Representatives of the TCA Metro Los Angeles and AGBU Pasadena-Glendale Chapters

Khachkar Blessed at Tekeyan Cultural Association Beshgeturian Center

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ALTADENA, Calif. — Saturday, June 22 was a milestone day for the Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Metro Los Angeles Chapter, with the blessing of a stone cross (khachkar) from Armenia at the Tekeyan Cultural Association Beshgeturian Center in Altadena, California.

The program began with the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Pasadena-Glendale and Los Angeles San Fernando Valley Scouts leading the United States and Armenian national anthems.

Archbishop Hovnan Derderian blessing the khachkar

Immediately following, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, blessed the khachkar, accompanied by Very Rev. Fr. Eremia Abgaryan, Very Rev. Fr. Anania Tsaturyan, Rev. Fr. Moushegh Tashjian, Rev. Fr. Vazken Movsessian and Dn. Armen Jesralyan.

Master of Ceremonies Mihran Toumajan, Secretary, TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter

Mihran Toumajan of the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter and Assistant Secretary of the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, welcomed the audience and noted that the khachkar was the work of Varazdat Hambardzumyan, the preeminent khachkar sculptor in Armenia. In 2010, Hambardzumyan was awarded a Gold Medal from the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, which is the highest honor awarded by the ministry for contributions to Armenian culture. Unquestionably, the khachkar has already become a landmark to Armenians and non-Armenians – a highly visible symbol of the Armenian identity and faith – on the Altadena and Pasadena border.

Toumajan noted that the khachkar was donated by Dean Shahinian, Esq. of Washington, D.C., an ardent supporter of the Armenian Church, Armenian culture and religious architecture. He expressed gratitude and appreciation for Shahinian’s donation to the TCA Beshgeturian Center and for his continued support of the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter. Toumajan thanked the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, as well as those who contributed towards the installation of the khachkar. Toumajan stated that although Shahinian had been unable to attend the khachkar blessing, he had expressed that “the way that our faith has shaped our art” had motivated him to donate the khachkar and added “we have a rich culture.” His goal was for the khachkar to “educate and inspire those who see it.”

In recognition of Shahinian’s donation, the khachkar was dedicated in memory of his maternal grandfather, Rev. Fr. Vahan (Manoug) Jelalian, who was born in Palu in 1891. Jelalian had been a student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, when he joined the Armenian Legion as a volunteer soldier with the goal of fighting the Turks and liberating Cilicia. After the evacuation of Cilicia, he taught at the Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus. In 1936, he was ordained a priest in Cyprus and returned to the United States to serve as a pastor of Armenian Apostolic Churches in Detroit, Providence and Paterson, New Jersey.

From left, Anna Israyelyan, Dr. Karen Israyelyan, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles, Nazeli Hambardzumyan, Counselor of the Consulate General

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Remarks were made by Dr. Karen Israyelyan, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles. He was accompanied at the khachkar blessing by his wife, Anna Israyelyan, and Nazeli Hambardzumyan, Counselor of the Consulate General of Armenia. In his remarks, Dr. Israyelyan saluted the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter in realizing such a critical cultural undertaking. He emphasized that it was especially important for young generations of Armenians to feel inspired by the creative symbolism of khachkars, which are revered across the Republic of Armenia as symbols of faith, fortitude and resilience.

Keynote Speaker Assistant Professor Ani Shahinian of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York

Keynote speaker Dr. Ani Shahinian, Assistant Professor of the Grace and Paul Shahinian Lectureship in Armenian Christian Art and Culture at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in Armonk, New York, noted Shahinian’s unwavering commitment to Armenian culture and congratulated the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter. Dr. Shahinian captivated the audience with her intimate knowledge of the history of Armenian khachkars dating back to the 9th century. She noted some of the interesting motifs of the newly blessed khachkar. Dr. Shahinian also shed light on the “tuff” rock, formed by hardened volcanic ash, which is abundant in the Armenian Highlands and prevalent in the construction of khachkars, churches, monasteries and contemporary structures across Armenia.

