Joyce Sulahian

Obituary: Joyce Lynne Sulahian, Longtime UN Employee, Diocese Supporter


NEW YORK — Joyce Sulahian, a leader of the Armenian Church community, passed away on Saturday, February 10. She was 79.

Joyce Lynne Sulahian was born and raised in Watertown and educated in the city’s public schools. She was the daughter of Garabed and Eugenie Sulahian. The Sulahian family was extremely active in the Armenian Church and community, going back to the family’s roots in Syria and Lebanon, and including several generations of clergy in the Apostolic and Protestant traditions. The family had taken up the same ethic of service when settling in the United States.

Her father Garabed “Charles” H. Sulahian was an important leader of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) and chairman of its Eastern District Committee of the United States and Canada for many years. He was one of the leaders of the campaign to establish the Baikar Building in Watertown, where the ADL’s Armenian-language newspaper of the same name, as well as the Mirror-Spectator, was published.

Joyce herself became intimately involved in the church at age 16, when she joined the choir at Watertown’s St. James Church. She attended Concordia College, in Bronxville, NY, and began a professional career in administrative positions, first for Harvard University’s Dean of Engineering, and subsequently for the head of the university’s Computer Laboratory and Statistics Department.

In 1969, Joyce took up a role with the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in New York. These were the early days of the St. Vartan Cathedral Complex, and then-Primate Archbishop Torkom Manoogian was seeking out talented, committed individuals to fill key roles on his staff. Joyce joined as the administrative assistant to Archbishop Torkom, whom she had known since childhood as a close friend of the Sulahian family.

In 1974 she began a long career at the United Nations, first serving in the Department for Political and Security Council Affairs, and later promoted to a post in the Department for Disarmament Affairs, where she spent 15 years in the office of the UN’s Undersecretary General. In that post, she traveled extensively throughout the world, organizing and administering international conferences on disarmament-related topics, side-by-side with world experts in that crucial field as well as leading government officials of the day.

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Joyce completed her 30-year UN career in the Office of General Assembly Affairs, where she took on the demanding, consequential role of creating and administering the speaking roster for the UN General Assembly: the annual gathering of the world’s presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers that meets in New York each autumn.

Throughout this entire period, Joyce Sulahian was deeply involved in the mission of the Eastern Diocese, volunteering to serve on countless committees, offering valuable counsel on church and community activities, and often acting as an indispensable liaison between the Armenian Church and the diplomatic world.

In 1997, Joyce made her first trip to Jerusalem, and it proved a turning point in her service to the Armenian Church and people. Several years earlier, Archbishop Torkom had been elected as the 96th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, and as in the early days of his tenure as Diocesan Primate, he needed dedicated, trustworthy souls to assist him in his efforts. Joyce would visit the Holy City several more times through her work for the UN, before taking a year-long leave of absence from that organization to work at the Jerusalem Patriarchate as Patriarch Torkom’s administrative assistant.

In 2004, following her official retirement from the United Nations, Joyce returned to Jerusalem to work with the Patriarch for another two years. Having worked most of her life among diplomats, Joyce now became an unofficial ambassador herself, promoting and supporting the age-old Armenian presence in Jerusalem and the work of its greatest institution. Her association with the Patriarchate continued into the tenure of Patriarch Nourhan Manougian, a friend of Joyce’s for over 50 years.

For the past 17 years, Joyce resided primarily in New York, punctuated by intermittent periods spent in Florida enjoying her condominium overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Her death on February 10, 2024, brought to a close an admirable life of humble and honorable service, generosity, and faith. She will be dearly missed by the many people throughout the city — and across the world — who valued Joyce Sulahian as a family member, colleague, and friend.

She was a fixture at St. Vartan Cathedral since its earliest days, and was dearly loved by the Diocesan Center’s staff, clergy, and visitors over the course of six decades. During that time, the lovely music of her voice and her warm smile would be eagerly welcomed whenever Joyce’s presence graced the cathedral complex. But she also brought her wise counsel, attention to detail, and disciplined work ethic to numerous Diocesan activities and committees on which Joyce served as a volunteer.

Diocesan Primate Bishop Mesrop Parsamyan presided over the funeral service at St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral (630 Second Ave., New York City), on February 15.

The burial service will be conducted on Tuesday, February 20, at Ridgelawn Cemetery in Watertown, MA, following services at the city’s St. James Armenian Church.

In-lieu-of-flowers donations in Joyce’s memory may be made to the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (630 Second Ave., New York, NY 10016).

The ADL, the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, and the staff of the Mirror-Spectator extend their condolences to the family and friends of Joyce Sulahian.

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