Tashjian studied at Boston and Cambridge schools, receiving degrees in history before serving for four years in the U.S. Army during World War II. His tour included stops in Persia and Europe, for which he won the Etousa Award for distinguished service.
In 1946, he married Virginia Agababian. In the following years, he became chief editor of The Armenian Weekly. He was also an editor of The Armenian Review.
At an early age, he entered the fledgling Armenian Youth Federation and served that organization as chairman of its Central Executive through eight terms and advisor for 20 additional years. He was honored as an AYF National Honorary Member by the organization.
He was the first Armenian-American to receive the Church's "Prince of Cilicia" Award, awarded to him by Catholicos Zareh I of the Great House of Cilicia.
He was the author of The Armenian American in World War II and My Name is Saroyan and also published numerous pamphlets and articles in the Armenian field.
He is survived by his wife Virginia and son, Douglas Sevan.
- 1 Remembering Jimmy Tashjian
- 2 Jimmy Tashjian Personified Armenian Journalism
- 3 James H. Tashjian: Assorted Reminiscences
- 4 James H. Tashjian: A Reflection on a Literary Legend
- 5 A Tribute to James Tashjian
- 6 Remembrances of Unger James H. Tashjian
- 7 A Farewell To James H. Tashjian
- 8 Articles about James Tashjian
Remembering Jimmy Tashjian
It's truly an honor and a pleasure to offer these words in memory of James Tashjian, or "Jimmy," as we all knew him.
It's an honor, first of all, because of Jimmy's lion-like stature and impressive accomplishments on behalf of our community. He was a charter member of the AYF and leader of its Central Executive for many years; editor of the Hairenik Weekly, then the Armenian Review, for a total of 37 years; and author of numerous books and pamphlets that had a significant impact from both literary and historical standpoints. Through these involvements, Jimmy's career covered and indeed reflected many significant chapters in our national development on these shores.
But Jimmy's true significance lies in something more. For amidst the accomplishments, his essence came through in the difficult, often uphill battles he fought for the sake of our national ideals. During the Cold War years, Jimmy fought tirelessly to uphold Armenian nationalism, especially the ideal of a free, independent and united Armenia. He argued that despite all forms of repression and domination, Armenians would rise from the ashes and one day transcend their predicament. For a people who had only recently experienced genocide and brutal Sovietization-exiled and scattered on one hand, occupied and shackled on the other-such idealism had tremendous affirmative value: It emphasized hope, perseverance and a stand for liberty at a time when naysayers derided this as hopeless romanticism. Where are these naysayers today, I wonder?
At a time when Western Armenia had been wiped off the map, and Eastern Armenia absorbed into the Soviet Union, Armenian nationhood was greatly threatened. Stateless, traumatized and ghettoized, Armenians wondered if they had become a mere footnote in history, a people with a past but without a present. Jimmy and his colleagues came to the rescue, restoring our pride and dignity by emphasizing that Armenians were somebodys-not only on the national stage, but on the world stage as well. With accomplishments in the fields of science, literature, music, diplomacy and more, Armenians were brought to life as vibrant actors, with a culture second to none. We can recall, for instance, Jimmy's stories about Armenian communities in India, Europe and elsewhere, where Armenians played an integral, often prominent role in the development of these societies. This, too, was an enormous accomplishment, even if Jimmy did take things too far at times: Who can forget his energetic insistence that Christopher Columbus was Armenian? (You mean, he wasn't?)
Jimmy will also be remembered as a skillful community builder. Along with peers such as James Mandalian, Arthur Giragosian and K. Merton Bozoian, he nurtured and promoted a new generation of Armenian youth who had one foot in the Old World and one foot in the New. He saw the Armenian community not in narrowly political terms, but as a field for developing our creative talents in various spheres. Indeed, many of us-myself included-would probably not be here today without the inspiration and encouragement Jimmy provided.
Jimmy often seemed larger than life. His Weekly headlines ran large, trumpeting the latest achievement or controversy with a boldness that commanded one's attention. As an editor, he was a tireless promoter, shunning the mirage of objectivity in favor of a partisan perspective that emphasized advocacy over complacency. And he was an important link to the titans of our First Republic-Darbinian, Vratsian, Dro-who served as his guideposts and mentors. All of this while ensconced within the Hairenik Building at 212 Stuart Street, Boston, whose hallowed halls were as imposing as they were cherished.
