Knights of Vartan Pay Tribute to Three Community Leaders: Krafian, Koutoujian and Maranian Receive Honors at Gala Program


By Alin K. Gregorian
Mirror-Spectator Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Ararat Lodge of Knights of Vartan paid tribute to three community activists and several long-time members at a gala reception on Friday, September 24, at the Sheraton Commander Hotel.

The three honorees were Arthur Maranian, state Rep. Peter Koutoujian Jr. (D-Waltham) and Heather Krafian.

Michael Boodakian, a 40-year member of the Knights, introduced Maranian, who received the 40-year award. Calling his friend “a magnificent person,” he recalled the fundraisers Maranian had organized “to help Aintabtsi boys go to college.”

He continued about his friend of 60 years, “He’s done a lot of good all over the Boston area.”

Maranian said that his family had arrived on these shores from Aintab. “My father would tell us tales of what they did to our people.” He noted that he wanted his parents, “who are with God” to see the  ceremony of the night and see how the Armenian community had changed over the years.

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“Forty years ago John Danielson came into my small group and said ‘you’ve got to join us,’ the Haig Lodge in Boston. I can’t say enough about him.”

From left, Nelson Stepanian, Krikor Shaboian, Paul Boghosian and Nigoghos Atinizian

Koutoujian, named Man of the Year, was praised for his efforts in helping adopt universal health care in Massachusetts, as well as his work on other important pieces of legislation.

Boghosian also spoke about Koutoujian’s efforts in the annual commemoration of the Armenian Genocide at the State House. He joked Koutoujian’s wife, Elizabeth, “would look great as the first lady of Massachusetts.”

Koutoujian thanked Ararat Lodge Sbarabed (or chapter president) Nelson Stepanian and event chairman Nigoghos Atinizian for their efforts. He recalled how his Irish-American mother, Connie, made sure that he always made it to the Sahag Mesrob Armenian School of St. James Armenian Church for six years and that he attended Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church with her every Sunday. He added that he started a  petition, which eventually resulted in Waltham High School to have Armenian classes, which were taught by Marcel Karian.

Once elected to public office, Koutoujian recalled, he knew he wanted to be more in the fabric of the  Armenian community and thus, when Bob Semonian and Bob Avakian, both Knights, approached him to join the Knights, he accepted gladly.

He praised the Knights as a group “that crosses every line in our community. It is through the Knights
that the Armenian Heritage Park is succeeding.” He said that the Armenian-American community has recently undergone a major change of direction — it has arrived. “We have never been considered so well, my brothers and sisters, outside our community. The governor [Deval Patrick] was blown away by our efforts. He was moved to tears by the Catholicos [of all Armenians Karekin II]. It is an unbelievable feeling.” He added, “Our day has come.”

Fellow honoree Maranian presented a painting from his original office to Koutoujian.

The members of the lodge present at the gathering

Krafian received the Community Leader Award for her contribution to education both locally and nationally. Houry Boyamian, principal of the St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown, where Krafian has been active in a variety of positions for almost two decades, from volunteer to staff, thanked the Knights for “honoring our dear Heather.”

She praised Krafian for working with children starting as a youth, when she was a councilor at the Armenian Youth Federation camps, until now when she is an educator.

Boyamian said that she and the honoree had worked together for 19 years and that “she’s a great role model” for young girls.

Krafian, visibly touched, said, “It is with great pleasure and appreciation that I accept this Community Leadership Awards. It is a labor of love and may you all find your passion.”

She thanked her parents, Nishan and Aroxie Apigian of Detroit, who were present, for planting the seed for perpetuating education. She also thanked her extended family here, the Krafian and Hackett families, for their help during her recent health problems. She reserved the highest praise for her husband, Ara, and their daughters, Araxi, Nairi, Anoush and Knar. “Thank you for your understanding and patience,” she said.

Master of ceremonies Paul Boghosian, in his introductory comments said that the Lodge, founded in 1916, was named the top chapter at the Knights of Vartan convocation last summer in terms of membership and contribution to the welfare of the community in the state as well as Armenia. He praised Stepanian for his leadership.

Stepanian said that the organization’s goals have changed with the times. The Knights’ mission statement,
which was adopted at the convocation this summer, includes helping other organizations, extending help locally, nationally as well as internationally and mentoring others. Stepanian said that the Knights in the past year have helped with the Massachusetts State House commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School as well as the Armenian Heritage Park in Boston, and helped with the shipment of $3 million of goods to Armenia.

“Our lodge represents every organization in the country,” Stepanian said. He added, “The people we are honoring tonight have made a difference in other people’s lives.”

Boghosian pointed out that four members of the Lodge — Gregory Adamian, Kevork Atinizian, Nishan Atinizian and James Kalustian — had received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Kevork Atinizian, the lodge’s most recent recipient of the Ellis Island award, was recognized, as was Krikor Shaboian as Faithful Knight.

Musical entertainment was provided by baritone Armen Dilan, with pianist Karine  Bagdasarian, as well as the John Baboian Trio.