The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee on July 9 announced the passing of one of the organization’s veteran members, community leaders and a long-time editor of Asbarez and a devoted ARF member, Unger Kristapor Pakradouni, who passed away on Friday, July 8.
During Pakradouni’s funeral service on July 16 at the SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary, his granddaughters Jennifer and Katherine Pakradouni, and Diana Saba presented the late editor’s biography and remembered him not only as a community leader but a beloved grandfather.
Below is the presentation.
Read by Katherine Pakradouni
Kristapor Pakradouni was the son of Manaseh and Manoushag Pakradouni. His mother was a survivor of the Armenian Genocide. After being separated from her mother during the Genocide, Manoushag lived in a Kurdish village for four years. She was then relocated to an American-run, Protestant orphanage in Aleppo, Syria. It was there that Manoushag met and married Manaseh, whose family was already established in Aleppo. They were blessed with the birth of their son, Kristapor, on June 22, 1929. With the birth of daughters Roubina in 1935 and Salpi in 1942, their family was complete.
When Kristapor was 8 years old, his family moved from Syria to Lebanon, where he began attending the Hamazkayin “Djemaran” School from second to tenth grades. During those years, he was lucky enough to be the student of playwright Levon Shant and two former officials of the first Armenian Republic: literary critic Nigol Aghpalian and author Garo Sassouni.
After tenth grade, Kristapor attended the “International College,” a private preparatory school affiliated with the American University of Beirut where he took both levels of the French baccalaureate examination upon graduating in 1947. Although he was always too modest to mention it, Kristapor had the highest score in the entire country that year. Though interestingly, when he needed to put his children in their place, he did manage to mention that fact once or twice. He also attended the English division of the American University of Beirut for two years.
Kristapor joined the Zavarian Student Association at the age of 19, thus beginning his lifelong affiliation with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
After leaving the American University of Beirut, Kristapor served as the personal secretary for General Dro Ganayan, who had been the commander of Armenian forces in one of the battles that established the Republic of Armenia in 1918. During those years, he enjoyed the company of General Dro’s colleague Simon Vratzian, who was not only the principal of the Jemaran School, but had also been the last Prime Minister of the first Republic of Armenia.
During that period of time, Kristapor met Khatoune Srabian, the librarian at the Jemaran and the personal secretary for Simon Vratzian. In fact, it was Khatoune who met and wooed Kristapor, but that is a story for another time. Suffice it to say, they were married on July 1, 1956, thus beginning a lifelong journey of love and friendship that lasted 60 years.
After General Dro’s death in 1956, Kristapor went to work at the Beirut Airport.
On January 22, 1959, Kristapor and Khatoune were blessed with the birth of their first son and our dad, Sevag. Their second son Viken was born on November 11, 1962 and their daughter Nairi on December 14, 1963.
In the meantime, Kristapor, Khatoune, and Sevag moved to Ghana where Kristapor was a foreman for Barkev Kasardjian’s Construction company until 1964 when the now-complete family moved to the United States, establishing itself in the Los Angeles area.
While in Los Angeles, Kristapor worked full-time for an educational film company during the day and attended college as a full time student in the evenings. My grandfather attended Cal State LA, where he studied French language and literature. Coincidentally, I also attended his alma mater and studied English Literature as well as French.
Kristapor received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cal State LA in 1969. Repeating his high school performance, he graduated with highest honors and as a result was chosen to represent all the graduating students by being the only student called to the stage to receive his diploma. Of course, his children never heard the end of it – though I’m sure he never mentioned it outside his immediate family circle. He also earned a Master of Arts degree from Cal State LA.
Read by Jennifer Pakradouni
After a brief break, Kristapor continued his higher education at the newly established University of California at Irvine where he gave rise to a family tradition: both my parents, my sister Diana, and I subsequently attended UC Irvine. At UC Irvine, Kristapor completed all of his course work for a PhD in French literature and was preparing to start writing his doctoral dissertation.
However, in 1973, he was invited to become the editor of the Asbarez newspaper, the official publication of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in the Western United States, which had recently moved to Los Angeles from Fresno.