Jimmy possessed a wealth of intelligence and erudition. Indeed, many of us have seen our vocabularies enriched with the rare, pungent words he brought forth so effortlessly. He penned many scholarly articles-I remember one on Karabakh written in 1968, before many of us even knew what Karabakh was! But even more significant today, in this age of careerism and individualism, is that Jimmy shunned the possibilities of a lucrative career in order to place his talents at the service of his people. Such sacrifice, made so willingly and positively, can only inspire us in this day and age.
James Tashjian was also an important figure in the history of the Armenian Church. He was the first layman to receive the prestigious "Prince of Cilicia" order, awarded by His Holiness Catholicos Zareh I. And there are good reasons for this distinction. As we know, the Armenian Church has been not only a house of God, but our national home. And yet, during the church schism of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, most of our community's nationalistic elements were left adrift, having to gather and worship in makeshift or rented facilities. Jimmy believed wholeheartedly in an Armenian Church free of Soviet manipulations, one in which Armenian nationalism could flourish. And so, not surprisingly, Jimmy was vocally at the forefront of our community's appeal to the Great House of Cilicia to take us under its wing-an effort which finally bore fruit in 1956 and which led to the erection of many churches that serve as our homes to this day.
On a concluding note, let me add a word about Jimmy's life-long partner, Virginia, who not only supported him but had a distinguished career of her own as a librarian and administrator. Unfortunately, the 1980s and '90s became a time of estrangement between Jimmy and his beloved Hairenik Association, and with Virginia's help we worked successfully to bridge that gap. The year was 1992, and in my final days as editor of the Weekly, I thought of approaching Jimmy, just to say hello. Knowing his imposing personality, I instead approached Virginia-then head librarian at my local public library-and timidly asked if Jimmy might be willing to see me. Virginia graciously arranged the meeting, and Jimmy welcomed me with open arms. Before too long, a vibrant camaraderie had been reestablished, culminating in several Hairenik events in the late 1990s and early 2000s, duly honoring Jimmy for his lifetime of achievement.
Jimmy Tashjian was a national treasure. His vision of an independent Armenia not only galvanized an entire generation; it carried a message that today has been largely vindicated. If we are to safeguard this treasure and this vision, then we must carry on in the same spirit-feisty, patriotic, unafraid-that Jimmy displayed to the very end.
Jimmy Tashjian Personified Armenian Journalism
By Tom Vartabedian
When it came to the integrity of news, the clarity of language and the dedication to getting at the truth, James H. Tashjian had no superiors in the newspaper world.
He was a scholar, youth advisor, friend, mentor, and AYF trailblazer rolled into one. He was the man who plucked me out of obscurity and pointed me to maturity.
As a result, I owe him not just my job as a newsman but my life as a conscientious Armenian. He made all that possible.
It is with a heavy heart and fond recollection that I mourn his death. The Armenian community has lost a dedicated servant who embodied every nuance of journalism.
My association with him dates back 45 years when I was a scribe for the Somerville Nejdeh AYF Chapter. I had reported on a basketball game and my writing was crude.
I remember climbing the endless steps of that old Hairenik building at 212 Stuart Street in Boston to the third floor where Jimmy's office was located. It was a vantage point for young aspiring journalists like myself - a pedestal which produced such great writers as the prodigious William Saroyan.
The place was bustling with such venerable folks as Jimmy Mandalian and Roupen Darpinian, a community of tapping typewriter keys, glue pots, cigar smoke and organizations that whirred with activity.
As dingy and outdated as the institution was, it was rock solid and it was home. He glanced over that basketball write-up and threw a compliment my way. One by-line led to another and a career was launched.
Many more trips followed to that sacred office of his. Jimmy's desk always drew a curious glance, packed to the rafters with books and papers. I would comment on that "clutter."
"The sign of a busy mind is a busy desk," he told me. "An empty desk belongs to an empty mind."
Jimmy was a master of platitudes, recognized for his quips and casual one-liners, spicing the humor with a dash of satire.
