Michigan Armenians Mourn Death of Community Leader and Philanthropist Edgar Hagopian

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DETROIT — For the past several years, the members of the Michigan-Armenian community shared the agony of Edgar Hagopian, as he battled cancer. He lost his valiant fight against the disease on March 27.

The community was still rocked by the news of the loss, despite knowing that it had been anticipated. As he suffered from excruciating pains, his mind lucid to the end, he was always thinking about this community and extending a hand to someone in need.

Hagopian had won many accolades for his generosity and leadership. The last tribute was paid to him on February 19, at a banquet organized in his honor by the Tekeyan Cultural Association.

Edmond Azadian was the keynote speaker, who presented Michigan-Armenians’ gratitude to the ailing patriarch, who was too weak to attend the banquet.

Said Azadian, in part, “Our annual functions ordinarily do not focus on any single individual. But this year we have made an exception, because we believe the time has come for us to pay tribute to a person who has given so much of himself to the Detroit-Armenian community and he has raised this community’s profile nationally. That person is Edgar Hagopian, a man of foresight and distinction and a legend in his own day.”

He continued, “Edgar has been a political activist, benefactor, humanitarian and cultural icon, accessible to anyone. His greatness is in his humility. He knows how to be on a level with everyone. His generosity is not confined to a particular segment of the community; all segments belong to Edgar and Edgar belongs to the entire community.”

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Hagopian was born in Detroit in 1930 and began working in his father’s laboratory while a teen. He attended Cass Tech High School. After graduating in 1948, he attended the University of Michigan, where he majored in chemistry until he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War.

Under his leadership, Hagopian World of Rugs and Cleaning Services quadrupled in size and currently employs more than 150 people. Hagopian was affectionately known companywide as “Mr. H.” He was regarded as a mentor. His children — two daughters, a son and a son-in- law — work in this dynamic family business.

Hagopian companies donate in excess of $70,000 in goods and services to local charities annually. Dedicated to community involvement, his companies have been a major benefactor to the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) where he was named an honorary board member for his unwavering support. He was also a supporter of Detroit Public TV. He hosted in his Birmingham Showroom (for the last 20 seasons) the Detroit Chamber Winds “Nightnotes” series, bringing fine musicians and performers to the city at an affordable venue. In addition, for the past 22 years Hagopian has sponsored a design contest in collaboration with Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (CCS) to promote interest in textile design for students. Winners are awarded scholarships and the first-place design is produced as a rug and displayed at the Annual Student Exhibition.

Hagopian was recognized by the Oak Park Business & Education Alliance for his contributions to the educational community and he was named an honorary director of the Detroit Institute of Arts and served as a member of the Providence Health Foundation as well as Seeds of Peace, metropolitan Detroit Chapter.

In 2002 he spearheaded the passing of the Michigan Public Act 558 recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

In 2006, through the Hagopian Family Foundation, he initiated the Facing History and Ourselves project promoting awareness of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century, through education. Educator workshops are held annually to provide a basis for more in-depth study of the Armenian Genocide, offering instructional materials for classroom course work, teaching resources and continuing education credits for participants. That same year he began planning “Armenia Fest,” an event designed to showcase Armenian culture and heritage. The first outing in Birmingham in 2007 was a huge success, attended by more than 2,000 people. The tradition will continue in 2011 in his memory with the fourth Annual metro Detroit Armenia Fest. Proceeds are designated for Armenia Fund USA and to date more than $25,000 has been raised to help humanitarian projects in Armenia.

In 1995 Hagopian won Franklin Bank’s “Best Family-Owned Business” Award in their category (150 Employees or more). His retail stores won the prestigious “ROY” (Retailer of the Year) Award at the national Oriental Rug Show in July 1998. Hagopian was also awarded the 1999-2000 Michigan Retailer of The Year Award. In 2002 he was honored as “Best Oakland County Employer” by The Oakland County Business Finance Corp. He was also inducted Into the Detroit International Institute Hall of Fame in 2002 honoring his commitment to community and ethnicity.

In 2005 Hagopian received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

He served on the boards of numerous organizations, including Armenian Assembly of America, Michigan Design Center; AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union), Detroit Chapter, Seeds of Peace, Michigan Chapter; St. John’s Armenian Church Christian Ministry Board and Oak Park Chamber of Commerce, as well as held leadership posts in Providence Health Foundation, Founders Society, Detroit Institute of Arts (Associate), Armenian Library and Museum of America, Wayne State University and junior council Fash Bash event. He founded the Detroit Chapter of the Armenian American Business Council (AABC).

Hagopian leaves his wife of 54 years, Sarah, his sisters Mary and Ilene, his brother Steve, and his children Suzanne, Edmond and Angela and three grandsons, Alexander, Adam and Nicholas.

Funeral services were held on Friday, April 1, at St. John’s Armenian Church, Southfield. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Hagopian Family Foundation, at www.hagopianfamilyfoundation.org.

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