Honoring Past Chairmen BOT Sts. Vartanantz Church

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My name is Charles Kasbarian and I have been asked to perform the duties of Master of Ceremonies for this occasion. At this time, I would like to ask Der Khatchadour Boghossian to offer a prayer and blessing. Please rise.


Honorable clergy, worthy members of the Board of Trustees, dear fellow-parishioners: We have gathered for the purpose of honoring the Past Chairmen of the Board of Trustees of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church. I would like to offer some preliminary comments on the history of the events, some of which are based on my own personal observations, surrounding the establishment of our church.

Prior to 1933, the residents of Hudson and Bergen Counties in New Jersey were blessed with the existence of a single Armenian Apostolic Church to which they could belong and where they could worship as a single community, and that was Holy Cross Church in West Hoboken, later to be incorporated along with Union Hill as Union City. At the same time, the Armenian Community Center, Inc. owned a building in Union City that was named Armenia Hall, and where the Vartkess Chapter of the A.R.F together with the Shake Chapter of the A.R.S conducted their meetings, political gatherings and social programs. Later, the A.Y.F. was also to use these facilities.

In 1933 certain unfortunate events took place that divided the Armenian Community. The members of Tashnagtsagan families were denied the sacraments of the Armenian Church at Holy Cross Church and even barred from entering the church. We young children were deprived of religious instruction and Armenian School lessons which traditionally took place in the church hall. My mother, not wishing my brothers and me to be abandoned , arranged to have us attend the Sunday School of the Armenian Presbyterian Church, then located in West New York. The elders of the church did not ask us about our political beliefs. All they needed to know was that we were Armenian Christians, and, to their everlasting credit, took us in. In order that we children of Tashnagtsagan families would not be deprived af Armenian language lessons, the A.R.S. arranged for the well-known educatorVartkes Aharonian to travel from New York to Jefferson School in Weehawken, New Jersey where instruction took place in rented classrooms.

Some time later, an Executive Committee was formed to look after the spiritual needs of the Tashnagtsagan community. This committee collected funds, arranged for a priest to be brought to St. John’s Church (a Protestant denomination) on 16th Street and Palisade Avenue in Union City where, with the assistance of deacons and choir singers drawn from the community, Badarak services were performed intermittently. The committee disbursed funds and kept records of all transactions. I myself served with Charles Tashjian on the auditing committee charged with examining those records. It can be seen, therefore, that we had a religious congregation and community long before we had a physical church.

The Building Project of the Armenian Apostolic Church of New Jersey was first conceived in 1951 by the Executive Committee comprised of Migerdich Mildonian, Charles Tashjian and Charles Kazanjian. After intensive fund raising for the next two years, an Executive Committee was established in October 1953 for the purpose of building the church. Shortly after that the land for the church was purchased. Subsequently, a decision had to be made whether or not to build the church first and a community center later. It was decided to build them simultaneously when the Armenian Community Center, Inc. decided to sell Armenia Hall in Union City and donate the proceeds to the Fund Raising Committee. The Building Committee was fortunate to have the services of two highly qualified individuals who took a hands-on approach to the actual construction of the church, and they were Messrs. Arthur Nalbandian and Richard Parseghian. With that background, we are ready to move on to the business at hand, which is to acknowledge the contributions of the Past Chairmen of the Board of Trustees of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church.

With your kind indulgence, and for the benefit of our predominantly Armenian-speaking parishioners present to night, I will repeat what I have just read in Armenian translation.


We are in receipt of a message from our Prelate, Bishop Oshagan Choloyan, who is unable to attend tonight’s ceremonies. Der Khatchadour will read the Prelate’s message.


