Special for the Armenian Weekly
I met Andrew (Andy) Kevorkian a few years ago at a gathering of writers and theater critics, organized by the Broad Street Review, one of the most sophisticated theatre arts websites on the East coast.
Andrew looked a little like an elegant version of an aging Falstaff and was most willing to answer all my questions about Armenia and the next generation of Armenian Americans—of great concern to him as he wanted the old culture to be kept alive. A Renaissance man, he spoke with great knowledge and enthusiasm, no matter the subject.
Despite the informality of the potluck event, he turned a writers’ meet-up into an enlightened court for those who came to see him. Drinking wine and grazing through the various dishes, he shared generously from his vessel of experiences, even though he was an intensely private man. However, he did reveal that he left Philadelphia to live in London for almost three decades.
I saw in Andy Kevorkian a citizen of the world who was more than willing to take me under his wing. After our long conversation, I promised to visit his beloved Armenia. What a delightful afternoon it was at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia.
Going by all accounts, Andrew (Avedis) Karnig Kevorkian led a full life. Born in Philadelphia on Nov. 16, 1927, he attended West Philadelphia High School and Temple University, where he earned a B.A. in Journalism in 1949. He joined the U.S. Army from 1950-51 and later served as a reservist.
During his school years, and after graduating college, he worked at Groong, his father’s Armenian newspaper in Philadelphia, where he typeset and later wrote his own articles. In 1958, he started working in the PR department of the Burroughs Corporation, followed by public relations and writing positions in other organizations and companies. In 1976, he left Philadelphia for London, where he lived for 28 years, working for various ad agencies, before starting his own public relations firm. In 2003, shortly after the death of his brother, Aram Jack Kevorkian, who lived and died in Paris, France, Andy returned to live in his old neighborhood in West Philadelphia.
Andrew wrote for a number of publications, including The Armenian Reporter and Keghart.com, a non-partisan website devoted to community activities, human rights, and democracy. He was particularly proud of having helped his father research, write, and publish a book in Armenian about his hometown in Eastern Turkey, made infamous when the Turks massacred its entire population of 10,000 Armenians during the 1915 genocide. The Story of Chunkoush: Chunkoushabadoum; Critical History of the Armenians in Chunkoush by Karnig Kevorkian, was published in 1970, with a preface by Armenian American playwright and Pulitzer Prize winner William Saroyan—a friend of the Kevorkian family.
The murder of over one and a half million Armenians, including children, was such a traumatic event for the Kevorkian family and the entire Armenian community that Andy, like many Armenians in exile, became an ardent supporter of all Armenian causes. He fought particularly hard for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the denunciation of Turkey’s crimes against humanity—not only against Armenians, but also Assyrians and Greeks.
Informed by this early injustice, Andy served on the Board of the Armenian Campaign for the Armenian Genocide Recognition (CRAG) and did PR work for the Armenian Fund in NYC and the Lobby for Cyprus. He also organized and wrote PR releases for many events in Philadelphia related to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
In addition to his pride in his heritage, Andy was also a proud Philadelphian who worked for the Shackamaxon Society, a historical society formed in anticipation of the American bicentennial, also involved in renovating Fort Mifflin, as well as The Cliffs, the historical Fairmount mansion. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Andy was instrumental in the rededication of an historic plaque at the site of Benjamin Franklin’s first printing press in the 1700’s.
For the Broad Street Review, Andy wrote six articles, each more outspoken than the next. As was his style, he expressed strong views on all subjects, from art to music to politics. Although readers may not have always agreed with him, and clearly expressed those views in the “Letters to the Editor” column, it was not for lack of entertaining and hard-hitting prose.
Andy never married and had no children. He died in Philadelphia on April 14, 2017, a few months short of his 90th birthday. He is survived by six nieces and nephews, both in the U.S. and France, and numerous grandnieces and grandnephews, as well as great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews.
Andrew, you ambassador of the world, I shall miss your wit, your energy, and your boundless support for Armenians and all other peoples around the world who have been maligned and persecuted.
Ave vale, fare thee well, au revoir, and, of course, ցտեսութիւն, tstesutyun.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests making a donation in Andrew’s name to his favorite organizations: St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Apostolic Church of Wynnewood, Penn.; Temple University; and the Pen and Pencil Club of Philadelphia, America’s oldest press club.
The author is grateful to Corinne P. Kevorkian, Andrew’s niece from France who now lives in New York, for additional information about Andrew’s life.