Armenian community of which Dr. Jacob Orphali was a venerable member.
Orphali Family Thanks the Community
Verona, Jaina, Rafi and Cindy Orphali would like to thank all their friends and relatives who donated to the Dr. Jacob Orphali Memorial Fund established within the Armenian Cultural Foundation.

The fund was established with Dr. Orphali’s long time dream of helping poor Armenian youth in Armenia, Artsagh and Javagh. He always fondly remembered his youthful days going to school in Armenia and wanted to give back to the homeland.

Every year the fund will make a grant to the Armenian Youth Federation project that best reaches out to at risk youth in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk. This past summer the AYF submitted a proposal to the family and we made a grant to the Youth Corps Program. “Jacob’s Grant” helped the Youth Corps open three children camps in Armenia and one in Artsakh. We know Jacob would be thrilled to learn that 600 at risk Armenian children attended these camps at absolutely no cost to their families.

Twenty-five Diasporan volunteers served as counselors for the neediest children in each region, providing them with educational lectures, revolutionary/patriotic song practice, arts and crafts, games, daily meals, help learning English, discussions about the fate of Armenia and much more. The children overflowed the capacity at each camp! The positive reactions from local parents showed that the camps and counselors truly touched the lives of the young campers.

For the counselors involved, serving the youth directly on the ground helped them build a stronger connection with their homeland. As much as they gave, they received even more in return.

