BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The Asbarez family lost one of its own. Former Asbarez English Editor Serge Samoniantz passed away Monday, February 26. He was 75.
The news of Serge’s passing saddened us and prompted reflections about his time here at a critical juncture not only for the Armenian-American community but also for our newspaper, which, three years before he joined Asbarez in 1973, had launched the paper’s English section.
More important, however, Serge was a humble soldier of the Armenian Cause who had dedicated his entire life to the pursuit and advancement of the national aspirations of the Armenian people. He had joined that struggle at a young age by becoming a member of the Armenian Youth Federation and later joining the ranks of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation in 1966 after moving to Montebello.
I met Serge in 1987 when I joined a group of activists from both coasts who had converged on Washington to lobby for a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. To say that in the 10 days or so we spent in DC, I gained more insight and knowledge than a semester in college would not be an understatement. We were assigned to work together in a press task force. At the time I had just finished my first year of college and found myself in awe to be in the company such great activists. In his soft-spoken yet extremely determined manner, Serge skillfully guided that process, always being mindful to ensure that our experience was rooted in reality and that we walked away from it encouraged and energized and not disappointed. Suffice it to say that the resolution did not pass, but it was Serge who pointed out that there will be many falls on the way, but we must get up and march on with renewed conviction.
Serge joined Asbarez in 1973 and worked here for seven years, only to return in 1985 for a second tour of duty that lasted until 1988. Serge shaped public opinion at Asbarez during a time of critical shifts for the Armenian-American community here on the West Coast and an increased international attention on the Armenian Cause, which has shaped our collective advocacy and community activism. He carried that mantle to the Armenian National Committee Western US where he was Executive Director from 1983 to 1984 and later in 1985 as part of ANC delegation to Geneva where he successfully lobbied for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations. In 2006, the ANCA-WR honored Serge with the Vahan Cardashian Award for service to the community.
In 2013, we honored Serge during an event celebrating the 105th anniversary of Asbarez. He didn’t know it, but that evening he also received Mesrob Mashdots medal from His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia for his contributions to the advancement of the Armenian press and the Armenian Cause.
Taking the stage to accept his honor, Samoniantz, who by nature shied away from the limelight, said that what he has done throughout his life and career was serve the community and the Armenian Cause.
In his remarks, he also thanked his mentors, former Asbarez Editor Kristapor Pakradouni, who he said guided him during his early years at Asbarez and whom we lost in 2016. He also thanked and acknowledged Harut Sassounian, the publisher of the California Courier, where Serge served as editor since 1988 calling him “his trusted friend for decades.”
But it was his final remark that day that embodies who he was as a person. He said while there are moments that the community pauses to mark milestones, there is great work to be done and urged the community to continue to heed the daily challenges facing the Armenian nation.
“He is a consummate journalist and a top notch professional. It has been a great honor and pleasure for me to work with him both as a close friend and colleague,” said Harut Sassounian in a 2013 column after the Asbarez celebration.
He leaves behind a legacy of hard work, dedication and commitment and an indelible mark on our community and nation.
May you rest in peace unger.