Antranig Chalabian’s book General Andranik and the Armenian Revolutionary Movement is one of my most prized possessions and sits prominently on my bookshelf because of the subject matter contained therein. It is the 588-page English translation about the hero of the book and what he represented to the Armenian nation. In it, the author has written the message “To Serpouhi Apikian Castle, With Best Wishes: A Chalabian, 3-26-89.” To me it is too precious to ever be available for loaning to anyone.
With his remains already resting in Kessab, Syria, the pews in the Armenian Congregational Church in Southfield in the late afternoon of Sat. April 30, were filled to attend a memorial service for this long-time respected community member, noted author, teacher, and father, Dr. Antranig Chalabian.
Many years ago, he was my Armenian School teacher at this same church on Saturday mornings, when I wanted to brush up on my reading and writing skills.
And on April 30, he was lovingly remembered by over 175 members of metro Detroit for his invaluable worldwide literary contributions. He was a visionary who realized the importance of an English translation for non-Armenian reading Hyes and others as well, to recount the heroic exploits of the legendary Antranig.
He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Siran. He leaves his children Annie and Tom Hogland, Dr. Jack and Gayle Chelebian, and Karine and Hovsep Koundakjian.
Antranig Chalabian was born in Kessab and graduated from the local Armenian Evangelical School. He studied at Aleppo College, then taught in his local school in Kessab for a year. From 1944-49 he returned to Aleppo College to teach English and arithmetic.
In 1949, he moved to Beirut where his family had settled in 1945. He taught English for one year in the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian High School. Then he took a position in the physiology department of the American University of Beirut, where he remained for 27 years. While there he worked as a free-lance medical illustrator, illustrating almost entirely three medical books and thousands of research papers.
The multi-talented Chalabian was simultaneously contributing articles to the Djanasser, Spiurk, and Nayiri papers.
Chalabian settled in Detroit in 1977 with his family, assuming the position of public relations director of the AGBU Alex Manoogian School. He regularly contributed articles to Baikar, Nor Or, Abaka, the Armenian Mirror- Spectator, and the Armenian Observer.
He was eulogized by Pastor Makarios Darawi and Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian, pastor emeritus of the Armenian Congregational Church, who described Chalabian as an intellectual. “He liked to learn and to teach.”
Rev. Dr. Tootikian said of Chalabian’s human side, “He could have a disposition similar to a stormy sea but quickly would settle down and was soft as cotton.”
Dr. Chalabian’s mother was an important factor in molding his character. He also had mentors who played an important role in his life.
Daughter Karine (Karen) and husband Hovsep, who lived nearby Chalabian along with grandson Garo, were always there to care for him. Garo told me how much he loved his grandfather and how proud he was to be his grandson.
There was a unison reading of Psalm 23 by the congregation. Special music was provided by Gayaneh Kachadourian, who sang “Soorp, Soorp” and “Der Voghormya, Der Voghormya.” Prelude and Postlude was by Susan Harrison.
Chalabian wrote several volumes on Armenian history and historical figures, but he is best known for that immense accomplishment, the biography of General Antranig, which went into four printings. It was in defense of this volume in the history department of the University of Armenia that he was awarded a doctorate in history. He donated the proceeds from the sale of the book to the Karabagh freedom fighters.
Chalabian was the recipient of many awards and accolades and became a popular lecturer, often invited as guest speaker in different states. In 2005, the mayor of Southfield designated a day as Dr. Antranig Chalabian Day, a true honor for a deserving individual who both lived and taught in that city.
Memorial services were followed by an impressive delicious dinner buffet prepared by the Ladies of the Congregational Church. Afterwards a film presentation of Chalabian’s life was shown.
Detroit may have lost all too soon another of its leading intellectuals, but Dr. Antranig Chalabian has left an indelible mark on a community that admires his lifetime body of work. This community was blessed by his presence.
A quote from the General Antranig book: “The Armenian Revolutionary Movement would not have its ‘raison d’etre,’ and the Armenian political parties probably would not have been formed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, if the Turks had treated the Armenians more humanely. The Armenian Revolutionary Movement was the direct consequences of Turkish misrule, evidenced by their persistent policy of persecution, oppression, and finally exterminating the Armenians inhabiting their three thousand year-old homeland in eastern Turkey.”