WATERTOWN — Robert “Bob” Semonian died at age 77 on June 22, following a prolonged battle with colon cancer.
Semonian had a distinctive and driven personality that gave impetus to his legendary networking abilities as a vitally social member of the Massachusetts Armenian community. As a gregarious champion of Armenian causes and organizations, he made continuous and significant contributions to the Knights of Vartan, National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, Armenian Museum of America, Armenia Tree Project, and St. James Armenian Church among many other Armenian civic and community organizations that made him the “Uncle Bob” of the Armenian community.
He was a 45-year member and past president of the Armenian Students Association. As a life member, he served on the Board of Trustees until his passing.
Over the years, Semonian’s reputation and his extensive national, political and business contacts made him the “go to” person to the Armenian organizations and prominent leaders whenever fundraising was needed for projects that benefitted the Armenian community.
In recent years, as chairman of the Speaker’s Committee of the Men’s Club of St. James Armenian Church, he arranged dozens of prominent Armenians to speak who provided inspiration, guidance and leadership to this always-popular program that attracted hundreds of people each month.
As treasurer of the Improper Bostonian magazine, founded by his nephew, Mark Semonian, Bob became further known as an accomplished networker throughout the greater Boston business, civic and political communities.
Bob Semonian’s leadership took center stage in the aftermath of 1988 Armenian earthquake. As a founding director of the Boston Earthquake Coalition, he was responsible for generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in products, merchandise and donations for humanitarian relief in Armenia. His networking talents got the mayor of Boston involved to provide aid to the Armenian victims of the devastating earthquake, including arranging more than 30 doctors to be sent to Armenia.
Semonian had a passion for politics and was a longtime leader in Massachusetts Republican circles. He was particularly proud of being a delegate from Massachusetts at eight Republican National Conventions. He was a highly valued member of the Massachusetts Republican establishment and was state chairman for Pat Buchanan’s and Pat Roberston’s presidential campaigns .
His Republican activities included providing significant assistance in organizing ethnic groups throughout the state — particularly Armenian, Asian and Indian communities — to support the Republican candidacies of William Weld, Mitt Romney and Charlie Baker. He was extremely well regarded by the Republican governors and appointed to various commissions during their administrations because of his dedicated work and support. Semonian was touched by a lengthy conversation with Governor Baker while he was in the hospital.
At one point, he served as chairman of the Watertown Republican Town Committee. He was Massachusetts state vice chairman for Ronald Reagan, and Nationalities Chairman in the state. Through his nationwide political contacts, Semonian provided the vitally important link to get eight states to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
As an avid traveler, he took great pride in representing the Boston Armenian community at the Forum of Armenian Associations of Europe at conferences that took place in Brussels, Budapest, Venice and Uppsala, Sweden. He always enjoyed the friendships he developed throughout the US, particularly California, and friends he made in South America.
Born and raised in Watertown, the son of Leon and Veron Semonian, he was a lifelong resident and thoroughly enjoyed the community life of the city and was noted as a convivial friend and a loyal supporters of all the organizations to which he belonged.
Semonian leaves his brothers, Leon and wife Marion, and Suren and wife Carol; his late sister Grace and Harry Ahmadjian; his nephews Mark Semonian and Paul Semonian; his nieces Wendy Semonian, Nancy Day, Janis Baer, June Darmanian, Joan Ahmadjian, the late Leslie Semonian and innumerable close friends.
Funeral services were at St. James Armenian Church of Watertown on Tuesday, June 28.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to St. James Armenian Church (for the Leslie Semonian Computer Center) or The Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Brookline, MA (for Leslie’s link Ewing Sarcoma Fund).
— Paul Boghosian