In Memoriam: Araxe Cherishian

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NEW YORK – Araxe Cherishian, born in New York, NY on February 28, 1930 to John and Nazenig Cherishian, passed away on December 19, 2017 in Oradell, NJ. Araxie lived in Manhattan’s Murray Hill neighborhood for decades, and, as the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America wrote in its eulogy, she lived much of her life physically and as well as spiritually close to St. Vartan Cathedral.

From the earliest days of the cathedral, she contributed to its daily life, serving on—or more accurately, helping to found—its numerous committees and outreach projects. She served as senior usher for several decades and was charged with coordinating community outreach for the cathedral. She has served as the chair of the St. Vartan Cathedral Guild and as a leader of the St. Gregory Church parish council and Sunday School.

She was a member of the board of directors of the Armenian Home for the Aged in Flushing, NY, and chair of the Union of Marash Armenians (Compatriotic Union/New York Chapter).

For years, she was president of the “Friends of St. Vartan Park,” which oversees the city park next to the cathedral, and was highly regarded around the municipal government and the local 17th police precinct.  She was a member of the board of directors of the Murray Hill Committee, the Manhattan East Community Association, and the New York Police Department’s 17th Precinct Community Council. She worked as a volunteer reading tutor with the Volunteer Services for Children project for around two decades.

She was presented with the 2004 Recognition Award by Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III, president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York. She was recognized for her “pious, loving soul” that has given strength and inspiration to the Armenian community. Saying we do God’s work and serve as His hands, she told the attendees that her service stemmed from seeing her parents give back and support the community and church. She was merely following their example.

In 2004, her brother-in-law Onnig Halajian declared: “The qualities that define Araxie best are her spirit of service to her community, Armenian and non-Armenian, and a compulsion to care for her fellow men for their material and moral needs. Such qualities are rare and do not come by chance. I see her as a product of an upbringing by parents who have also made an impression on me by virtue of their unadvertised love for people, for their community, and for their ancestral church.”

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Araxie’s larger role was truly unique. She was the “human spirit” of the cathedral: the personification of the kindly, faithful, welcoming spirit that has prevailed in the Armenian Church through the centuries. Araxie Cherichian was a person of grace and generosity, with a wonderful feeling of patriotism and gratitude for America—and an abiding love for the city she called home.

“It was a true privilege to experience the faith-filled humanity of this Armenian Christian woman,” said Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian in a condolence message read at her funeral. “That quality, above all, is what we will always honor in her—and what we will miss hereafter. Her beautiful personality—quiet, but full of life; unobtrusive, yet always eager to lend a helping hand—has left an indelible mark on this institution, and will never be forgotten here.”

Her funeral service took place on December 29, 2017 at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, and she was interred in Cedar Grove Cemetery in Flushing, NY.

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