An Appreciation: Harutune Yeretzian: A Cultural Icon in Los Angeles Dies

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

It would be an understatement to say that Harutune Yeretzian’s untimely and sudden loss caused a terrible shock for all those who had come to make his acquaintance or who had befriended him. His life was cut short at the height of his activities.

Harout, as he was known to his friends and the public, was a ubiquitous figure on the Los Angeles- Armenian scene. The Abril bookstore, which he had started with his late brother, Nubar, had become a kind of literary club in the Los Angeles area.

His ambition went beyond selling books; thanks to his literary and artistic interests, Abril bookstore had become a shrine of Armenia literature where authors and readers could meet.

Harout was the fourth in the Yeretzian family’s five siblings. During his student years at Sahakian and AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian schools (Beirut, Lebanon) his interests extended beyond the textbooks to music, arts and literature, which directed his steps to Armenia.

He attended the Dramatic and Fine Arts Academy in Yerevan, Armenia and graduated with flying colors. He obtained his degree in stage directing. However, he directed but a few plays in his native Beirut. He always stayed behind the stage and behind the scenes. He made things happen without seeking the spotlight.

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Moving to Los Angeles, his intellectual horizons widened further. He set up shop on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Hollywood, Calif., which was the first station for most Armenian immigrants, before moving to more upscale communities.

Harout would not have moved his bookstore to its current location on Broadway Street in Glendale, had he not been mugged a few times in the deteriorating neighborhood of Hollywood. Abril bookstore had become a hub to Armenian literati. Intellectuals still flock to his bookstore to browse his recent acquisitions or to meet other writers.

Abril opened with a bang when Harout began publishing Abril Magazine, which demonstrated the scope of his interests. The magazine had a modern layout and featured a variety of topics, seldom found in the Armenian press.

Abril bookstore was adjacent to Bushnell Theater, a small but very famous experimental theater where prominent artists played. Thanks to Harout’s connections with the theater, several Armenian actors were launched on the international stage, including Gerald Papasian and Nora Armani.

Harout’s life and activities were centered around three focal points: his bookstore, the Tekeyan Cultural Association and the AGBU Ardavazt Theater.

He was a mover and shaker in the community. He was never afraid of big ideas and big projects, which he conceived and executed, always behind the scenes. He was a catalyst in the Armenian cultural life. Major projects would be achieved in the community through him, yet he would keep a low profile. He was never seen on stage giving lectures or introducing a program. He would rather encourage others to take the center stage.

Abril bookstore was also a publishing house, promoting books by Armenian-language and English- language writers.

Many books were also launched at the bookstore.

For three decades, Harout served as the vice chairman of the LA Chapter of Tekeyan Cultural Association. Together with Chairman Vatche Semerdjian, they realized daring projects: literary evenings, monumental art shows, book presentations, commemorative events and other unique programs.

Harout also served on the Central Committee of the Tekeyan Cultural Association, broadening his perspective on the national scene.

As a trained stage director, who had been away from the stage for so long, the Ardavazt theater group of the AGBU was in a way his sublimation. He served the theater, also quietly, most of the time designing attractive and informative playbills.

Harutune Yeretzian married a quiet woman, Seroon Yeretzian, who, over the years developed into a prominent artist. Their son, Arno, followed in the footsteps of his parents, becoming an innovative talent in the film industry.

Harout Yeretzian was at the peak of his activities when he was stricken by an incurable disease, which took his life quickly.

He leaves a huge void in the cultural and the artistic life of Los Angeles.

Those visiting Abril bookstore will miss Harout, his welcoming smile, his intriguing ideas about projects to come, his kind advice and unassuming hospitality.

A cultural icon has disappeared with Harout Yeretzian’s demise.

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