He would sit at that congested desk, sleeves rolled up halfway to his elbows, chain-smoking cigars, laboring over other people's copy, mine included, for better or worse.
Then, finished, he would sit and talk-a conversation that hopped and skipped like a Mexican jumping bean, from the thick deli sandwiches at Jacob Werth's to the sanctified Harvard-Yale football game, the grave situation in Armenia and the grim political climate in America.
What set him apart from most of his contemporaries was his ability to laugh at himself. Jimmy Tashjian was a crusader who lived and worked to entertain and inform his readers. He was good company with his incredibly broad knowledge.
At age 16, he entered his pantheon as sports editor of the Hairenik Weekly. After returning from service with the U.S. Armed Forces following the turbulent years of World War II, he accepted an editorship with The Armenian Review, then in short order, joint editorship with James Mandalian of the Hairenik Weekly-a job he held for more than three decades, longer than any predecessor or successor.
To this day, I don't know what the "H" stood for in his middle name but I suspect it's for Hell-bent-one who remained stubbornly determined and going full speed. That was Jimmy's trademark.
The good old days wouldn't be so old if more people lived them. Anyone gazing at the Hairenik during those halcyon years of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s discovered an inimitable face to the journal, one that gave the Armenian communities direction and identity.
Because space was at a premium and correspondence heavy, he spent half his time putting articles into the paper and the other half keeping things out.
His tutelage was mightier than the pen, striving to teach young Armenians like myself not to make a living at journalism per se, but to make a life. My professor taught me well.
"Newspapers," he often agreed, "are nothing more than circulating libraries with high blood pressure."
How well we both found that out.
Lo the ubiquitous Armenian. Who could ever forget his time-honored Bostonian columns written with a true Harvardian flare? The fact he was a Harvard graduate never gave him a superiority complex. The doctorate he had received was seldom mentioned in a prefix. He preferred to be "one of the guys."
Jimmy didn't establish priorities. He didn't have time. His face was his numerous columns and editorials, always setting out to do 10 times as good by doing 10 times as much.
He was fueled by a heady mixture of ambition and an insatiable appetite for the powers of language. His pieces jolted the reader, honest and heartfelt. Jimmy gave the Hairenik a pulse.
My professor had guts, wisdom and integrity. He didn't have patience for elitism, bigotry, hypocrisy or undue flattery. His vision was always for the common good.
People of all persuasions were his confidants and sought his good judgment and wise counsel. He slept with the news, lived with the news and stayed on top of the news.
When Jimmy left the Hairenik in 1976, the cadence stopped. You can take the newsman out of the newsroom but you can never take the soul out of journalism. That part of it remained steadfast to his dying day.
He laid out the foundation. Others built upon it. His spirit will continue to dominate what he often called the Armenian Valhalla.
We last met this past summer at Café Anoush in Watertown. He was seated at a table with his wife Virginia and I joined him. But I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Others repeatedly intervened to say hello and wish him well.
I finally broke the news about my pending retirement-a career that also spanned 40 years. He looked at me and laughed. Retirement?
"Anyone who looks forward to retirement soon finds himself doing dishes three times a day and all those other household obligations instead of fishing seven times a week."
A point well taken, my friend.
"Maybe I'll just retire and not tell my wife," I said kiddingly.
He smiled and took my hand.
"Well done," he replied. "Just one piece of advice. Don't just sit around and look bored. Keep busy."
I thank you Jimmy. The Hairenik thanks you. The boys from Lowell thank you. We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
May God bless you and keep you in his own Valhalla.
James H. Tashjian: Assorted Reminiscences
By C.K. Garabed
Whether it was sports and politics, arts and science, music and literature, you name it, nothing was inscrutable to the mind of Jimmy Tashjian. What's more, he always got to the core of the subject. My own travels with the mind of J.T. was an intellectual journey of the highest order.
If I ran by members of my family something intended for my column and they cautioned about its possible obscurity to our readers, I would point out that it would be perfectly understood by Jimmy, and that was good enough for me. Jimmy, on occasion, would send me some witty material, knowing I would perceive their aptness for use in The Armenian weekly.
Words to Jimmy were like jewels, to be used judiciously for adornment but not ostentatiously, which is the mark of a good writer and editor.
