SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — An upbeat throng of almost 400 well-wishers crowded the Cultural Hall of St. John’s Armenian Church for a festive four-hour celebration of the 90th birthday of Fr. Diran Papazian, pastor emeritus, following church services on Sunday, February 17.
The party was organized by Diran Papazian’s daughter, Elise, with the support of his son and daughter-in-law, Garo and Donna Papazian, of Holden, Mass., his brother and sister-in-law, Drs. Dennis and Mary Papazian, of Woodbridge, Conn., his niece and her husband, Louise and Dr. Haig Yardumian of St. Petersburg, Fla., Fr. Garabed Kochakian, pastor of St. John’s, and a host of parishioners and former parishioners from near and far.
The Badarak was celebrated by the Rev. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of St. Gregory of Nareg Armenian Church of Cleveland, Ohio, a parish which Fr. Diran Papazian served for several years while on leave from St. John’s. Sargsyan’s firstborn, Mare, is the honoree’s goddaughter.
Large arrangements of flowers for the occasion were sent by the Oulubegian/Nahabedian families of Arizona and the Saints Joachim and Anne Armenian Church of Palos Heights, Ill., which Papazian also served for many years.
Fr. Diran Papazian’s daughter, Elise, arranged for a continuing pictures slideshow that was projected on the big screen, illustrating many aspects of his life, which included his wife, Yeretzgin Rosalie, his son, Garo, his daughter, Elise, and numerous in-laws and friends.
Entertainment was provided by violinists Harry Hovakemian, who played Armenian melodies. The honoree, himself, sang an emotional rendition of Eem Yerke (My Song), when he spoke, which brought tears to many eyes.
The Primate of the Diocese, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, sent a message in which he observed that to have lived for nine decades is a great milestone, but in Papazian’s case, it has an added significance since he is truly a living part of Armenian church history in America.
In those formative years, the Primate continued, serving the Armenian Church was not always easy for the pastors and their families. Yet, exemplary clergyman like Papazian and his devoted spouse rose above the obstacles and blazed a worthy trail for others to follow.
He sent a special blessing on the late Yeretzgin.
Messages were read by MC Gregory Jamian from son, Garo, brother-in-law Dr. Dennis R Papazian, granddaughter Nicole Papazian, who wrote a poem, the pastor and parish Council of St. Gregory of Nareg Armenian Church, and a proclamation from the Mayor of Southfield, the Hon. Brenda Lawrence.
Speakers included Sargsyan, Kochakian and Elise Papazian, who wrote and read the following short poem:
Strength of the solid mountains
calmness of the quiet seas,
True wisdom from the many ages,
all the patients of eternity.
Song sung with sincerity,
Genuine humor full of spice,
Tender talks with loyal personality,
A comforting soul, with kind twinkling eyes.
Fr. Diran Papazian made the final remarks. With his own, and inimitable humor, he said “I have awaited this day with inpatient impatience, excited excitement, eager eagerness, and with anticipated anticipation for almost a whole lifetime, a period of 90 years, counting from the very moment of my birth, when I opened my eyes to the light of God’s wonderful world.”
“I didn’t want to miss this moment and then regret it . . . . Time which passes can never return. I want to honestly say that today has been one of the great highlights of my life, an experience worthy to be treasured and remembered, in the company of all my loving friends from multiple generations. Thank you for being here and thank you for your love and eagerness to participate.”
He closed the festivities with an Armenian song regarding the meaning of life.
The festivities continued for another hour with the many guests, a multitude of generations touched by Papazian’s ministry, lining up to share stories, express their love, and offer a special hug to the honoree.
As Dr. Dennis Papazian said in his remarks, “I’m sure that God looks down upon this gathering today and says, ‘Well done my good and faithful servant, I am proud of you.’”