‘Roasting’ Ed Haroutunian

On the evening of April 27, the Wayne County Republican Committee honored and “roasted” its founding chairman, Edward Haroutunian, at their 2009 annual dinner held at Park Place Banquet Center in Dearborn, Mich. Over 150 staunch Republicans and a sprinkling of Democrats dined at an especially fine dinner in preparation for the fireworks that were yet to come.

While Ed is acknowledged as being the founder of the Wayne County Republican Committee, credit for his initiation into politics is given to his father-in-law, the late Anthony Licata, who was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1967.

How do you “roast” someone as nice as Edward Haroutunian? How would this dirty deed be done? How would the fire be put to his feet by a roomful of his fellow lawyers, judges, and bigwigs in the Wayne County Republician Party?

There was curiosity over how anyone could be snarky about the ponytailed attorney who heads a Binghan Farms law firm—which includes daughter Krista and his wife of 40 years, Susan Licata Haroutunian, counsel to the firm. He is always a cheerful, upbeat person who is not known to have said a bad word about anyone. Everything about him spells optimism, and in the present disarray of his chosen party, that is a lot to say.

While his fellow Republicans did not exactly cook his goose, it was more like a love fest of adulation with many taking to the podium to tell how their friend Ed was always encouraging, supportive, and instrumental in creating their consuming interest in politics. How he was a mentor. A fox hole buddy. One even commented: “Ed was a close second to my Dad.” He was always there for a pat on the back.

It was said that his remarks were usually long-winded, with one of his often repeated slogans being: “Wayne County had given gubernatorial candidate John Engler more votes than any other Michigan county.” It was an inside joke that garnered laughs and applause.

Senator Bruce Patterson got his share of laughs when he bravely said, “The fact that we’re scraping the barrel and honoring Ed just goes to show how few Republicans are left in Wayne County.” Judge Bill Schutte, a candidate for attorney general, had this to say: “I haven’t seen as many judges in one room since our Christmas party.”

Another said they envied Haroutunian because his hair was longer than theirs. And perhaps the best shot of the evening was when it was said that Ed was the only long-haired, 60-ish, hippy freak Republican still in the city of Detroit.

Ed was presented with two American flags, one of which had flown over the Senate.

It is well known that when you get Ed, you get a package deal including Susan and Krista, who was this evening’s mistress of ceremonies. Their daughter’s introduction into politics began when she was in a stroller in the back of a meeting room surrounded by political pamphlets. It progressed to the three attending state and national Republican conventions, at times as representatives.

Ed and family have lived for many years in the Rosedale Park section of Detroit. He is the son of Loris and Nevart Haroutunian, later of Bloomfield Hills. Several tables held Ed’s proud Haroutunian, Gerjekian, and Licata relatives, all of whom he graciously introduced.

The roastee is a former member of the Pontiac AYF “Aharonian” Chapter and served on its executive committee. He has been a long-time subscriber to the Armenian Weekly.

Finally, out of the mouth of the oracle himself: “In 1991, in order to form the Wayne County Republican Committee, it took many people of good will coming together. Wayne County, with 2.1 million people, had many Republicans who believed that a county organization was a good idea, but the details needed to be carefully thought out reflecting many views. All believed that government should do for people only those things which people could not do for themselves, and that when it comes to the fundamental rights of the people as set forth in the Constitution, government is not the caretaker of the Constitution, but instead, the caretakers are each citizen of the United States…”

One of the pages in the program book sums it up best about this conservative. It was from fellow Republican Edgar Hagopian and family, “Congratulating a man of principle: A Good citizen, A good guy, A good Armenian, A good Republican, and a good friend…” Amen!

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Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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