When, during one of our conversations, I quoted the Russian nationalist composer Moussorgsky who called Beethoven "The Thinker" and Berlioz "The Super-Thinker," Jimmy took umbrage and let me know so. To him, Beethoven was the Apex, the Summit, the Zenith of classical composers. When I persisted in my defense of Berlioz, he very graciously consented to a Mexican stand-off.
When I related to him how my fellow Armenians would pass on to me their parents' books in the Armenian language because they felt that they would be placed where they would do the most public good, and how one book, The Human Comedy by Saroyan, that was translated into Armenian by James Mandalian, Jimmy's predecessor and mentor at the Hairenik, I had sent to the Hairenik for their archives, being published by them - Jimmy let out a sigh and said that that book was the only one of Mandalian's translations that was missing from his library. At that moment, I wished that I had held on to it long enough to have been able to complete Jimmy's collection.
I am indebted to him for stimulating my interest in the career and activities of attorney Vahan Cardashian, the organizer of the American Committee for an Independent Armenia during the World War I years and after.
He was one of the few people I met who knew of the activities of John T. Flynn of the Chicago Tribune, who not only was active with Charles Lindbergh on the America First Committee that tried to keep the U.S. out of the European conflict that became known as WW II, but who published a series of articles in the Tribune under the title of The Smear terror. It was in these articles, later printed as a booklet at his own expense, that Flynn exposed the nefarious activities of Avedis Derounian, alias John Roy Carlson, as well as the background of the 1933 assassination of Archbishop Levon Tourian, whom he dubbed The Red Bishop. I asked Jimmy if it was time to disseminate Flynn's work to the Armenian community at large. He proposed holding off on such a venture. He gave me the feeling that there were some poisons brewing to which Flynn's work would be an antidote.
Ah, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy - who is there like unto thee?
James H. Tashjian: A Reflection on a Literary Legend
It appears that most of the great literary figures of our generation have already left us, the latest being James H. Tashjian, the editor of the Armenian Weekly for a time span of four decades, while simultaneously the long-time editor of the quarterly Armenian Review and one of the most prolific writers the Armenian-American community has ever produced.
Tashjian started his career at the Hairenik Association as a young writer in his late teens on behalf of the then-newly founded AYF, contributing to an English-language column featured in the Hairenik Daily at the time. When the Hairenik Weekly (later renamed the Armenian Weekly) was established in 1934 he was almost immediately instilled as a long-standing fixture in the paper's progression as a voice not only of the Armenian community at large in the United States but also for the ideals propagated by the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, of which he became a long-time staunchly dedicated member. Under the initial tutelage of fellow great Weekly and Armenian Review editor James Mandalian, and having served alongside master Armenian-language writers/editors of the Hairenik Daily, notably Rouben Darbinian and Minas Tölölyan, he was unwaveringly encouraged to fine-tune his craft.
His love for the classics of literature, as well as the inspiration he fostered from romantic writers such as Herman Melville, was unmistakably evident in his writings. Countless social or political commentaries were churned out during his tenure. These were apart from frequent written calls to activate the youth in tackling issues that were most pertinent to them as young Armenians living in their actual homeland, America. For the Armenian Review he printed thousands of texts regarding literature, culture and history, revealing to the publication's readers information about their deep-rooted ancestry that would otherwise have been unabsorbed. The editor also had a mental encyclopedic database at his immediate disposal, which he accessed seemingly spontaneously when putting pen to paper or purportedly lecturing to a crowd numbering in the hundreds. Even in his later years, despite having suffered from a stroke, Tashjian maintained his wit and sharpness, able to recall details of his literary and activist past.
He was also known for his direct, perhaps considered strong-willed or intense persona as well as occasional obstinacy. In my few encounters with Tashjian, I only saw a person who was compassionate while simultaneously playfully argumentative and harmlessly inquisitive. The demonstration of knowledge that he shared with me, although briefly, was by all means astounding to the point of sheer intimidation.