Vahan Tekeyan’s majestic words, “The Armenian Church is the birthplace of my soul,” were selected by the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter and inscribed on the khachkar. The khachkar features a traditional Armenian cross, a motif of Khor Virab with Mount Ararat in the background, as well as angels, pomegranates, birds, grapes and grape vines throughout. The seventh letter of the Armenian alphabet Է is also featured with a unique wheat design, in addition to the Armenian symbol for eternity. Surrounding the cross are the abbreviations for Lord, God, Jesus and Christ which are often found on khachkars and in manuscripts.

The TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter was pleased to welcome California Superior Court Judge Michael Amerian, who represented the Triple X Fraternity, to the khachkar blessing. In addition, the following Armenian organizations had representatives in attendance: Armenian Democratic Liberal (Ramgavar) Party, AGBU Pasadena-Glendale Chapter, AGBU Pasadena-Glendale Sports Committee, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational & Cultural Society-Pasadena Chapter, Knights of Vartan-Ghevont Lodge in Pasadena, Knights of Vartan-Ardaz Lodge in Los Angeles, Knights of Vartan-Sevan Lodge in the San Fernando Valley, Nor Serount Cultural Association, St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Pasadena, St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School of Pasadena, TCA Beshgeturian Center Maintenance Committee, TCA Los Angeles Chapter, TCA Pasadena-Glendale Chapter, TCA Pasadena-Glendale Chapter Azad Pem Theatrical Group and the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church.

Guest of honor Dr. Minas Kojayan, center, with former students Talene Hachikian and Shahnour Hovsepian of the TCA Metro Los Angeles Committee

Master of Ceremonies Mihran Toumajan introduced the day’s first guest of honor, Dr. Minas Kojayan, a renowned and beloved educator. Toumajan noted that since the inception of the chapter in 2018, Kojayan’s unwavering support and assistance, including with the khachkar project, have been greatly appreciated by the chapter members. Kojayan highlighted the leadership role taken by the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter during last October’s twenty-eight member Pasadena-based Armenian coalition’s “Solidarity for Artsakh and POWs, MIAs and Captured Civilians” demonstration at Pasadena City Hall. Kojayan, who was previously bestowed the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Medal by Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, noted that today’s honor by some of his former students and the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter, was also especially significant and meaningful to him. He expressed his love for all of his students, from Cyprus to Los Angeles to Jerusalem, and the need for the next generation to carry the torch.

Toumajan introduced TCA Metro Los Angeles Chairman Carl Bardakian, a member of the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, and thanked him for spearheading the khachkar project. He referred to Bardakian as a “pioneer” in Armenian basketball for making what was once merely a dream becoming what is now a common reality. He explained how Bardakian was the first to arrange for Armenians born in the diaspora to receive passports and citizenship and represent Armenia in FIBA competition worldwide. Starting in 2010, first as a scout for the Armenian women’s national basketball team and then as head coach of the Armenian men’s national basketball team from 2012-2015 and then continuing as a scout for the U16, U18 and U20 boys and girls basketball teams of Armenia. Toumajan praised Bardakian for being the only four-time gold medalist at the international Pan Armenian Games in Armenia, twice as a member of the Valley AGBU team and once each as head coach of the Los Angeles men’s and women’s basketball teams.

From left, welterweight boxer Gor Yeritsyan, TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter Chairman Carl Bardakian and heavyweight Gurgen Hovhannisyan

Bardakian expressed his deepest appreciation and admiration to the khachkar donor, Dean Shahinian. He recalled how Shahinian jokingly asked if Olympic gold medal Greco Roman wrestler Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia would be attending the khachkar blessing. Bardakian said in order not to disappoint Shahinian, although he couldn’t arrange for Aleksanyan to attend as he is preparing for the Olympics in France in July, he arranged for future title contenders and two of the top Armenian boxers in the world, heavyweight boxer Gurgen Hovhannisyan and welterweight boxer Gor Yeritsyan, to attend the khachkar blessing. Bardakian thanked Vartan Torosyan of Toro Promotions, Inc., one of the fastest growing boxing promotion companies in the industry today, for attending. He wished Gurgen Hovhanissyan continued success as he follows in the footsteps of other outstanding athletes born in Gyumri such as Olympic gold medal weightlifter Yuri Vartanyan and Olympic gold medal Greco Roman wrestler Artur Aleksanyan. Bardakian wished Yeritsyan good luck on his next match on July 26 at the Commerce Casino & Hotel in Commerce, CA and on his recent marriage to Alexandra Kamaian.

