Community Pays Last Respects to Late Mirror Editor Ara Kalaydjian


WATERTOWN, Mass. — On March 2, friends, family members and community members gathered at St. James Armenian Church to pay their final respects to Ara Kalaydjian, former editor of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, who had passed away on February 26, after a long illness.

Very Rev. Krikor Maksoudian, Rev. Arakel Aljalian, Rev. Dajad Davidian, Very Rev. Raphael Andonian, Avak Deacon Armen Dilan and Rev. Karekin Bedourian officiated at the service. Eulogies were delivered by Maksoudian and Ara Kalaydjian’s younger brother, Arek Kalaydjian.

After the funeral service, the internment took place in Grove Hill Cemetery in Waltham. A hokejash was served in the Tarvezian Hall of St. James Church.

The younger Kalaydjian’s touching eulogy, remembering the late editor as a brother as well as an intellectual powerhouse in the community, is printed below: “A public servant or hasaragagan kordzich in Armenian is someone who selflessly devotes himself to the good of his community and his nation. He is not driven by the pursuit of fame, money, or self-promotion. My brother Ara was for most of his life the consummate public servant of his people and the Armenian Cause. His dedication and focus on preserving the Armenian literary heritage were unwavering. I’m sure that he could have chosen a different and successful career in another field. Yet influences at home and growing up in Jerusalem had determined his path. I believe he had absorbed the often-repeated message of the writer and teacher Teotik, who in the years following the Genocide would gather together the Armenian orphans on the island of Corfu and try to instill the importance of education, remembering their Armenian identity, staying strong and passing on the torch. As if to seal the pact they would end each session by confirming their bond as Armenian Christians, reciting together the Hayr Mer (Lord’s Prayer). This story was often told in our family, as my father had been one of those young orphans

privileged to be addressed by Teotik. Ara was born and grew up in Jerusalem a little over two decades after the horrors of the Genocide. He was schooled at the local St. Tarkmanchatz, then at the Mekhitarists’ school in Lebanon and subsequently graduated from the Melkonian Educational Institution in Cyprus. The mission of all these institutions was very important: clergy and laity alike had the monumental task to educate these children, the first generation born after the Genocide. The Armenian nation was shaken to its core, its future uncertain. The students had to be a given a sense of normalcy, strength, and the will to persevere.

Ara went on to become a teacher, writer and editor devoted to the often-thank- less task of preserving Armenian literature. Here in Boston he was the editor and wrote editorials for the ADL publications Baikar Weekly and the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. For years he wrote a weekly column, Ore Orin (Day by Day), which chronicled the daily ebb and flow of life in the diaspora. He organized the archives of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. From the materials he found he edited and published the poems and letters of poet Bedros Tourian. He also edited and printed the letters of Patriarch Gregory the Chainbearer (Shikhtayagir). He compiled a comprehensive list of the earliest printed books in the library. He edited and printed Teotik’s book, Golgotha of the Armenian Clergy and Their Flocks in Historic Armenia: the latter three were printed but sadly waiting to be bound and distributed.

years for them to straighten me out with Ara contributing to my tuition and keeping an eye on my report cards the whole time.

As capable as he was with a pen, Ara was totally out of his element when it came to tools and machinery.

One memory of Ara that puzzles me still concerns the start of the Six Day War in 1967. My father, Ara and I started heading home as the war had just begun suddenly, mid-morning, on that Monday, June 6. An Armenian acquaintance heading the opposite way warned us not to proceed. The Jordanian Army had a truck that was being filled with men and boys. They were being handed World War I-issue carbines and shipped to the front. My father shepherded us through alternate routes via the narrow alleys of the Old City to the safety of our home, all along the way Ara offering colorful commentary on the absurdity of the situation. I still wonder, had we been picked up, what would Ara have done with that carbine? I am sure, though, the experience would have given him plenty to write about.

The writer, the fiery public speaker, the torch- bearer of the Armenian cause, Ara devoted his life to these pursuits until his illness took away his pen and silenced his voice. During the course of his long struggle with Alzheimer’s I often wondered how much he could understand and how much he could feel. Just a few Sundays ago, my sister-in-law Shoushan was playing a recording of the Badarak (Divine Liturgy) for him at his bedside. He was listening on and off, until the part where the Hayr Mer is chanted. He reacted to it in one of the few ways left to him: he started crying, eventually sobbing.

Ara also served as head of the seminary and secretary to the patriarch. Most importantly, he was instrumental in bringing numerous young boys from the Turkish interior and elsewhere to study at the seminary, among them our Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Der Arakel Aljalian. He was deeply concerned for these young boys and their well being, as he under- stood from his own experience the trauma of being away from home and family in a foreign place.

Ara was 12 years my senior and as our eldest brother, Antranik was away in Germany, the role of big brother fell squarely on his shoul- ders. He was the go-to guy, highly respected by all of us. He was loyal and selfless in his devo- tion to family. He took a real interest in my edu- cation, opening up his vast library to me and introducing me to the British classics he so loved. He was, to be sure, a demanding and uncompromising mentor. When my boyish pranks and rowdiness had finally gotten out of hand, he read me the riot act, pulled me out of the comfortable Tarkmanchatz Armenian School and enrolled me in the strict, no-non- sense — and costly — French Catholic school. And I didn’t even know French! It took two

I ask you not to take this as a sad story of defeat, but one of triumph. For as much as the disease had battered and ravaged his body and especially his mind, it could not extricate the Hayr Mer, that essence of Armenian identity, from his being, from his very soul.

Sirelee yeghpayrus, Ara, vartzkut gadar. I will miss you, and until we meet again on the other side, may you rest in peace.