The sincere relationship between William Saroyan and Tashjian was not unknown to the community, and the two of them maintained their friendship until Mr. Saroyan's untimely death in 1981. Both writers emerged during the same period of pre-World War II as contemporaries, although they would for the most part cater to varying, mainly unrelated audiences. Fellow intellectual and documenter of the early Armenian-American community, Sarkis Atamian, also shared his camaraderie. Mr. Tashjian was also a promoter of other fledgling writers emerging from the maturity of the AYF, for instance the late activist Leo Sarkisian as well as Tom Vartabedian, who to this day provides invaluable contributions to the Weekly, partly in honor to his mentor.
On November 29, the Armenian-American readership lost one of the greatest literary legends it has known and will ever know. Tashjian's dedication to the community, especially the youth, was substantial beyond measure. In respect for his devotion he was bestowed the honorary title of Prince of Cilicia. He also enjoyed the admiration of thousands of his readers from his generation as well as subsequent ones.
So long as the community exists it must always remember and understand the substantial contributions that Tashjian left behind. It is rather inconceivable that an anthology of his most notable writings for the Weekly and Armenian Review has not been issued thus far; it is a tragic blow to the entire Armenian English-language literary world. His legacy deserves the recognition that it has unquestionably earned.
A Tribute to James Tashjian
It was with great sadness that I read of James "Jimmy" Tashjian's passing on November 29, 2006. Once again, Armenians have lost a dedicated, hard-working person who had a vast knowledge of history, the Dashnaktsutiun, and all those individuals who struggled during very difficult times to keep the Armenian identity and spirit alive.
His passing made me think back to the years when I first became a member of the AYF in the Newton Zeitoun Chapter, then the Somerville Nejdeh Chapter, and finally the Watertown Gaidzags.
Jimmy, as we respectfully called him, had placed me in the Watertown chapter when the Somerville chapter was no longer active, because he knew the AYF was the best method for Armenian youth to learn Armenian history, and to help our people achieve their organizational goals. He was always concerned about the vitality and strength of the AYF, and never wanted to see one member lost.
In June 1966, I was elected as an alternate to the AYF Central Executive, and was called to serve in January 1967 when Berge Gregian could no longer remain on the CE. We held meetings and many activities at the old Hairenik Building on 212 Stuart St., Boston, Mass. Each time the Central Executive members arrived at the Hairenik, we'd always visit Jimmy's office first, which was next to the Central office; since Jimmy was the AYF executive secretary, he could give us an update on the mail and recent chapter events.
It seemed as if Jimmy was always at the Hairenik, working on the Armenian Weekly, writing for an AYF Educational Blue Book, or just greeting visitors when they arrived. Jimmy knew everyone, and it seems everyone knew Jimmy. Even my parents, both charter member Tzeghagarons, spoke highly of him.
When the Central Executive members decided to take a lunch or dinner break, Jimmy accompanied us, and educated us on history, the current geopolitical situation, and most of all respect for the ARF.
I remember a group of us accompanying Jimmy to Whitinsville, Mass., to reorganize the AYF chapter there and administer the AYF oath to new members. Those two tasks of organizing new chapters and membership were a joy to Jimmy. Whatever there was to be done, Jimmy had the knowledge and capability to complete the task, and impart that same knowledge and capability to the Central Executive members.
Jimmy emphasized education for AYF chapters by speaking on many topics, and often writing and encouraging the use of the AYF Educational Blue Books. He would always strive to create well-rounded AYF members by encouraging and emphasizing participation in all AYF programs and events.
Jimmy was delighted to have the first AYF Winter Olympics held in the main hall of the old Hairenik building. Whether it was the Winter or Summer Olympics, Jimmy was there, either speaking at the opening ceremonies or watching the events.
During those years, the AYF was a magnet organization with over 3,000 members, including many from California and Canada. Jimmy was very proud of it. In essence, we were all his "children." There weren't any members left uninfluenced by him somehow. He taught us good leadership, pride and respect for the ARF.
He was never separate from us. He was, and always will be, with us.
Dorothy Esperian served on the AYF Central Executive from January 1967 to June 1973.
Remembrances of Unger James H. Tashjian
HARVARD, Mass.-It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing away of James H. Tashjian. Jimmy, as he was know to his friends, was a Harvard University educated historian and past editor of the Hairenik Weekly (later the Armenian Weekly) and the Armenian Review. He was a dear friend and mentor.