Kristapor decided to forgo his personal dream of completing his doctorate in order to realize his ultimate dream of serving the Armenian people and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. From a young age, Kristapor served in the ARF world-wide and regional congresses, bringing his unique perspective to those meetings. For a time, he served on the Central Committee of the ARF in the Western United States. Aside from his family, his service to the Armenian community and the ARF were his abiding interests in life.
During the time he started working at Asbarez, Kristapor was able to realize another of his dreams: reuniting his family after a long ten-year separation. His parents and younger sister Salpi immigrated to the United States and joined Roubina, who had preceded them. Roubina had been serving as a kindergarten teacher at Armenian Mesrobian School since its inception in 1965. The Pakradouni family was finally back together.
For almost 10 years, Kristapor was the editor of Asbarez. During his tenure, he was instrumental in modernizing the newspaper. He changed the paper from a twice-weekly to a three-times weekly publication, and finally made it into a daily newspaper. He also instituted a separate English edition with a different editorial staff. In addition, production of the paper was switched from using a linotype machine to using computers. Kristapor was always proud that his sister Salpi, who had joined him at Asbarez as a typesetter, played a key role in that significant transition. Under his stewardship, the paper became more financially independent, and as such it no longer required the subsidies it formerly received from the ARF.
During the 1980s, Kristapor was a founding member of the “Hamazkayin” cultural association on the West Coast.
After 1983, when he left Asbarez, Kristapor taught high school French and English in the Los Angeles Unified School District until his retirement in 1999.
Read by Diana Saba
In 1991, Kristapor’s eldest son Sevag married Aghavni Arakelian. They have three daughters – Katherine, the youngest, Jennifer, my twin, and me, Diana. A little over a year ago, my husband Elias Saba and I were blessed with a son – George, who not only made Kristapor a great-grandfather, but also brought him great delight. Even near the end, when he was at his sickest, my grandfather’s eyes and spirit would light up every time he saw George.
In the year 2000, Kristapor realized one of his greatest life-long dreams: to visit an independent Armenia. That year, he accompanied the delegation that transferred the remains of his beloved General Dro from Boston to Armenia. To his immense joy, he was joined by his life-long comrades-in-arms: Mgouch Mgrdichian and Mike Hatzbanian.
In 2004, he realized another dream when he traveled to historical Western Armenia and visited, among many other places, the City of Ani, the historical capital of the Pakradouni dynasty. Oddly, despite all his fervent proclamations, no one was willing to recognize his historical claims of ownership of Ani, the City of 1001 Churches, and he was forced to resume his exile in Los Angeles.
In 2009, his Holiness Aram the First of the Holy See of Cilicia bestowed upon Kristapor Pakradouni the prestigious “Mesrob Mashdotz” medal in recognition of his life-long contributions to Armenian culture, writing, and public life.
During his retirement, nothing brought Kristapor more pleasure than his annual summer trips with Khatoune to Mexico, New Orleans, Florida, Virginia, and most of all Lake Tahoe, which held a special place in his heart – perhaps because it reminded him of the Lebanese kiughs, or villages, where he had spent his summers as a youth. However, be it winter, spring, summer, or fall, Las Vegas was one of my grandfather’s favorite destinations. We all enjoyed hearing about his successes on the poker machines. After all, could anyone begrudge the Pakradouni patriarch of a few royal flushes? In short, Kristapor took full advantage of his retirement years, which he joyfully shared with his constant companion, best friend, and devoted, loving wife Khatoune.
Parts of the ending read alternately by Diana, Jennifer, and Katherine
We will always remember Medzbaba for his joyous spirit, his sharp mind, his warm embraces, his quick wit, his loving heart, and his infectious laughter. He was a talented wordsmith and storyteller, and we have many fond memories of the humorous stories he told around the dinner table. And, who could forget his funny antics and impish playfulness every New Year as he opened his, and sometimes other people’s, Christmas presents! We could always count on him to lighten the mood at any event. We will never forget this great man. He has left a lasting mark on all those who knew him.