Vatche Semerdjian Honored for 50 years of Community Service


Vatch Semerdjian receives a commendation letter from Frank Quintero.

By Kevork Keushkerian

LOS ANGELES — Editor, author, educator and community activist Vatche Semerdjian received the St. Sahag-St. Mesrob Medal bestowed upon him with an Encyclical by His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all the Armenians.

Vatche Semerdjian was honored for dedicating more than 50 years of his life to the service of the Armenian communities in Lebanon, Cyprus, Ethiopia, England and the United States of America.

The ceremony began on Sunday morning, April 7, at the St. Leon Cathedral in Burbank. During the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, decorated his chest with the medal, after the reading of the Encyclical. He then praised the recipient for a life long dedication to the Armenian community.

The Primate compared Semerdjian to the moon, which captures the light from the sun and reflects it onto the earth at night. Metaphorically, he continued, Semerdjian uses his God-given talents to the service of his community. In that way, the Primate added, he is a good role model not only for his immediate family, but for the entire community.

After the church services, Semerdjian’s family, friends and colleagues were invited to the Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale. Parsegh Kartalian served as the Master of Ceremonies. He first invited Rev. Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian to bless the food. Present were Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, the former Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, Very Rev. Baret Yeretsian, Edmond Y. Azadian from Detroit, Hagop Vartivarian from New Jersey and Frank Quintero, the mayor of Glendale, who gave the honoree a commendation from the City of Glendale.

There were several remarks made by close friends, colleagues and elected officials. Ara Aharonian noted that this was the 55th anniversary of Semerdjian’s community service, briefly mentioned his literary achievements and then presented the honoree with a commendation from the County of Los Angeles, signed by Mike Antonovich, Supervisor 5th District, and a Certificate of Recognition from the State of California, signed by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian.

Azadian took to the podium and mentioned that his friendship with Semerdjian extended over half a century, originating when they both started to contribute and edit Zartonk Sport, a weekly publication of the Zartonk daily newspaper in Lebanon. Azadian is one of the two vice presidents of Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Central Board of Directors of the United States and Canada.

Azadian called Semerdjian a renaissance man, further noting that the honoree had a keen sense of humor, was honest, friendly and most importantly, a free thinker. Their relationship, Azadian continued, was based on mutual admiration and respect. Independent thinkers are often criticized, he went on, and as examples he mentioned Socrates, Jesus Christ and Hagop Baronian, among many.

Baydzig Kalayjian, on behalf of the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Central Committee, delivered a statement praising his long association and dedication to the organization.

Lora Kuyumjian dwelled upon fun memories extracted from a threefold relationship over 25 years with the honoree. First, when she was teaching at TCA Arshag Dickranian School, Semerdjian was a member of the Education Committee. Then, when she joined TCA Los Angeles Chapter, he was the chairman. And finally, they both became colleagues at TCA Arshag Dickranian School, teaching Armenian language and literature.

Two of Semerdjian’s former students recalled memorable moments from their experience at the Dickranian School. Other remarks were made by George Mandossian, chairman of TCA Arshag Dickranian School’s Board of Directors, Vartivarian, Chairman of TCA New York Chapter, Sarkis Vahakn and Hagop Mardirossian, editor of Nor Or Weekly.

Musical selections were rendered by Salpi Kerkonian, on the clarinet, and Sossy Kerkonian, on the harp. Vocal selections were rendered by tenor Artashes Hayryan.

Finally, the honoree took to the podium and thanked members of the organizing committee, then his wife and children, the many speakers for their kind words and memorable experiences. Finally, he thanked the audience at large for taking the time to share his happiness with him.