Dr. Nazeli Charchian, loving wife, mother and grandmother, respected physician and devoted philanthropist, died in the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 30th at her home in La Crescenta, CA. She was 64.
Even during her final days, Dr. Charchian, known for her compassion and good humor, wouldn’t allow anyone to enter her room with a sad face. Those who dared to make a gloomy entrance would soon be forced into laughter by one of Dr. Charchian’s signature jokes. On one cool December day, as she laid in her hospital bed looking out of her window, she noticed that her older son was approaching. Aiming to play a joke on her unsuspecting child, she told those who were next to her bed to hide themselves as she tilted her head, extended her tongue and acted unconscious. “My mother and everyone else in the room burst into an uncontrollable laughter the minute they saw my worried reaction” recalled her son. “No one would have guessed that someone was ill in our family.”
Behind her positive attitude and cleaver intelligence, as a powerful steam engine pulling a train, was an unmatched ambition and vitality that proved an unstoppable force in her professional, personal and philanthropic life. When her family immigrated to Argentina in 1970, she refused to leave her studies unfinished, and, unafraid of being alone, remained in Yerevan where she obtained her doctorate in medicine and, on one beautiful spring day, met the love of her life: a tall young athlete who we know as Dr. David Charchian. “I still remember her captivating smile the day we met as she came down the university stairs in her knee high leather boots and bumped into my chest” said Dr. David. They soon married and had two wonderful boys.
In 1980, Dr. Charchian and her husband decided to leave behind lucrative careers as medical doctors in Yerevan to pursue a better future for their sons in the United States. Without speaking the language and without any outside support, Dr. Charchian worked hard to become a doctor once again. “After cooking dinner every evening, I remember my mom would stay up all night studying” stated her son. This hard work paid off as Dr. Charchian soon obtained her U.S medical license and, together with her husband opened a medical practice in Glendale, California where they have since treated tens of thousands of patients.
Despite being a full time physician and a full time mother, wife and grandmother, Dr. Charchian could not rest without giving back to her community. Concerned by the pervasive unhealthy choices made by so many of her patients, she teamed up with Glendale Memorial Hospital and for two years hosted a weekly television show aimed at educating the community. In 2003, she became troubled by the fact that so many of our children could not read the Armenian language and lacked basic cultural knowledge. To address this problem, she established an Armenian Saturday School, free to every child, at the Glendale YMCA. To date this school has graduated over 800 students. Joining the Friends of UCLA in 2005, she continued her fight by helping support a permanent Armenian language chair at the University of California. During this same time, and because she was the daughter of a “Hadjinsi,” she became a board member of the Compatriotic Union of Hadjin and traveled to Armenia to reconstruct a dilapidated school in Nor Hadjin.
In late 2005, she found her true passion as president of the Anahid Fund, an organization dedicated to fighting infant mortality and low birth rates throughout Armenia. Establishing its mission as fostering 1.5 Million births for the 1.5 million killed in the Armenian Genocide, Dr. Charchian spearheaded a campaign that provided financial support, prenatal care and education for pregnant women and new mothers. During her presidency, she was able to support over 2,000 healthy births in the Talin and Maralik regions of Armenia alone.
For her lifetime achievements she has been recognized by the United States Congress, the California State Legislature, the County of Los Angeles, and the City of Glendale. In 2012 she received the President’s Leadership award by the Armenian American Medical Society.
Dr. Nazeli Charchian is survived by her husband, Dr. David Charchian, her sons Arthur Sevak Charchian and Benjamin Charchian. Her daughter-in-law Rena Charchian and her two beautiful grandchildren, David and Harry. She is also survived by her brother, Dr. Pertch Tchrian, and sister, Madlen Tchrian, of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Funeral services were held on Saturday, February 9 at 10 a.m.at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
It was Dr. Nazeli Charchian’s personal wish that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Anahid Fund such that her legacy of helping the children of Armenia continues. Checks can be sent to the Anahid Fund at P.O. Box 251201, Glendale, CA 91225 or online at anahidfund.com.