Zareh Melkonian Honored by LA TCA

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By Kevork Keushkerian

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Chapter of the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) organized a celebration to honor distinguished educator, poet, author and public speaker Zareh Melkonian on the occasion of his 70 years of service to the Armenian communities in Lebanon and the United States. The event took place on Sunday, November 14, at the TCA’s Beshgeturian Center in Altadena. A capacity crowd had filled the hall from the early hours of the evening.

In her opening remarks, Mistress of Ceremonies Lora Kuyumjian portrayed Zareh Melkonian as a true advocate of the Armenian language and then read a congratulatory note from Zaven Gharibian, the Chairman of the Melkonian Alumni Association of Lebanon. She then invited the first speaker and one of Zareh Melkonian’s former students, Berdj Cholakian, to deliver his remarks.

Cholakian dwelled upon the various themes that Zareh Melkonian has dealt with in his poetry, specifically in his last publication, “In Tumult of Loneliness.” Incidentally, this collection of poems was rewarded with the Haigashen Ouzounian Literary Award in poetry this year.

Cholakian noted that there is a misconception that Melkonian’s poetry is difficult to understand. However, Cholakian argued, that Melkonian’s themes such as hope, love, death, God, patriotism, nationalism and senility are common subjects that we encounter in our daily lives. Cholakian noted that, contrary to public opinion, Melkonian’s poems are written with enjoyable simplicity.

Next, Sevag Ghazarian, a student at AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manougian School in Pasadena, delivered a poetic recitation titled “Armenian Language,” written By Melkonian in 1982. This was followed by a poetic recitation by Zareh Melkonian’s nephew, Alec Ekmekji, who had translated into English a poem from his book, Mountains in Valleys, titled Song about Refuse and Man.

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The publisher and editor of the Armenian Observer, Prof. Osheen Keshishian, made his remarks from the perspective of having been one of Zareh Melkonian’s students. Thus, he presented Zareh Melkonian’s literary accomplishments.

Keshishian noted that Melkonian had been a teacher of Armenian language and literature for 22 years and editor of Shirag literary periodical, published in Beirut, Lebanon, for 8 years. He then praised Melkonian for being a prolific writer and listed his publications, starting as early as 1943 in Aleppo, Syria. Melkonian continued his publications in Beirut, Lebanon in 1950 and Detroit, Mich. In 1968. Melkonian is also the author of Armenian language textbooks, which are widely used in many schools throughout the world, concluded Prof. Keshishian.

A musical interlude featured Salpi Kerkonian, who rendered on the clarinet a famous work by Gomidas and another one by Alexander Spentiaryan. Next, Meline Ekizian delivered two poetic recitations written by Melkonian, “Love after Death” and “Song about Going Away and Presents.”

The third speaker of the evening was Dr. Kevork Keshishian, who has known and worked with Melkonian for over 60 years. He portrayed Melkonian as an honest, truthful, witty and courageous person who never hesitates to speak his mind. Melkonian’s writings, he argued, are the oasis in the Diaspora’s otherwise barren literary field.

Keshishian did not forget to mention that Melkonian’s wife, Kohar, has been a pillar in the author’s life, supporting him from day one of their marriage. That’s why, he continued, Melkonian has dedicated all of his books to her, and he never fails to acknowledge her devotion to him and to his works. No wonder Zareh has acquired Kohar’s maiden name Melkonian, his real family name being Kahkedjian.

Vatche Semerdjian, chairman of TCA’s Los Angeles Chapter, read Central Board’s congratulatory remarks and then invited Melkonian’s sister, Seta Ekmekji, to receive the award from the late Haigashen Ouzounian’s daughters, Seza and Ani.

Ekmekji then read Melkonian’s letter thanking the benefactor, the organizers, the speakers and the audience. A reception followed the ceremony.