Community Gathers to Pay Tribute to Hirant Gulian at Banquet


By Florence Avakian

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — On Friday, October 5, more than 400 friends and admir- ers of longtime community activist Hirant Gulian paid tribute to him during a celebratory banquet sponsored by the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern). Along with attendees from throughout the New York-New Jersey region, well- wishers from six foreign countries and 10 US states participated in the tribute. To accommodate the overflow crowd at St. Leon Armenian Church, a large tent was set up outside the parish’s packed Abajian Hall, where additional tables were laid out for guests. The Diocesan Primate, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, presided over the occasion.

In the course of the evening Gulian received three honors: an encyclical and medal sent from Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians; a medal from the Republic of Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and an award from Artsakh’s President Bako Sahakian. A special proclamation from New York Senator Charles Schumer was also presented to the honoree.

Among the special guests at the tribute were Archbishop Aram Ateshian, Vicar of the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople; Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical director; Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Armenian Catholic Church, clergy from throughout the region as well as Barsamian.

Gulian, who has organized the Times Square Martyrs Day gatherings for 30 years, is a leader and supporter of numerous Armenian causes. And for this tribute, it seemed as if every major community organization had sent a repre- sentative: the Knights and Daughters of Vartan (with several and past Grand Commanders and Matrons present), the AGBU, Hamazkayin and Tekeyan cultural organizations, the Armenian National Committee, Constantinople Armenian Relief Society (CARS), the Essayan-Getronagan and Tibrevank alumni associations, the Gomidas Choir, Shushi Dance Ensemble and Hye Doon.

Following the invocation by Aykazian, the hon- orary co-chairs of the banquet, Harry and Suzanne Toufayan, in a toast to “our amazing friend for many years,” congratulated the hon- oree who “will do anything for the Armenian cause.”

Masters of Ceremonies were Vartan Abdo, director of the Armenian Radio Hour, and Karen Toufayan Nargizian. “Tonight we are saying thank you for the many decades of service you have given to the Armenian-American communi- ty, to Armenia and to Artsakh,” they said.

Ateshian recalled that his friend of many years came to America “to love and to be loved.”

While finding a home in America, Gulian felt “he still had work to do in Dikranagert,” Ateshian recalled — and in recent years he ful- filled that work by becoming instrumental in the restoration of the ancient St. Giragos Armenian Church of that city.

Calling the honoree “an exemplary individual,” Nazarian recalled that an early fundraiser of Armenia’s United Nations mission was held at the Gulian home.

Artsakh Representative Robert Avedissian paid tribute to Gulian’s dedication to the soldiers and cause of Artsakh. “Since the first days, he was in the forefront of the Artsakh struggle.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary Papazian, speaking after a video presentation of her inauguration last month as the new president of Southern Connecticut State University, noted the “brilliant record” of Gulian’s life: from his earliest days as a young church deacon “with a beautiful voice,” to his present leadership of the Armenian Jewelers Association.

She recited a long list of causes close to his heart, which includes Hye Doon, the Armenian Diocese, the Knights of Vartan, the Artsakh movement, earthquake relief, Armenia Fund USA, Armenia’s UN Mission, congressional fundraising events and his leadership of the Times Square Genocide memorials.

A heartfelt video prepared by Gulian’s daugh- ter, Anoush, and son, Haig, revealed both the familial and community life of the honoree, with many of his friends and Armenian community representatives extolling his many virtues. These included past Knights of Vartan Grand Commander Haig Deranian, Gomidas Choir director Kris Kalfayan, and Gulian’s niece, Christine Kuchukian, who related some sweet personal memories.

In his remarks, Barsamian reflected on how the honoree is present at nearly every Armenian function and is a supporter — often behind the scenes — of every worthy endeavor.

“What strikes me most,” he said, “is that in all of our community activities, Hirant is always at home. His home is anywhere our people come together, to celebrate our culture, to advance our cause, to pray to our Lord. That’s where Hirant Gulian belongs; that’s where he feels most at home. And our community life over the past generation has prospered because of his presence.”

The Primate made special mention of the hon- oree’s wife, Ruby, calling her “the perfect partner for his life,” and noting that the two “perfectly complement each other, and bring out the best in the other.” He expressed his satisfaction at  seeing their children carrying on the family lega- cy as they embark onto adulthood.

Commenting on “the other pillar of Hirant’s character: his devotion to our church and peo- ple,” the Primate spoke of the honoree’s voca- tion as a deacon, and “the love Hirant devotes to his service on the altar — for which all the other deacons look up to him and respect him.”

On behalf of Catholicos Karekin II, Barsamian presented Gulian with the St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal, in whose accompanying encyclical the catholicos commended Gulian as “a servant of the Lord’s Holy Altar,” who has “been helpful to our nation and church, thus earning the Lord’s blessings for yourself, your family, and our entire people.”