In the early 1960s many of us from the Lowell community, myself included, became members of the AYF Central Executive (CE) and various CE committees. While Jimmy knew my uncles and my mother, and thus me, I did not know him except as the editor of the Hairenik Weekly until I became a member of the AYF CE. Jimmy was an enormous help to the CE and I shudder to think how we would have proceeded without his council and advice. Later, while serving as CE chairman for a number of years, I realized even more the valuable assistance, advice, and counsel he offered. Jimmy, from his editor's office next to the Central Executive office in the old Hairenik Building in Boston, took care of many of the CE's administrative tasks-like answering the phone and fulfilling requests for AYF materials such as stationary and other items available from the CE office.
Most importantly, however, Jimmy was an educator, friend and mentor. Jimmy, a professional historian, imparted valuable and interesting insights into current world events, Armenian history, and the various Armenian communities throughout the United States and Canada.
His advice on AYF matters was invaluable, never insisting that we take a particular decision, but simply giving us his informed opinion on the issues. Most important, he was a mentor and a friend. His advice was not limited to AYF or Armenian affairs; he frequently advised us on personal issues as we, in our early 20s, were stepping out into the real world. He set an example with his selfless dedication to the cause of Armenian justice and liberty. In a memorable conversation I had with him in the 1960s or early 1970s about Armenia's future, he assured me that in our lifetime we would see a free Armenia. When I questioned him if this would come about as a result of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, he again assured me that this would not be the case, that it would result from the collapse of the Soviet Union as a result of internal inconsistencies and problems. His answer was comforting but to this date I do not know if I believed him because I really thought this was true, or because I simply wanted this to be true. He was right, even though this was not the conventional wisdom of the time.
Jimmy had an immense formative effect on me and, I think, many of my Lowell AYF ungers and ungerouhis, including my wife. I can say that I would not be the same person I am now were it not for Jimmy's example and mentoring. Even though it has been many decades since I graduated from the AYF and the AYF Central Executive, not a day passes when I am not thankful for his assistance, mentoring and friendship. We did get together a few times each year since those days, and his insight into events and his sense of humor never diminished. Each time we met he asked about "the Lowell boys," listing them individually and asking about them and their families. Jimmy, of course, could not have done what he did without the support of his wonderful wife Virginia, with whom we became equally close. Right from the start of our relationship with Jimmy, Virginia always welcomed us at their home. Jimmy was an avid stamp collector. Each time Jimmy learned that my wife and I were traveling to Armenia he would ask that I bring back some Armenian stamps for him, which I was pleased to do. Each trip (except one, I think, in which I shamelessly forgot) I would stop at a post office and get a few of each stamp that they had on sale. I always felt that this was too little to do for someone who had helped me and had contributed so much to the Armenian community and to Hye Tad. Yet, he would respond with such enthusiasm to a new set of stamps that I knew that this was something that meant a lot to him.
I will miss Jimmy enormously. Yet in a way I won't, because in a very real sense I am constantly aware of the wonderful friendship he, with Virginia, have shown us and his lasting presence. God bless him, Virginia, and his family. While he may be gone, his beneficial influence, contributions and example are constantly with us.
A Farewell To James H. Tashjian
How do I bid farewell to a very good friend I have known for most of my lifetime? To write about it is to relive again the dreadful news I received two days after his passing and it is almost too much to bear. I feel a tremendous loss, a loss that lives inside me that says I will never know Jim's kind of greatness ever again in my lifetime. My immediate response was to phone his beloved wife of almost 60 years, Virginia, to express my and Bob's condolence. It is to her also that Armenians of Jim's following owe a debt of gratitude.
My heroes have all passed on to the other side. My heroes were real men-men of uncompromising integrity and honor They were men deserving to be looked up to, solid leaders and fighters for the noble Armenian Cause. Their ideals made you an idealist. That too was our Jim. Can future generations turn out stewardship such as this?
These men are the ones who while standing on silvery white clouds greeted my dear friend upon his arrival to his just reward in Heaven. With smiles on their faces and hands reaching outward to him they called, "Paree yeh-gar, Unger Tashjian, welcome," and Jim grabbed the hands of Hagop Mouradian, Arthur Giragosian, Gobernik Tandourjian and Reuben Darbinian. Which one will yield the microphone to the other is what I wonder, and the thought puts a much needed smile on my face.