Thank you all for helping start this program we intend to continue it.
Abdoulian Misak & Hourig                                       $100
Akian Aret                                                                       $100
American Medical Service                                       $100
Apelian Shahe & Nadra                                              $175
Aposhian Vatche & Marine                                      $250
Arslanian Sahag & Rita                                               $100
Artinian Peter & Ani                                                    $ 50
Ashjian Family                                                               $100
Aslanian Hagop & Anait                                             $100
Aslanian Dikranouhi & Family                                $200
Aznavour Jewelry Inc.                                              $300
Baghdassarian Sahag & Kathleen                           $200
Bakalian Arsen                                                              $100
Balian Jacques & Yvonne                                         $150
Balian Michael & Jennifer                                         $150
Balian  Alice                                                                   $200
Balian Haroutune & Sirarpi                                     $100
Balian Alec & Shoghig                                                $100
Balian Armen                                                                $200
Balian Sossy                                                                  $200
Balian  Aram                                                                 $400
Bardakjian Vatche M.D.                                           $500
Berberian Nerses & Anahid                                    $100
Boyadjian Aram & Anait                                          $  50
Boyadjian Karine                                                        $  25
Chemsian Angele                                                        $100
Cherkezian Lena                                                          $100
Dakessian  Annie                                                         $ 50
Dakessian Hagop & Sona                                          $100
Dakessian Mardiros & Maria                                  $500
Dekirmenjian Jack & Tamar                                   $150
Demirjian Zaven                                                         $100
Depoyan Vartan & Garine                                       $  50
Derderian Sarkis & Siroon                                      $500
Dermendjian Karapet & Ruzanna                        $200
Dikijian Kahajag & Shoghik                                    $100
Diramarian Hampar & Arsho                                $200
Donoyan Avedis & Susan                                        $200
Dourian Harry                                                             $  50
Eftekhari-Kalinjian Roshanak-Krikor                $100
El Radi Sharbel, Silva & Joe                                   $200
Feferian Rafi & Kabakian Lucy                             $200
Festekjian Annie                                                        $  50
Foothill Dental Group  K. Donabedian              $250
Fournouzian Minas & Hourig                                $  50
Gambealas Lucas & Louisa                                     $200
Gared John                                                                   $100
Gentlecare Transport Inc.                                      $100
Ghassan Al-Jazayrly MD                                         $100
Ghazarian Vahe & Alice                                           $150
Ghazarian Zar                                                              $100
Hakop Mkhsyan M.D. A Professional Corp      $100
Haroutunian Samel & Anaid                                  $150
Hovakimian  Hermina                                              $200
Hovsepian  Viken & Nora                                        $250
Iknoyan Meline                                                          $  50
Iskenderian Haygan                                                 $100
Iskenderian Rita                                                        $1,000
Jamgochian George                                                 $  75
Kalajian Vartan & Vartenie                                   $100
Karakashian Aram                                                    $300
Kargodorian Stepan & Shakeh                             $100
Kargodorian Ardachis & Alice                            $100
Kasparian Shahe & Sylva                                       $300
Kazandjian Ohannes & Rosa                                 $500
Kazandjian Yeznig & Arlene                                $500
Kechichian Silva & Marie                                      $  50
Kechichian Tro & Angie                                        $200
Keledjian Stepan & Caroline                                $100
Keledjian Ashkhen                                                  $100
Kelejian Hakop                                                         $200
Kemandjian Annie                                                  $100
Keuleyan Arto                                                          $100
Khanjian  Christina                                                 $100
Kifedjian George                                                      $100
Kouladjian Hrach                                                    $200
Kousehyan Harotyoon & Araxi                         $100
Krikorian Yogi & Sarin                                          $200
Krikorian Armand & Arax                                   $100 
Law Offices of Vatche Chorbajian  Vatche & Jacqueline             $1,000
Law Offices of Zorik Mooradian Mooradian Zorik & Tamar       $150
Lepedjian Katrine M.D./Adjemian Hrant      $200
M.K. Designers Inc.                                                 $100
Mahsdesian Ohannes & Alice                              $100
Margossian  Raffi                                                      $200
Maronian Bedros Meline & Siamanto              $100
Marselian Manuel & Siran                                    $100
MCSSG Chobanian Mihran Muhran                  $100
Meliksetian  Asdghik                                              $300
Meliksetian Melik, Priscilla & Family              $150
Melkonian Vartivar & Florine                            $200
Minassian Guiragos & Annie                               $200
Minassian Haig & Sylvia                                        $150
Momjian Avedis & Deana                                     $100
Moujoukian Agop & Mary                                    $200
Mr. & Mrs. Hatcherian Arto                                $150
Kitsinian Sarkis & Suzane                                     $200
Nadjarian Hrair Harry                                           $1,000 
Nareg Int. Inc. Aghjayan Adour & Helen       $ 150
Nobility Cleaners Inc.                                            $100
Ohannessian Rosemarie                                        $100 
Orphali Jirair & Zoufinar                                       $200 
Osmosis Technology, Inc.                                    $250 
Orphalian & Orphalian   Raffi & Sarkis              $500
Ouzounian Osep                                                        $100
Pacific Horizon Bancorp   Aposhian Kevork & Houry   $100
Panosiaaian Movses & Hasmig                           $100
Sakissian Marie                                                         $  25
Sarafian Theodore & Ann                                     $100
Sarafian Arshalous                                                  $100
Sarian Hripsime                                                       $100
Sarkisian  Dikran & Mariam                                 $100
Shirvanian  Hacob & Mina                                   $200
Simonian Sosi                                                           $  50
Soghbatyan  Lusine & Naira                               $100
Sroujieh Khaldoun & Brigitta                             $250
St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church     $200
Suzy Salman Trustee                                             $200
Tavidian Mher & Sossy                                        $100
Tchamanian Hagop & Silva                                $200
Tcholakian Krikor & Vartouhi                          $100
Topalian Mourad & Arpi                                     $300
Tutunjian  Edward & Nancy                               $500
Varakian Lucik MD                                                $200
Yaralian Zohrab & Carmen                                $100
Yeramian Hrach & Maggie                                 $100
Yesayan Migran                                                     $300


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  1. Harut said:

    I ust say after reading the story of Dr. Orhalis life and the strugles he went thru to achieve his dreams and in return helps the university of Armenia and the Armenian community i must say God Bless You Doc and i hope people reading these story will follow Docs footsteps as it is one example of just like William Saroyan wrote Go head burn our villages, burn our books and watch when 2 Armenians meet in the world see how they will create a new Armenia.
    God bless you Doc and your family

  2. ZARMAIR said:

    Dr Orphali was our family Doctor and a dear friend. Our offices were next to his on the 12th floor in the Hollywood Equitable Building


    My dearest friendVerona, whom I have not since 1980 because Icame back tomy country (Argentina) , I triad to get in touch with her in 1984 when I went back to California till 1989 but it was impossibleto get in touch with her, looking for some papers I found an old directory with her last name and her husbands which I also meet when they gor married. My dear Verona and family I am so sad for you lost and sen you all my love and sympathy for you and your beautiful children, I would like so very much to get in toucou h with you again, I am living in Argentina since 1989 I have a handsome boy (24) and a married a good man, since I got divorced as you know. Please write to me if you can. All my love and good whishes my dear and sweet Verona.