Before I continue, I would like to establish the ground rules for the proceedings. I know some of you would like to volunteer comments on your favorite Past Chairman, but that will not be possible. We don’t wish to unduly prolong the program, so I will read the material that I have on each honoree and this will be followed by the presentation of a plaque to the honoree or his designee. We will try to proceed chronologically as much as possible. The first plaque will be presented by our Pastor, Der Khatchadour, and the recipient of that plaque or his designee will in turn present a plaque to the next honoree, and this will continue in like fashion until all persentations have been completed. I ask that as I commence reading what has been prepared on each honoree, the recipient of the plaque for that honoree begin advancing to the stage so as to save time. In addition, after accepting the plaque and presenting the next plaque, the recipient will please take a place in front of the stage where the chairs have been assembled.


Over his protests, the current chairman will be awarded the final plaque in accord with the wishes of the Pastor and Board Members. After all, this is his second term and he is already a Past Chairman based on completion of his first term.


This is an appropriate time to acknowledge the contributions of the members of the various boards who supported and cooperated with the aforementioned chairmen, those sometimes invisible members who labored at the many ongoing tasks that make our church the vital institution it is.

In summary, I would like to make the following observation. No one really accomplishes anything worthwhile all by himself. Usually, there is someone behind the scenes who contributes a great deal to the success of the enterprise. Although this person may be a friend or blood relative, more often than not it is the individual’s spouse. It is therefore fitting for us at this point to publicly acknowledge these silent partners by asking them to rise and accept a round of applause.

Finally, I ask Der Khatchadour to offer a prayer for the repose of the souls of those honorees who have gone to their eternal reward, namely: Charles Tashjian, Vigen Babayan, Andrew Aslanian, Rouben Kachikian, Marilyn Boyajian and Aram Papazian.


In conclusion, I would like to thank the Pastor and Board of Trustees for permitting me to be part of this worthy program and I would like to thank each and every one of you who came here today to pay tribute to our Past Chairmen. May you enjoy good health, good fortune, and may God bless you, one and all.


1. 1959 *Charles Tashjian 2. 1960-61 *Vigen Babayan 3. 1962-63 Arthur Nalbandian (Two terms) 4. 1964 *Andrew Aslanian 5. 1965 66 Christopher Babigian 6. 1967-68 Aram Bashian 7. 1969 Vahakn Hovnanian 8. 1970-71 Martin Nalbandian (Two terms) 9. 1974 Bedros Tashjian (One term) 10. 1975 *Rouben Kachikian 11. 1976-? *Marilyn Boyajian (Late 70s) 12. 1977-? Armen Kerbeykian-? (per Surenian) 13. 1978 *Aram Papazian ( One term per Surenian) 14. 1979-80 Vahe Surenian 15. 1981-84 Armen Babamian 16. 1983 Zohrab Vosganian 17. 1985-96 John Najarian (Two terms) 18. 1987-89 Nazaret Nazarian 19. 1990-91 Michael Mirakian 20. 1992-93 Sarkis Ohanessian 21. 1994-95 Richard Sarajian 22. 1996 Apraham Deirmenjian 23. 1997-98 Zarmair Setrakian

* Deceased


The first honoree is Charles Tashjian, who served on the Executive Committee that was the driving force that inspired the community to create Sts. Vartanantz Church. During and after construction of the church he served alternately as Treasurer and Chairman. An energetic worker and eloquent speaker, Charles used his gifts to turn the vision of Sts. Vartanantz into reality. As a devoted member of his family and community, he instilled character, discipline and the pursuit of excellence in those he loved.


The next honoree is Vigen Babayan, who served on the Building Fund Committee, the Publicity Committee and along with Arshavir Shiragian, Co-chaired the Consecration Book Committee in the realization of Sts. Vartanantz Church. At the time of the consecration of the church he served on the Board of Trustees and subsequently was elected Chairman. Vigen’s contributions to church and community are legendary, from Prelacy Council Chairman to Antelias delegate, from Chairman of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair Armenian Days to serving on Unity Committees. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes lie buried in St. Hripsime Cemetery in Etchmiadzin.


