For 25 years, Gary Setian was the man behind the money.
Not because he spends half his year in Las Vegas and the rest in Longmeadow, Mass. He’s not really the gambling type or real estate investor.
On the contrary, Setian was among the more fervent Armenian coin collectors this country has seen, with all due respect to Dr. Levon Saryan and others of his kind.
With one exception: As quickly as he mounted his collection, he disbursed his coins to Armenian school students throughout the Eastern Prelacy as a token of excellence.
To receive a Gary Setian coin was akin to getting a Mesrob Mashdots medal from Armenia: Only the best were rewarded. The coins dated back to the Cilician Kingdom and the dynasty of King Levon V in 1375.
His act of charity started in the early 1980’s. At 30-35 coins a year, his collection finally became depleted about five years ago, except for those he decided to keep for his grandchildren. He’s blessed with two, Hunter, 8, and Lea, 14 months, who just underwent a successful liver transplant. Both sons, Haig and Garo, came up the AYF and Camp Haiastan way.
“I look back upon those days with fond recollection,” he says. “There was a lot of history with those coins and I took immense pride in sharing them with the younger generation. I attended a wedding once in Providence and two former students approached me to say they had my coins. To think someone handled these 800 years ago blows my mind.”
These days, Setian still takes a front seat when it comes to Armenian affairs. Vegas has a burgeoning community in the midst of building an Antelias church. He’s been tapped to lend his expertise, much the way he and brother Harry have done in Indian Orchard where they were raised. Both were former AYFers there. Gary Setian notes that he’s been an Armenian Weekly subscriber for 60 years.
“Just when I thought I was past the stage of attending meetings, on comes this opportunity to see an Armenian church built in Vegas,” he says. “There’s 10,000 Armenians in Vegas, a vast percentage from Haiastan. We’ve got an AYF and Homenetmen out here, an Armenian school with 40 kids. The more active ones come from the ARF-ARS sector.”
A church trustee, NRA delegate, executive council secretary, and Gomideh member for 50 years, he’s been there and done that. Setian has more than paid his dues to Armenian society. Despite his mounting years, he’s still crossing a threshold—anything to bring added credence to his heritage.
Setian spent 40 years with Bay State Gas, retiring as a vice-president. He’s been to Armenia 15 times working to develop safe natural gas distribution in that country and implement a simplistic computer system. The many talks he’s given on this subject as well as Armenian coinage speak volumes.
Two years ago, he underwent a kidney transplant after waiting three years for a donor. It was a time in his life when he was teetering on the brink of survival.
“I feel great,” he says. “Hopefully, the transplant will help me see my grandchildren grow up. Every day is a gift I’ve grown to appreciate.”