JACKSON HOLE, Wyoming—When Stephen Haroian stepped foot in his pickup truck on the morning of March 2, 2013 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he was going on more than a simple car ride. Stephen, a native son of Edwardsville, Illinois – about 30 miles from St. Louis, Missouri – was going on a six hour journey from his new hometown in Wyoming to an Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Town Hall meeting in Boise, Idaho.
“When I met Stephen in Boise last month at our ANCA Town Hall meeting, my first reaction was, wow, this guy was willing to drive a total of 12 hours to come to a meeting about the Armenian Cause,” remarked ANCA – Western Region Executive Director William Bairamian. “That, I thought, is real dedication. The more I learned about Stephen, the more I saw an individual who embodies the best of our ANCA activists around the nation – selfless, smart, and devoted to our common Cause.”
Stephen grew up just outside of St. Louis, attending St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Granite City, Illinois. When he was 10, he joined the Granite City “Antranig” AYF chapter and spent his summers at AYF Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts. Stephen also attended AYF – Eastern Region Junior Seminars held in the small western Pennsylvania town of Butler.
When it came time for college, he went to the University of Wyoming in Laramie and later decided to stay and work in the Mountain West as an oilfield geologist. Though he no longer works as a geologist, he has lived in Wyoming ever since.
“My family has always been an inspiration to me and from a very young age they instilled in me the pride and importance of preserving our cultural heritage. My grandfather, Mitch Kehetian, always allowed me to peruse and raid his bookshelves full of literature about Armenia,” said Stephen.
The journey to Boise, Idaho from Jackson Hole, Wyoming for Stephen was more than a trip of 375 miles. It was more than a trip on roadways, like State Routes 31 and 26 and Interstate Highways 15, 86 and 84 that crisscross across the great American West. The journey for Stephen was one defined by his faith and family and defined by his belief in the
Armenian Cause championed by the ANCA around the nation.
“I drove 6 hours one way on a Friday to make the town hall meeting that evening and on Saturday I drove the 6 hours back home. When I learned that the town hall meeting was happening in Boise, I knew that I just absolutely couldn’t allow myself to miss it,” remarked Stephen.
The ANCA Town Hall in Boise, Idaho attended by Stephen was a small gathering of Idaho’s Armenian American community and was reminiscent of the town hall meetings once held in small towns across the United States. The meeting was led by Johnny Kazian, an 80-year-old Korean War veteran, who once starred in films as a Hollywood stuntman and later worked as an oil field engineer. Today, Johnny is a leading force for the Armenian Cause in Boise, Idaho.
As Stephen Haroian met with ANCA Executive Director William Bairamian in the basement hall of the quaint Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Boise, he could not have known how proud his family, including his mother Janet, father Michael, and grandparents Rose Sarkisian Kehetian and Mitch Kehetian, would be. Days later his family would see Stephen’s photo at the ANCA Town Hall on Facebook and share how proud they are of him for fighting the good fight for the Armenian Cause.
The ANCA Town Hall in Boise, Idaho that Stephen attended is part of a broad slate of town hall meetings being held across the Western United States. From Fresno, California, Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona, ANCA Town Hall meetings are being held across the nation consistent with the ANCA’s belief in grassroots organizing and activism.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.