The next honoree is Arthur W. Nalbandian, who was petitioned by Arshavir Shiragian to guide our community in the actual building of the church. He accepted with the proviso that he would not be encumbered with a large unmanageable committee. He and his partner, Richard Parseghian were given a free hand to manage the actual building of the church, and they made certain that they were on hand at all times to supervise construction. Furthermore, for this tremendous sacrifice of time and energy, they accepted no fee. Upon completion and consecration of the church, Arthur Nalbandian, Harry K. Norian and Hatchig Nedurian were designated Honorary Godfathers of Sts. Vartanantz Church. Arthur continued to serve the community for two terms as Chairman of the Board of Trustees.


Our next honoree is Andrew Aslanian, who departed from this earthly existence, but not from our hearts and minds, just two months ago, and therefore was not able to personally accept our tribute. Andy, as he was affectionately known, was President of the Men’s Club before becoming Chairman of the Board. As a pioneer during the formative years of our church, he instilled a strong sense of purpose in his associates and helped set standards for others to follow. The beneficiaries of these efforts to establish a solid foundation were the younger generations to come who would have a place to worship and socialize.


Our next honoree is Dr. Christopher Babigian who is also one of the founders and organizers of our church. He served as Chairman of the Consecration and Publicity Committee for the Holy Consecration of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church. He also helped organize the Men’s Club and Sunday School. Chris served so many terms as a trustee and chairman that he seemed to be a permanent fixture on the Board. He served as a delegate to the NRA for many years as well as a delegate to the International Representative Assembly in Antelias, Lebanon. He also served as a member of the Prelacy Executive Council for 4 years and as Chairman for 2 years.,


Our next honoree is Aram Bashian. It was during his tenure that the Parish House was built, a noteworthy achievement. Secondly, with the help and cooperation of the other board members, and other church organizations, he was to ensure that all our church functions and activities, such as Mother’s Day Hanteses, Bazaars, Church and Sunday School picnics, game nights, etc. would be successful both financially and socially. Aram continued to be an active member of the Men’s Club where he served as President.


Our next honoree is Vahakn Hovnanian under whose chairmanship important innovations were instituted, some of which continue to this day. Major accomplishments include: · Scheduled celebration of major holidays, such as Armenian Christmas and Vartanantz Day to occur on the exact day, followed by special programs and lunch; Special forms designed to be submitted to all area public schools to excuse our children from school on those holidays; Revitalized the Ladies’ Guild and Men’s Club by initiating outreach programs, such as: The 300 Raffle Club, The annual Labor Day weekend shore dance, Annual bus trips in the fall to West Point football games and Communion breakfast for high school and college graduates. Under his chairmanship, the Board: · Reorganized the operation of the annual church bazaar, raising the overall income of the church. · Subdivided classrooms in the upper hall for the Saturday and Sunday Schools. · Renovated the parking lot. · Burnt the church mortgage. · Raised the salary of the parish priest to a respectable level.


Our next honoree is Martin Nalbandian under whose chairmanship major accomplishments were achieved, such as the complete renovation of the gymnasium, and a renovation of the downstairs kitchen. He and his wife Anni, of blessed memory, were Co-Directors of the Sunday School for 7 years, and together chaired many Church Bazaars. He also served two terms on the National Representative Assembly on behalf of Sts. Vartanantz Church. Martin has indeed followed in the footsteps of his illustrious father.


Our next honoree is Bedros Tashjian who has served three years as a member and one year as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sts. Vartanantz Church. He has also served as NRA delegate for 8 years. He is currently serving as Treasurer on the Prelacy Executive Council. His other contributions to the Armenian community have included his active leadership in such organizations as the ACA, ARF, and Hamazkayin. Bedig, as he is fondly known, is also one of the original founders of the Hovnanian Armenian School.


Our next honoree is Rouben Kachikian who served as Chairman of the Board of Sts. Vartanantz Church as well as a delegate to the NRA. He went on to serve his church and community as Vice Chairman of the Prelacy Executive Council, a position he held for many years. Dr. Roubik’s life-long dedication to the Armenian Church culminated with his being awarded the “Knight of Cilicia” insignia, on behalf of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, at the National Representative Assembly in May, 1993, in Washington, D.C.