TCA Metro Los Angeles Committee member Hasmig Karayan and guest of honor Vartan Torosyan of Toro Boxing Promotions with a historic photo of 1956 Gold Medal Boxer Vladimir Yengibaryan and Catholicos Vasken I at Holy Echmiadzin

Earlier in the program, Torosyan, Hovhannisyan and Yeritsyan were recognized as guests of honor and each were presented with a historic photo of Vladimir Yengibaryan with Catholicos Vasken I at Holy Etchmiadzin in the late 1950s. The gifts were presented by Shahnour Hovsepian, Talene Hachikian, Hasmig Karayan and Mhare Mouradian, Board Members of the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter. Yengibaryan, a gold medalist in boxing at the Olympics in 1956, would often visit Catholicos Vasken I prior to his boxing matches in order to receive a blessing from His Holiness.

Hovsepian School 7th grader Michael Galadjian flanked by boxers Gurgen Hovhannisyan and Gor Yeritsyan

With big smiles, Torosyan, Hovhannisyan, Yeritsyan and Consul General Israyelyan agreed to Bardakian’s request for them to meet the 250-member student body and attend the khachkar blessing at the St. Gregory A. & M. Hovsepian School in Pasadena in September. This is the second of a total of five khachkars donated by Shahinian.

TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter Treasurer Shahnour Hovsepian and heavyweight boxer Gurgen Hovhannisyan

Bardakian expressed appreciation to the Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada for their support of the project. He also acknowledged those who contributed towards the installation of the khachkar. He expressed gratitude to master khachkar maker Varazdat Hambardzumyan and his daughter, Hripsime. Bardakian thanked Hampig Nazerian of HEC Engineers and Contractors for his professional work and expertise in installing the khachkar within a few days of its arrival from Armenia. Bardakian also gratefully thanked Shant Dergazarian, Senior Construction Inspector of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. He commended Dergazarian for his selfless dedication to St. Gregory Armenian Church, Triple X Fraternity and the Knights of Vartan. Bardakian expressed deep gratitude to the entire TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter Committee for their dedicated work the past six years and on the khachkar project. Using humor, Bardakian paraphrased from St. Vartan Mamigonian’s speech in the 5th century, as quoted by the historian Yeghishe, by saying that “neither fire nor sword” could prevent the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter from its vision to erect a unique, custom designed khachkar from Armenia at the TCA Beshgeturian Center.

TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter member Mhare Mouradian, Esq., at left, and welterweight boxer Gor Yeritsyan

The TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter also expresses its deepest thanks and appreciation to Rev. Fr. Norayr Kazazian, a former student of the Vahan Tekeyan School in Lebanon, who was an integral part of the khachkar project from its inception. Prior to his appointment in February as pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, Fr. Norayr Kazazian was in Armenia and provided invaluable assistance and support. Rev. Fr. Abraham Malkhasyan, Pastor, Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs, Bayside, New York, and former Parish Council members Dr. Lynn Cetin and Greg Saraydarian, also provided important insight and information. The TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter expresses gratitude to Dn. Serop Demirjian of Cleveland, Ohio and Aram Arkun, Executive Director of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada, for their assistance.

The khachkar blessing and program concluded with Archbishop Derderian delivering the benediction and noting his over forty-year friendship with and respect for Dean Shahinian. He also commended the TCA Metro Los Angeles Chapter for installing the khachkar near a visible intersection in the San Gabriel Valley (Allen Avenue and New York Drive), which will catalyze non-Armenians and Armenians to educate themselves about the ancient, rich and unique culture of the Armenian people.

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