ADL, Tekeyan Activist Arsen Demerjian Dies

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CHICAGO — Arsen Demerjian, an activist in the Chicago-Armenian community, succumbed to a heart attack on Tuesday, March 26, while visiting family in California.

He was the second child of Roupen Demerjian (Yergat), a community activist who had died early, leaving the care of his five children to his widow and brother-in-law, Yerant Fermanian.

All three Demerjian brothers — Arsen, Armen and Levon — were inspired by the commitment of their father’s community spirit. They all attended the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoukian Secondary School in Beirut, whose first graduates became involved in leadership roles as educators, writers, editors or political party leaders in Lebanon and beyond.

After graduating from high school, Arsen Demerjian attended the American University of Beirut for two years before transferring to Fresno to attend college.

Eventually, he settled in Chicago and started Sayat Nova Armenian Restaurant on Ohio Street, off the Magnificent Mile.

He and his wife, Karen, had three sons, though tragically they lost one child to leukemia. Ruben and Gregory and their families were the center of the world of Arsen and Karen Demerjian.

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Arsen Demerjian had boundless dedication to his Armenian heritage. He was wellread and appreciated and supported generously Armenian editors and writers, underwriting the cost of their books, especially volumes on history.

He was deeply interested in the Armenian daily Azg in Yerevan and the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. He was a one-man volunteer battalion to publicize the Mirror-Spectator, which he read religiously every week, offering his blunt opinions, both praise and criticism, whenever he deemed it necessary.

His restaurant also served as a political forum for Armenian leaders and major news media editors, with Demerjian speaking about history and the Genocide. Over time, several feature articles were published in the Chicago Tribune about him and the restaurant.

He was very active in his parish in Chicago and he was one of the most dedicated members of the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Central Board and the ADL District Committee of the US and Canada.

Demerjian was a political icon in the Chicago-Armenian community, nicknamed “Mr. ADL.”

A few weeks before his passing, while attending an ADL District Committee meeting in Boston, he suddenly remembered that it was his birthday. Over dinner, candles were lit to celebrate his 80th birthday, surrounded by his beloved ADL family.

Over the years, he had survived a bout with cancer and other afflictions. Every time he was hospitalized and discharged, he would say, with his wry sense of humor, “These are the hazards of being born early.”

And indeed, one of those hazards took him down the road of no return.

(The staff of the Mirror-Spectator, the Central Committee of the Tekeyan Cultural Association and the ADL District Committee extend their heartfelt condolences to his widow, Karen, his sons Ruben and Gregory and their families, and his brothers, Dr. Armen and Levon and their families.)

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