Our next honoree is Marilyn Boyajian, who has the distinction of being the first Chairwoman of our Church Board of Trustees. Under her leadership, our church participated in local ecumenical services commemorating Armenian Martyr’s Day. On a personal note, I knew Marilyn in Union City where we both attended Emerson High School. I knew her to be an accomplished musician, but her commitment to the Armenian community was not visible. However, that changed after her father’s death, when his Armenianness must have driven home to Marilyn and her sister, the need to affirm the Armenian side of their identity as a tribute to their father’s memory. From that time until Marilyn’s death, she and her sister Beatrice devoted themselves to the advancement of the fortunes of our church.


Our next honoree is Armen Kerbeykian, who has been an active member of Sts. Vartanantz Church since 1966. He served 10 years as a member and one year as chairman of the Board of Trustees. Armen subsequently served as a delegate to the NRA for 8 years. He has been an active member of the Men’s Club and served as its president.


Our next honoree is Aram Papazian, who permanently left our ranks, but not our fond memories, barely a month ago, and who therefore was not able to personally accept this honor. He served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees in the late 1970s. He perceived the primary goal of the church as the advancement of the Armenian community in terms of both religion and our ethnicity. In this respect, the church was to be the focal point for all aspects of Armenian life. Aram foresaw the emergence of the next generation of Armenian-Americans and the challenges the church would face to keep this young educated professional group involved and active. It was always his hope that they would be guided by the principles established by their parents and grandparents and be encouraged by their leaders to respect and honor the sanctity and blessings of our rich heritage.


Our next honoree is Vahe Surenian, whose involvement with Sts. Vartanantz Church began when he brought his children to Saturday Armenian School in 1960. He became even more active in the church with his election to the Board of Trustees and subsequent promotion to the chairmanship. He later served as a delegate to the NRA for 8 years. Over the years, Vahe (or Darius as he is variously known) has served on numerous committees for the church as well as the Prelacy. He has chaired and co-chaired Tivans at many general membership meetings, as well as numerous banquets, fund raisers and membership drives.


Our next honoree is Armen Babamian, who served on the Board of Trustees of Sts Vartanantz Church for 6 years and as Chairman for 3 years. During his tenure the pangal or vestibule was extended in the front of the church. Included were the stained glass windows as well as the window in front of the church that was donated by the Devrishian Family. He has been a choirmaster for 58 years, 33 of them at Sts. Vartanantz. Armen has served his community in many capacities, particularly as a soloist and conductor of Armenian Choral groups. As a member of the Men’s Club, he participated in its programs by presenting lectures on Gomidas Vartabed and Sayat Nova.


Our next honoree is Zohrab Vosganian. In addition to having been Chairman of the Board of Sts. Vartanantz Church, he served as Director of the Sunday School, Chairman of the Prelacy Religious Education Committee, and co-author of the Sunday School curriculum. He has chaired general membership meetings and served as an active member of the Men’s Club. As architect and engineer, Zo, as he is fondly referred to, designed the pangal or lobby addition to the church.


Our next honoree is John Najarian, who served on the Board of Trustees for 14 years, two of which was as Chairman. In addition he chaired a host of committees during the course of service to the church, such as: Catholicos Khoren Paroyan’s welcoming and fund drive dinner. Der Kourken Yaralian’s farewell dinner. Five church picnics Four New Year’s Eve celebrations. Two annual bazaars. John also served the Men’s Club as president for two years.


Our next honoree is Nazareth Nazarian, who served on the Board of Trustees for four years, three of which was as Chairman. During his tenure, the Prelacy responded to our church’s request for an assistant to Der Hayr by assigning Hayr Soorp Anoushavan Tanielian who proceeded to deliver regular Sunday sermons. It was during this period that Hayr Soorp was elevated to the rank of Dzayrakouyn Vartabed, which was marked by a special observance. Also during this period, the church mounted a fund drive to aid the victims of the Armenian earthquake. In 1989, Nazar served on the welcoming committee for the two Vehapars, Vazgen I and Karekin II.


