Daniella Ashbahian with daughter, Sophie, who sang the American and Armenian National anthems

Church-Loving Women through 9 Decades: 90th Anniversary of St. Leon Women’s Guild


FAIR LAWN, N.J. — On September 23, following Divine Liturgy in the sanctuary, certificates and gifts were presented to 22 honorees (one posthumously) whose service spanned 45 – 69 years of continuous service to the Women’s Guild of St. Leon’s Armenian Church here. Collectively these women served a total of 1,228 years! The longest service was rendered by Lucy Dabagian (69 years) who also served as the first chairman of the Women’s Guild Central Council (WGCC) in 1986 when it was established by election.

Edna Tungrian -Honoree of 66 Years holding the Khatchkar gift honorees received with name inscribed. Edna, age 90. continues to head up the kitchen crews at St Leon Food Festivals.

More than 250 parishioners and guests filled Abajian Hall’s Community Center with warmth and pride for the celebratory luncheon. Attendees entered the hall to an audio-visual tribute to many Women’s Guild members both past and present entitled, “Footprints in the Heart.”

Mistress of Ceremonies Dawn Hourdajian kept the flow of the program going smoothly, interjecting heartfelt thoughts and humorous stories between the various speakers which included Women’s Guild Central Council Chairman Charlotte Sevazlian.

The highlight of the program was a Power-Point presentation aptly entitled, “Church-Loving Women thru 9 Decades” created by Ruth Bedevian and edited by Lucy Chagachbanian. Narrated by Ruth, it showcased the dedicated work of the Women’s Guild and many of its past members. The audience’s “oohs, ahs” and spontaneous applause resounded throughout the presentation, most especially when the faces of dearly departed members appeared on the screen.

Spearheaded by Suzanne Kasabian, the booklet committee created an outstanding and creative commemorative album documenting 90 years with a timeline of both St. Leon Church and Women’s Guild histories, augmented with colorful photos. A touching section highlighted memories contributed by individual members of the guild. A colorful laminated reproduction of the St. Sahag stained glass window in the sanctuary made a fitting and memorable addition as a bookmark and keepsake since the window was actually donated to St. Leon by the Ladies Aid Society in 1965 when the present edifice was constructed and consecrated following its relocation from a modest church that was purchased in the depths of the Depression in Paterson, NJ.

The celebration epitomized the valuable legacy left by the pioneering women who blazed the trail to insure the continuity of Armenian faith and culture in America. Nine decades later, a vibrant and dedicated group of women continue on that journey.

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Beginning with the longest-serving member, the honorees are listed by name followed by their years of membership; those who transferred to St. Leon from another parish have a “T” after their years of service: Lucy Dabagian (69) also served as church organist for 25 years and was the first Women’s Guild Central Council Chairman, Yeretzgin Violet Kasparian (67-T), Emerald Noorigian (66), Edna Tungrian (66), Margaret Jerrahian (64), Grace Pinajian (64), Shakae Shahinian (62-T), Sonia Tashjian (62-T), Lillian Kasparian Chapian (56), Anne Kachigian (53), Arline Dadekian (51), Margaret Minassian (51-T), Anne Bchakjian (50), Rose Kirian (50), Berjuhi Varjabedian (50), Marian Kahaumjian (49-T), Ruth Bedevian (48), Seta Jessourian (48), Gloria Tomasian (48), Satenig Loughead (48), and Dikris Malool (45-T). The twenty-second member, Violet Voskian (61), died shortly before the luncheon and was honored posthumously.


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