HRAND ISHKHAN SIMONIAN 1925 – 2023
Hrand Simonian, a family man, community leader and patriot of the Armenian nation passed away on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. He was 97.
Hrand was born on November 15, 1925, in Aleppo (Haleb), Syria. His mother, Yester, who was 29-years-old when Hrand was born, was orphaned at the age of 6 months, when both of her parents were massacred on the same day at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. This devastating, personal experience in Yester’s life would be verbally passed on to Hrand when he was older and impact the decisions he made throughout his entire life.
At the time of his birth, Hrand had three siblings, Marie, Haigaz, and Verjine. It was Verjine that Hrand would later claim to be “his best friend.”
In 1937, Hrand moved with his family to Beirut, Lebanon. At the age of 12, Hrand vowed to fight until Armenia was a free nation. His lifelong dream was realized in 1991, when Armenia became an independent nation.
At an early age, Hrand left school and started to work to support his family. Over the next 14 years, Hrand would find himself working as a knick-knack salesperson, candy manufacturer, book binder, tailor, electrician, and car mechanic in Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan.
It was in Aman, Jordan that Hrand fell in love and married Manoushak Kargodorian in 1950. They had a loving marriage that lasted 63 years.
In 1952, a chance and fortuitous encounter changed the course of Hrand’s life. A worker at the newly established U.S. Embassy in Aman found his way to Hrand’s auto shop with a car that would not start. Hrand diagnosed and fixed the issue quickly. When the gentleman asked to pay, Hrand stated that there would be no charge. The gentleman then stated, “We could use good people like you in the U.S., would you be willing to stop by the embassy and consider immigrating to America?” On July 9, 1952, Hrand and Manoush—who was more than eight months pregnant at a the time—arrived in New York City. As he frequently liked to say, “I had $82 in my pocket.”
While in New York, Hrand established an auto repair shop and ended up, in time, owning the largest Gulf Oil Company gas station in the State. During this time Hrand and Manoush also sponsored multiple families to come to America.
In 1959, Hrand moved his family, which by then had added three sons, Raffi, Armen, and Vicken, to Hollywood, California, the land of swimming pools and movie stars. It was here that Hrand made his fortune by being the rare, “honest” auto mechanic he was. His reputation brought him many customers from all walks of life including the celebrities Sonny and Cher, and Peggy Lee.
In 1959, Los Angeles had a small Armenian population, with one church, no Armenian restaurants, and a radio show that Happy Harry Hadigian presented one hour a week. Hrand, and several of his colleagues, friends, and family started building the Armenian community one person at a time by employing, funding, connecting, organizing, and encouraging individuals to participate in their efforts. By 2013, it was estimated that there were 238,000 Armenians living in Los Angeles. When you pass by that street sign on the corner of Western Ave and Hollywood Blvd that says “Little Armenia,” you can rest assured that Hrand Simonian had something to do with it.In his lifetime, Hrand was devoted to many organizations including, but not limited to, Homenetmen, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Armenian Educational Foundation, the Armenian Assembly, the USC Friends of Armenian Music, UCLA’s Track & Field sports, the Armenian Church, the Armenian Literary Society of New York, the Armenian Writers Association of Los Angeles, the Armenian Writers Association of Armenia and many, many more. He had a strong desire to give his seemingly endless energy to devote his time to the issues he was passionate about. Hrand was also an avid writer and journalist and helped establish multiple publications, periodicals, and newspapers, and contributed thousands of articles to Armenian literature. He published a book entitled “Soldiers of The Armenian Cause” or (Hye Tadi Zinvorner Lav Mideek Ehrek).
Hrand is predeceased by his wife, Manoush (2013), and his son Vicken (2014). He is survived by his sons, Armen and Raffi, his daughter-in-law, Jill Simonian (nee Collins), and his grandchildren, Nicholas, Alex, and Katie.
He adored his family and devoted his entire life to making sure that they were educated, taken care of, and loved.
His memorial services will take place on Wednesday, January 25 at 3 p.m., at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, located at 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, LA, CA 90068, at the Church of the Hills (“The White Church”).
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Armenian Educational Foundation: (aefweb.org, Donate, General Donation, Name of Honoree: Hrand Simonian).