Mireille Kalfayan

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Mireille Kalfayan, known affectionately by her family and friends as Mimi, was born on October 20, 1950, in Beirut, Lebanon, the daughter of Yeghia and Sirvart Kalfayan, and the beloved youngest sister of Jacques, Onnig and Diana.

She was a precocious elementary school student at the Hripsimiantz school, eventually taking her ferocious intellect and tenacity to the Beirut College for Women, where she studied psychology. In 1970, she moved to the United States, where that year she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson. In 1975, ever inquisitive, she received a master's degree in comparative literature from the University of Alberta, Canada.

The lure of 'the city that never sleeps' drew her in, and she moved to New York in 1975, where she used her talents in direction and facilitation as a production coordinator at Caribiner.

And it was in 1978 that her heart guided her to the aptly named city of angels, to work with the Armenian General Benevolent Union social services as a youth counselor. Her heart connected with Vartan Ajamian in 1980; the two were married, and moved to New York, where their darling, blue-eyed son Mher was born on October 31. He was then, and always remained, the joy of her life. Mimi decided to take time off from working, and devoted five years to rearing her son in a musical, artistic and gypsy way of life.

In 1985, when Mher was five, she decided to return to teaching at the St. Gregory Armenian School in Woodside, New York. The two would return to Los Angeles soon after, in 1987. Mimi taught second grade at the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Hollywood, which was no less a challenge than being a single mother to a growing, vibrant and active Mher. During this time, she expressed her profound creativity through a weekly poetry column in the Asbarez English newspaper, then edited by her dear friend Raffi Shubukian.

In the summer, she joined the AGBU Camp Nubar staff as an Armenian as a second language teacher. There, she shared several wonderful summers with her son and her two nephews, Andre and Charlie Farah. She returned to the AGBU Social Services, where she worked with Armenian immigrants while preparing for her teaching credentials.

After the earthquake in Armenia, she was hired by the Glendale Unified School District on an emergency credential. Her bilingual abilities allowed her to teach English to the Armenian refugees. The joy she felt, and her tremendous love for children motivated her to stay at the school, where she taught kindergarten for nine years, and third grade for seven years, until her recent leave of absence for health reasons.

She continued to be involved in the AGBU AYA scouts as a parent volunteer, chairing the parent committee for seven years, participating in the scout summer camp as a cook, first aid staff member, and photographer. She considered these summer camps as her most memorable and cherished vacations. She truly loved and enjoyed the effervescent company of the young scouts, a troop of Armenian children so full of life, energy and joy. Together they designed camp crafts, and forged a strong relationship grounded in camaraderie and leadership.

Mimi was also involved in the AGBU Hye Geen, and coordinated many panels and open forums through which Armenian women were able to meet wiht one another and share ideas and opinions. She also participated in the Ardavazt Theater Company, both on the stage and behind the scenes. She performed in two of their productions, "The Importance of Being Earnest," and "Broadway Bound," and she was integral in founding the Ardavazt Juniors Theater Company and in coordinating two of their productions, "Teenage Wasteland" and "Armenians in Los Angeles."

One of the greatest impacts she had on the worldwide Armenian community was her weekly column "As A Woman Sees It," which she wrote for the Armenian Observer newspaper for twelve years. The column, which was also reprinted in other publications and disseminated via email, discussed women's issues and relationships, spiritual and social situations, education and religion, and issues that impacted the Armenian community -- maintaining Armenian identity in the diaspora, the often strained roles of parents and children in the Armenian family, and Mimi's sometimes controversial ideas about how to navigate the tricky waters of love.

But her most important testimonial, above and beyond all things ostensible or intangible was her faith in God and her relationship with Jesus Christ. She was heartened and grateful to see Mher strengthen his own faith, and delighted in his involvement with the United Armenian Congregational Church in his formative junior years. She appreciated the Christian faith and spirit among the AGBU Scouts, as well.

She wanted to dedicate her life, not just as a service to the community, but as a service to God, to be a living example of love, grace and forgiveness. She embraced God's spirit fully, even as she was in the throes of cancer, and wished to remind all that she appreciated their tender care and consideration,and the hope they imparted and had for her -- but that it was without fear, and with complete joy that she was going to meet her Savior. It was with this prayer, and with the vision of Jesus Christ's smiling face and open arms, that she would smile through her tears of pain. It was in his warm and tender embrace that she left this world, on August 5, 2005.

She is survived by her son, Mher Ajamian; brother Jacques; brother Onnig; sister Diana; aunt Araxie; nephew Andre and Taline Farah, and their daughter, Alexa; nephew Charlie and Laura Farah; nephew Voki Kalfayan; many loving cousins; friends; compatriots; and readers.

Written by Jenny Kiljian