Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian-Kessel, Writer and Newspaper columnist
Born in 1938 in Pontiac, Michigan, the youngest of four children, Betty Apigian-Kessel demonstrated Armenian patriotic sentiments, and leadership and journalistic abilities early on.
She followed in the footsteps of her father, Mamigon Apigian of Tzerman, Keghi, Western Armenia, a Genocide survivor and noted Tashnag activist who sold “Hairenik” (“Armenian homeland”) newspapers door to door in his youth in Brantford, Ontario. Her mother, Takouhie Charverdian of Zonguldak, Turkey, was a devoted member of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS/ Armenian Red Cross).
At age 10 in Pontiac, Betty (baptismal name Serpouhie, after her paternal grandmother) established a junior chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). She went on to belong to the senior chapter of the AYF until age 23, holding president and secretary positions during her tenure, and with her chapter winning the national AYF educational trophy under her presidency. Asked by the ARS Central Committee’s Mrs. Hamasdegh – and wife of one of the Armenian Diaspora’s great writers and social activists -- to create a junior chapter of the ARS in Pontiac, Betty did so at age 19, and remained a member of the organization ever since.
While matriculating through the Pontiac school system, Betty served as Page Editor of the “Tomahawk” school newspaper and graduated with honors from the National Honor Society and Quill & Scroll -- the international honorary society for high school journalists.
In 1956, Betty became the first person ever to receive, from Mrs. Hamasdegh and the ARS Central Committee, an Armenian school diploma in Pontiac, and a one-year scholarship to attend the prestigious Nishan Palanjian Jemaran (Armenian College) in Beirut, Lebanon … though circumstances prevented Betty from taking the trip.
She went on to study at the Pontiac Business Institute, and later, together with her husband Robert Kessel, owned and operated a family business in Pontiac for 18 years. Also a realtor, and mother of two sons, Bradley and Brant, Betty established “boys only” cooking classes in her sons’ schools and did cooking demonstrations at area nursing homes.
Betty served as the English language secretary for the 1988 Armenian Earthquake Recovery Committee in the Detroit area, and was a member of the St. Sarkis Armenian Church Ladies’ Guild, serving as secretary during most of her tenure.
For more than 20 years, Betty has been writing the “Michigan Hye Beat” column about newsmakers and newsworthy events in the Michigan area for the Armenian Weekly, an English language newspaper serving the Armenian communities of the United States. She also occasionally contributes to the Armenian Mirror-Spectator newspaper.
Among the articles for which she is most proud include her interviews with the Armenian poet Zahrad, the opera star Isabel Bayrakdarian and husband, pianist Serouj Kradjian, and concert pianist Emma Baghdasarian about her escape from pogroms in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In 2010, Betty was honored by the Detroit Armenian Revolutionary Federation Azadamard Gomideh as their first ever “Hamagir (ARF Supporter) of the Ages” at their annual ARF Day Banquet.
Betty’s interests include Armenian history and the Armenian Cause, animal rights activism, writing, gardening, antiques, classic cars, and cross country skiing. She is the devoted grandmother of Cole and Armen Kessel.