Edmond Y. Azadian

DETROIT — Armenian intellectual and political leader Edmond Y. Azadian was buried on Saturday, April 21, in Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery, after a weekend of solemn visitation and funeral services allowed family, friends and Armenian church and community leaders from the United States and abroad to pay their last respects.

Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America Very Rev. Mesrop Parsamyan

Azadian, 87, had passed away in Florida on March 25, but had wanted his funeral to take place in his hometown, at his beloved St. John Armenian Church of Southfield.

Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, came from New York to preside over the services conducted, while Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Canada, traveled from Montreal to also participate.

During the Friday evening wake, Fr. Aren Jebejian, pastor of St. John Armenian Church, introduced all the clergymen, including the married priests present, Fr. Garabed Kochakian and Assistant Pastor Fr. Armash Bagdasarian, before speaking about the role that Azadian had played in his own education and life, and praising him as a singular personality of the diaspora — as an Armenian patriot and intellectual. He then invited Bishop Hovakimyan to read the letter of condolences in the Armenian language sent by Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II.

Fr. Aren Jebejian

The wake was an opportunity to see Azadian one last time in his open casket adorned with the flags of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) and the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) of the United States and Canada, two organizations which Azadian had served for decades as a leader and ideologue.

The next day, a large crowd was present at the church for the noon service, including family and many members of the Detroit Armenian community, as well as visitors who came specially for the funeral from Armenia, Europe and Canada. The Komitas Choir, led by Deacon Rubik Mailian and organist Arshaluys Gharibian, participated soulfully in the service. Fr. Kochakian read in English a translation of the letter of Catholicos Karekin II, while Diocesan Primate Fr. Parsamyan delivered a heartfelt eulogy both in Armenian and English.

The funeral

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Fr. Andon Atamian from the local St. Vartan Armenian Catholic Church had come also to pay his respects.

After the church service ended many went to the cemetery, where the traditional burial service with the participation of all the clergy took place prior to the burial. ADL members present sang the party’s hymn and renewed their party oaths at this sad occasion.

A memorial luncheon was offered at the newly renovated beautiful Cultural Hall of the church, with several hundred guests. Among the noteworthy guests from outside of Michigan were ADL Supreme Council Chairman Dr. Hratch Kouyoumjian of London, ADL leader Sergio Nahabetian of Buenos Aires and veteran ADL member and noted industrialist Rouben Terzian of Las Vegas, as well as TCA leaders from Los Angeles, New Jersey, Texas, Montreal and Boston.

Elena Martinez-Azadian and Ara Tcholakian

A PowerPoint containing several hundred photographs of Azadian at various times and settings was projected on a large screen during the meal, and violinist Dr. Henrik Karapetyan played Nocturne from the Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian and a few Komitas miniatures.

Elena Martinez-Azadian, the great-niece of Edmond Azadian, ably served as master of ceremonies, interspersing personal comments and anecdotes with the introduction of the various speakers. Newly elected TCA Central Board member Ara Tcholakian spoke with great feeling on behalf of the family about his uncle, focusing on his personal side and presenting some episodes of his life during the years he worked for Alex Manoogian.

Dr. Arshavir Gundjian, who worked very closely for decades with Azadian in both the ADL and TCA, and currently continues his role as a prominent world leader of the ADL, the TCA as well as the Canadian-Armenian community, delivered a detailed eulogy in both Armenian and English about the significance of Azadian’s multifaceted work in the political, cultural and journalistic realms which was received with a standing ovation (an abridged English version of the text may be found in this issue of the Mirror-Spectator).

Central Board members of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the US and Canada with Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, at center

Fr. Aren Jebejian read an excerpt from a letter from Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America and one from Richard Manoogian, the son of the great industrialist and philanthropist Alex Manoogian, for whom Azadian worked for decades, primarily on Armenian cultural and community issues.

Dr. Raffi Belian spoke about his family’s longstanding friendship with the Azadians, underscoring the vivacity with which Edmond and his wife Nora enjoyed life in all its aspects.

Hosep Torossian, principal of the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield, described how Azadian, who served on the school board, was always concerned with its progress and worked to keep it flourishing over the decades.

Ed Haroutunian, chair of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee, spoke of the victories this committee achieved in including education on the Armenian Genocide in Michigan schools, in which Azadian played a role. Alice Nigoghosian, a Manoogian School board member, first read a letter from Dr. Richard Marburger, chairman of the board of the school and president emeritus of Lawrence Tech, and then added some recollections of her own of Azadian, including his support of publications on Armenian culture and history at Wayne State University Press. She stressed how he would always identify the potential in others and make connections and introductions to help promote their achievements.

After the crowd dispersed, with some staying to visit the exquisite Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum in the church complex, the ADL and TCA members present reassembled at a local Armenian restaurant to exchange memories about Azadian in an intimate setting and promised to continue his work together.

The church service

Catholicos Karekin II presided over a service in Azadian’s memory at the St. Gayaneh Cathedral in Echmiadzin on Sunday, April 24, and a further requiem service will be held on May 14 in Detroit.

A selection from the numerous letters of condolences received will be published in the future by the Mirror-Spectator and other ADL publications.

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