Peter Goolkasian

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Peter Aharon Goolkasian was a druggist, inventor, and artist. He was born in 1910, and was a young child when the genocide swept through his homeland. Goolkasian was eventually brought to Boston, Massachusetts and raised by his uncle and mother.

He decided to go into the family business of running pharmacies, and after graduating from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, settled in Waltham, Massachusetts, with his young family and ran his own shop. Over the years he owned and worked at various apothecaries in the Boston area, including Beacon Hill's Clough & Shackley.

Having gone into the family business as a matter largely of duty and convenience, Goolkasian undertook a midlife career change and pursued what had been until then only a hobby: electronics. He worked for Honeywell then Bolt, Beranek and Newman.

Known for his lively intellect and impulse for tinkering, Goolkasian was responsible for a number of patented inventions: "tooth-ease pads," colored flames for birthday candles, and a heart pulse monitor used for patients during surgery, according to family members. Before tape-recording technology was widely available, he once fashioned a recording device out of a Coca-Cola box for his young daughter to use when practicing the piano.

After his retirement, he had time to pursue other passions, such as fashioning stained-glass lamps and gem faceting. Goolkasian sold his gems, cut in a special style that he devised, to area jewelers.

A survivor of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Goolkasian was unusually candid about his experience with human brutality, but he was never defined by it.

"He was a great lover of life, never bitter, and despite losing almost his entire family, he was one of the most optimistic people I knew," said his daughter, Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee.

Although he never returned to his native Armenia, Goolkasian planted and maintained a mulberry tree, a tree common in his homeland, in his backyard as a reminder of his lost home.

"Even before ethnic pride was popular, my father instilled us with pride in who we are and where we came from," said his other daughter, Priscilla DerAnanian.

At age 84, Goolkasian decided that it was time to commit his story to paper and wrote a frank memoir, "My Life," which was published privately by his family. His book, which he dedicated to "all those people in the family of humanity that have suffered from man's inhumanity to man," was received warmly in a letter by Elie Weisel.

He also penned a collection of essays, "Deliberations Today for a Better Tomorrow," on topics ranging from children to religion to mythology and the environment.

"He was a freethinker, always eager to give advice. Once we gave him a computer, there was no stopping him," recalled his daughter Priscilla. "He enjoyed life and took pleasure in all living things. He never used insecticides or fenced his garden because he wanted to share it with everyone, even with the animals in the yard."

Goolkasian died Dec. 21 2004 in Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain. He was 94.

Besides his daughters, Goolkasian leaves his wife of 67 years, Isabelle; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services were held Dec. 24 2004 in Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Acton, Massachusetts.


  • Peter Aharon Goolkasian, 94; freethinker put talents to use, By Avi Steinberg, Boston Globe, Massachusetts, January 02, 2005