Admiration? You bet I admired him. I admired him on many levels. You see, I have known this honorable individual since I was 10 years old. He was the man at the Hairenik Association at 212 Stuart Street in Boston, Mass., when as just a kid I wrote a letter petitioning them to form a junior Armenian Youth Federation Chapter in Pontiac, Mich., my hometown. Permission was granted and the young Aharonians started off with 5 members, and when I left at age 24 to marry I had corresponded with Boston many many times. Jim was elated over this small Great Lakes chapter with me now an adult, leading a more youthful group of AYFers to win the coveted educational trophy, surpassing those top heavy -with- members eastern chapters. We may not have been competitors in the AYF Olympics but we sure knew our Blue Book and Armenian history! We had zeal.
James H. Tashjian was a man of letters, a Harvard Ph.D where he played ice hockey and baseball. But that never created an egotistic attitude in him like it could in others. He was grounded, knowing what an advantage he had been given in life. Rather than use his coveted Ivy League education to pursue a lucrative professional career, he dedicated himself using every bit of his vast knowledge and expertise work as editor at the Hairenik Association of the Armenian Weekly and the Armenian Review with Reuben Darbinian and James Mandalian. Who amongst us today would make that kind of sacrifice? Those Armenian Reviews from the 50's lining my book shelves mean more to me now than ever.
After many years of valued service to his cherished Armenian people, winds of change took place at the Hairenik. It was an opportune time for Jim to pursue a successful career in book editing, counting several best sellers to his credit. This was trite compared to the volumes of classics he was assigned to edit. He was a great figure in the literary publishing world and he preferred to keep that fact under wraps. That was the caliber of the individual who once worked for the Hairenik Association.
Jim and I were bound by mutual respect and by being Armenian. I was fortunate. He called me a warrior, I called him my teacher. He was a father figure, a big brother. He saw in me what he called "great potential" and I set out to prove to Jim that his faith in me was deserved. I owe my strength and interest in writing to his confidence in me. He told me to leap forward and I vaulted. He told me to begin a column for the Armenian Weekly and to believe in myself as he believed in me and I did so. Jim was very proud of that. I consciously dedicated my column to Jim, my other mentor my father, and the Martyrs.
Tashjian became my best friend. I trusted him. We corresponded for a quarter of a century. On a cerebral level he was unparalleled. Anyone who received a letter from Jim had better have a dictionary alongside as you attempted to understand the words he used. It was natural for him, just part of the Harvard man who wore beautiful Harris tweeds. He took frequent fishing trips with friends to Maine and Canada, and even those expeditions were described with such elaborate splendor that you felt you were along as he cast out his line. He was my advisor and mentor. He was wise, erudite, urbane and no one could describe with as much deep emotion and eloquence what the Ottoman Turks had done to the Armenian Nation like Jim did. He shared his politcal beliefs with me, and oh how he loved the Armenian people.
In recent months he lost a great friend in Alaska, Sarkis Atamian, and two of his professors at school whom he called his mentors. Jim wrote to me, "Their passing left me destitute for their professional and salubrious views." Then his sister Betty, too, died leaving him greatly saddened. Now Jim Tashjian's passing has created this sadness, emptiness in me and others.
Jim cheated me. Years ago I asked him to write my eulogy. We were kindred souls about the fate of the Martyrs, Genocide recognition, Armenia, reparations and present-day leadership. He read my soul and understood its depths like my husband does. Jim never complied. It was the one thing he wouldn't even address in his letters. Given a choice, I would not trust anyone else to do it.
I received my last letter from Jim in September of this year. Its tardiness had already set me to worry about why I had not heard from him and then I was notified of his death. It was to be the last correspondence between two dedicated and loyal friends. To say I have been greatly enriched by association with him is an understatement. While others have plenitude and positions of importance, I am rich as Croesus in the knowledge that James H. Tashjian believed in the capability of this Armenian woman and that will sustain me until I, too, am greeted by him on a silvery cloud floating over Ararat and Armenia.
Can you imagine how saddened I am by his passing? I am so proud he considered me worthy.
Articles about James Tashjian
Hairenik Commemorates 100th Anniversary with National Banquet The Armenian Weekly, MA, December, 2000