In Memoriam: Joe Almasian, 79, remembered as Renaissance Man
Published: Monday August 08, 2011
Sherborn, Mass. - According to his peers, Joe Almasian was the ideal Renaissance Man.
When he wasn't enriching the lives of his family members and friends, you'd find him at an AYF Olympics supporting his three talented children.
Or playing baritone sax and clarinet with the Framingham Symphony Orchestra and other noted ensembles like the U.S. Navy Band and several Big Band groups right up until the ripe age of 79 when death intervened. He was two months away from his golden wedding anniversary and just shy of turning 80.
Mr. Almasian died June 29, surrounded by his wife and children while listening to Big Band music inside a hospital ward as his final request. Family members hooked up a CD player and out came his favorite music. He was especially fond of Glenn Miller, Woody Herman and The Four Freshmen.
In conjunction with the family's wishes, a memorial fund has been started to provide support to music programs throughout his community, as well as St. Asdvadzadzin Church in Whitinsville where he was an active member.
"My father could pick up a conversation with a total stranger and gain his immediate friendship," said his son Joe. "Fundamentally, he always tried to do the right thing and had a positive influence on others. He held no prejudice against anyone."
His musical instincts both followed him and preceded him. Because he didn't have the money to attend the conservatory, "Big Joe" as he was affectionately called, joined the Navy, served the Korean Conflict and was aboard a heavy cruiser.
He continued his love for music with the military and essentially never stopped playing. The baritone sax was by his coffin as 500 people paid their respects at the funeral home. About half that number attended the Badarak, celebrated by three clergy: Der Aram Stepanian (pastor), Der Gomidas Baghsarian and Der Antranig Baljian. A fourth turned out for the wake, Der Karekin Bedourian.
"The way Joe took the lead as he and his family properly buried their dad far outshined any medal, trophy or championship that young man ever received," said Steve Elmasian, his former coach with the Providence "Variation" AYF Chapter.
Both young Joe and sister Ani are among the leading scorers in AYF history (249 combined points) while sister Sosie was also an abundant scorer, covering a span of 20 Olympic meets the family never missed during the 1980s and 1990s.
Joe's wife, the former Lucy Oulohojian, was another prolific scorer in her day for Worcester (81 points) and undoubtedly passed that tenet on to her children.
Together, Joe and Lucy remained the very essence of AYF spirit by helping organize the Framingham "Musa Dagh" Chapter in the 1980s which celebrated an era of its own before dissipating.
"My father taught us to become people of good charter and not rock the boat," said his son. "As an athlete, he taught us to give it your all. He always had a positive outlook and passed that quality on to his family."
Nothing brought him as much pride as that auspicious moment in 1994 when son Joe and his sidekick Kenny Topalian represented the country of Armenia in the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. The two stalwarts entered the bobsled and created a bit of history on their own as the first entrants to represent that country since the Independent Republic was re-established three years prior.
The night of opening ceremonies when they walked into the stadium along with the other nations of the world holding the Armenian Tricolor brought tears of joy to the father.
Consequently, so did the fact that five of his seven grandchildren donned an Armenian costume and danced with the Siroon Dance Company out of Whitinsville.
His signature expression was summed up in three words: "Love you madly."
Mr. Almasian was born in Milford and grew up in Whitinsville, graduating from Northbridge High School. He resided in Sherborn nearly 50 years.
He spent his working life as an interior designer for 40 years where he operated his own business, designing many hotels and restaurants throughout the world. He also taught design for many years at New England School of Art where he also attended and Mount Ida Junior College.
Mr. Almasian also volunteered for the Sherborn Council on Aging, playing music for seniors and delivering meals to the homebound. Another of his favorite pastimes was solving crossword puzzles, especially those from the New York Times.
Besides his wife, he leaves three children, Sosie Megerdichian and her husband Steve, Mansfield; Joseph Almasian and his wife Kim, Westford, and Ani Gigarjian and her husband Bruce, Sherborn, along with seven grandchildren: Taline, Haig, Armen, Meline, Tamar, Anoush and Aznive, attending their sporting events, band concerts, dance recitals and school plays.
He was the son of the late Simon and Altoun (Marashian) Elmasian of Whitinsville and also leaves behind a sister Agnes Tebeau and many loving cousins, nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions may be made either to Soorp Asdvadzadzin Church, 315 Church St., Whitinsville, MA 01588 or to the Joe Almasian Memorial Music Fund, c/o Sovereign Bank, 31 North Main St., Sherborn, MA 01770.
May his legacy as a good Armenian-American be shared by others.