Our next honoree is Michael Mirakian, who served on the Board of Trustees for four years, two of which were as chairman. During his tenure as chairman, the board established an emergency fund at the disposal of the parish priest, hosted a visit by Vehapar Karekin, hired a secretary, computerized the church records, arranged a fitting retirement testimonial for Der Vahrich, welcomed and installed Hayr Nareg, arranged to have Der Gomidas perform his first Badarak at our church, accomplished significant landscaping work on the church grounds, and also installed cement walks, stairs and railings around the church grounds. He also rendered services to the church in other capacities. Using his professional training, Mike revitalized the Sunday School. For six years, he served both as Sunday School superintendent and as a member of the Prelacy’s Armenian National Education Committee. During this time the number of students doubled, curriculum was formalized and instructors were trained in pedagogic techniques. Also introduced during this period were the treasure chest, uniform tee shirts, ice cream Sundays, holiday pageants, internships, and surprise video game and pizza parties.


Our next honoree is Sarkis Ohanessian, who as Chairman of the Board concentrated deeply on the remodeling of Sts. Vartanantz Church, his major achievement being the purchase of the property next door to the church. Also during his tenure as chairman, Sts. Vartanantz hosted the National Religious Association’s visit to New Jersey, took the unprecedented step of selecting hotel sites for meetings, and realized an overall profit for the church. Sarkis continues to serve the church, his latest significant contribution being the chairing of the pontifical visit of His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia.


Our next honoree is Richard H. Sarajian. During his tenure as chairman, the Board was able to complete several projects that had been planned by the prior board. These included: recarpeting and painting the Church sanctuary; installing movable partitions in the middle hall for Sunday School and Nareg Armenian School classrooms, and strengthening the commitment to the newly formed endowment fund. His Board accepted the responsibility to host the 1996 NRA which took place just after his term ended. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, he represented Sts. Vartanantz as a National Representative Delegate for 8 years and is currently serving as delegate, as well. He also served the Armenian Church as a member of the Prelacy Executive Council for 4 years, and has continued to serve as a member of the Prelacy Unity Committee since 1987, and a member of the Prelacy Endowment Fund since 1994. He served as co-chairman of the Joint Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committees in 1990 for the 75th Anniversary and in 1995 for the 80th Anniversary. Richard has been active in other Armenian organizations, having served on the Central Executive of the Armenian Youth Federation, and Armenian Revolutionary Federation, as well as the Board of Directors of the Armenian Youth Foundation and Camp Haiastan.


Our next honoree is Apraham Deirmenjian. Under his chairmanship the Board of Sts. Vartanantz Church hosted a successful 1996 NRA in New Jersey. Other notable accomplishments during Apo’s tenure were: the raffling of a Ford Explorer which realized close to a $30,000 profit for the church, sponsoring a social gathering of 300 persons in the large hall which netted $12,000 for the church, purchasing 2 new refrigerators for the kitchen, purchasing 250 new chairs for the large hall, and accomplishing a highly successful annual Church Bazaar.


Our next honoree is Zarmair Setrakian, who has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 1996 and Chairman since 1997. Notable accomplishments by the Board during his tenure as Chairman are as follows: · Extensive renovation work was done on the premises. · All the steps were redone, with a new railing. · The gymnasium floor was sanded and polished and new basketball lines drawn. · A new kitchen table and ice maker were donated and installed. · The parish house floors were sanded, inside walls and outside trim were painted, and the kitchen was partially renovated with the installation of a new stove and sink. Zarmair also served previously as NRA Delegate for 8 years. he also has served on numerous Prelacy and local committees, such as: · 1500th Anniversary of the Treaty of Nuvarsag. · 70th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide Observance Gathering in Washington, D.C. · General Membership Meetings co-chair and secretary. · New Year’s Eve and Raffle Committees.