90-year-old Armenians still making their mark
Published: Tuesday July 10, 2012
If life begins at 80, as they say, then it really blossoms at 90.
For a group of elite Armenians, their longevity and subsequent activity appear to be giving geriatrics a positive image.
Let's look into the lives of a few venerable folks:
Dr. H. Martin Deranian
With a new play opening in Boston and his work with the Armenian orphan rug, Dr. H. Martin Deranian only seems to be getting better with age.
The prominent Worcester dentist teamed with Joyce Van Dyke in bringing the story of his mother to the stage. Dr. Deranian is the son of Varter Deranian who provided Van Dyke with the inspiration and much of the research on which the production, "Deported/ a dream play," is based.
Dr. Deranian's ongoing quest to have the President Calvin Coolidge orphan rug given its rightful place in American history has never weaned. Despite his advanced age, he continues to be a public speaker of note, promoting the Armenian Cause, and giving the genocide added exposure through a rug which was woven by 400 orphans during 1924-25 in a town called Ghazir, just 40 miles north of Beirut.
The rug subsequently wound up in obscurity inside the White House as Armenian historians and archivists like Dr. Deranian look for a more permanent home, bringing greater exposure to the heirloom.
Dr. Deranian has turned himself into a self-imposed rug ambassador in seeking the cause of justice. By unraveling this mystery, he hopes to provide greater credence to the Near East Relief and the scores of orphans saved during the genocide years of 1915-1923.
[Editor's note: We were saddened to learn that Manoog Young passed away on July 3, 2012 some time after this article was prepared.]
At the ripe age of 95, Manoog S. Young continues to remain an icon with the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), which he helped initiate in 1955 and served as a board member for 47 years, now chairman emeritus.
His resume appears like a veritable "Who's Who" when it comes to service in the Armenian community. Suffice it to say, he's never recanted when it comes time to promote his heritage.
Succinctly, the Belmont resident served as the first School Committee chairman of the AGBU School and has been a board member since its inception of "Facing History and Ourselves" National Foundation.
At a time when education was at a premium, he received a Mathematics and Physics degree from Northeastern University and a Masters in History and International Relations from Clark University.
"When Armenian Studies needed to exist at top universities throughout the country, Manoog Young was a visionary," said Marc A. Mamigonian, director of Academic Affairs for NAASR. "It goes without saying that NAASR owes him the debt of our existence. We're indebted to him for the strides made by Armenian-Americans over the past half century, politically, culturally and most assuredly educationally."
We caught up with Ardashes Aykanian at 9 a.m. on a weekday morning, heavily involved in a meeting with five other experts on the West Coast. The subject at hand: transforming waste into energy for the BIG Island of Hawaii.
The soon-to-be 90-year-old says landfills are overflowing with waste and he's working toward a plan to convert garbage into electricity and liquid fuel.
This is the same guy who invented the flexible straw (Bendi-straw), the spoon straw for slush consumers, foam-core, the blue strip on car windshields, the first form of Tupperwear and 26 other patents involving plastics, including the liter containers for Coca-Cola. On a chemical note, he was among the first group of scientists that ever extracted uranium.
Now, he's trying to help save the world as an engineering consultant.
"I've been working my fanny off all my life and can't stay idle," he says. "So long as I can solve problems people present to me, my purpose in life will always be stimulated."
These days, California is home to the Springfield-Indian Orchard native who came through the AYF ranks and served his time improving the youth organization as a member of the ARF Central Committee.
He lost his first wife in an auto accident and later married a woman 21 years his junior. Four children and six grandchildren help keep him young at heart. A brother Ara and sister Araxie are both in their 80s and reside in Massachusetts.
Aykanian served with the U.S. Navy in World War 2 before securing an Engineering degree from UMass and a master's degree from MIT.
His success in the engineering field could very well be attributed to one of his UMass instructors. He happened to be Manoog Young who is also being featured in this piece.
Music mentor Armen Babamian sang his first solo at the age of 12 in Holy Cross Armenian Church of Union City, NJ. He hasn't stopped. At age 97, he remains the epitome of inspiration to his family, church and community.
He was born on Christmas Day in 1915 --- the year of the infamous genocide. Through music, he has weaved the fabric of culture for his people throughout the Diaspora.
Babamian has served as choirmaster for St. Illuminator's Church in New York for 25 years and was choirmaster of St. Vartanantz Church in Ridgefield, NJ. His conducting career actually started in 1949 with the Armenian National Chorus of New York where he was principal soloist.
In 1999, he was presented the Mesrob Mashdots Medal and Holy Encyclical by Catholicos Aram 1 of Antelias.