LOWELL, Mass.—A bout with breast cancer wasn’t enough to keep Eva Donoian from receiving her 50-year pin from the Lowell “Lousintak” Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Chapter.
The same could be said for her sister Margaret Donoian.
The two women, who wed twin brothers, were among six venerable members to be honored March 10 before a full house of well-wishers during a Lenten dinner that served more as a testimonial.
The Donoians are exemplary representatives of an organization that unfolded in 1910. Both were diagnosed with cancer last year, underwent surgeries just months apart, and were subjects of adoration among their peers.
Others who were singled out were Angele Dulgarian, Mary Barooshian, Thelma Voskian, and Rose Narzakian, a 90-year-old with 60-plus years of service—all of it with this chapter.
Making the presentations were chapter president Sona Gevorkian and ARS Eastern Regional executive member Carol Jaffarian.
“To see a chapter the size of Lowell with 25 members and so many reaching this plateau is truly remarkable,” said Jaffarian. “It’s an inspiration to women of my generation. Achieving such a milestone involved a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and commitment. Add it all up and that’s over 300 years of service from these 6 individuals.”
The Donoian sisters weren’t about to be deterred by illness. In setting the record straight, Eva followed her sister into the Society two years later. Together, they’ve combined for 110 years.
“My sister lit the spark,” said Eva. “We were meeting in members’ homes when a few community activists got together and purchased this community center in 1964. We’ve been coming here ever since.”
That group included Steve Dulgarian, Abraham Jeknavorian, Rose Oozoonian, and Margaret Donoian.
The Donoians followed their mother Youghaper Dadian into the ARS. A third generation has carried the torch.
“Watching my mother [Eva] receiving her 50-year pin gives me even greater motivation,” said Kathy Eskandarian. “She’s helped to make the Lowell chapter a vibrant, effective, and successful organization, whether it was cooking, cleaning, fund-raising, or supporting the less fortunate. It was always duty above self with her and these other women. They’re definite role models.”
Being a breast cancer survivor at 83, more than anything Eva Donoian wanted to be there for her kids. Two daughters and a daughter-in-law are involved with the ARS. A granddaughter is on the verge of joining, making this a four-generation family.
“This 50-year-pin is my ARS legacy,” Eva confirms. “When all else is gone, this will survive. It’s important for others to acknowledge it, not only me. I think about all the people who have come and gone before me, like my own mother. They set the stage and we’ve carried it. I can’t stop smiling.”
Donoian was quick to admit she followed her mom and sister “to make the Armenian community a better place in the world.” Sister Margaret concurs. She joined the ARS to keep her identity intact and make a difference in humanity.
“To see both of us honored with our 50-year pins together after facing cancer at the same time is an act of God,” said Margaret. “Just as this organization has survived over 100 years, so have we. Faith does work small miracles.”
Satenig Ghazarian traveled 3,000 miles from California to see her mom Angele Dulgarian get pinned. The surprise visit meant a lot to both of them.
“My mother was instrumental in getting me to join the ARS,” said Ghazarian. “Hopefully, someday I’ll be standing there with my 50-year pin. Despite our ages, we’re all working together to create an awareness through our charitable and educational work throughout the world. It’s made me a better Armenian.”
The more Narzakian rubbed the gold pendant, the shinier it became. Of the six honored, she’s been the “queen bee” for six decades.
“There’s a lot of pride in this room tonight,” she beamed. “We’re all sisters and I’ve been blessed with the greatest family of all.”