Stefan Karadian (1929-2012): A Gentleman in the Truest Sense

We lost a great friend of the Detroit Armenian community with the passing of Stefan (Steve) Karadian this week. His funeral service at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Dearborn on Aug. 2 was a somber yet elegant send-off befitting the man known for his many contributions to this community.

Although the city mourns significantly for its loss, Steve’s departure from life on earth will be most difficult for his beloved wife of 52 years, Anne (Keshigian); his daughters Stefanie, and Julie DerManuelian; son-in-law Raffi; and grandchildren David, Christopher, and Emily. To Steve, his family was the focus of his life. Above all, they were his most beloved passion.

Steve Karadian graduated from Highland Park High School and was proud of its Polar Bear mascot. He attended Highland Park Junior College and served in the United States Army for three years in Munich, Germany, during the Korean War.

He went into banking, rising to the post of a vice-president and branch manager, a position he held for 33 years, using his people skills to draw in many customers.

He was proud of his Bursa-Hye lineage on his father Sahag’s side, who was instrumental in Steve becoming a noted coin and stamp collector. His mother Yeranouhy was an orphan, one of the 400 who in 1924-25 wove the now-famous Armenian Orphan Rug bearing 4 million knots made to characterize the Garden of Eden presented to U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.

Funeral services were conducted by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian, assisted by Deacon Antranig Karadolian, with Helen Mempreian Movsesian playing the organ. Steve Karadian’s was the first funeral conducted by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian at his new post in Detroit.

Guests were invited to join the family in the church’s adjoining Lillian Arakelian Hall for a delicious hokejash to honor Steve.

As an invited speaker, I said, “Yeresee vrah chtseketsin. The family did not neglect to attend to the needs of their ailing parents.”

With daily visits and counseling with physicians and healthcare givers, Julie and Stefanie were focused on their parents’ care. They left no stone unturned. Steve was proud of them as well as his son-in-law Raffi, who with marriage to Julie became a loving son to them. The grandchildren were a bonus. He knew with Raffi at the helm, his family would be in good hands.

Though he was gravely ill, Steve insisted that granddaughter Emily attend Camp Haiastan to be with her friends. He wanted her to enjoy the Armenian atmosphere that his two grandsons had previously enjoyed. All three grandchildren are excellent students and are involved in robotics.

As a ham radio operator, Steve would spend a great deal of time in his “shack” talking to friends and, in particular, Armenians around the world. Each Saturday at 12 noon he would connect with “Ararat Net” friends for conversation.

Upon hearing of Steve’s death, Bagrat Sahakyan and his family of Yerevan said, “Very sad news! Baron Stepan was so kind and Hayrenaser person. Please pass our deepest condolence to his wife and family.” Words of condolence were also sent by Dr. Levon Saryan, a collector on par with Steve.

During the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, when communication was cut off, Steve connected to fellow operators there via short wave radio, thereby enabling local people to find out the situation with relatives in the earthquake zone.

He was generous to his fellow Hyes. He purchased and sent them many radio sets so that in case of emergency, they would never be out of touch. On Nov. 11, 2011, Steve Karadian was acknowledged with a certificate that read: “Steve Karadian is the proud and deserving recipient of a Certificate of Recognition from the Federation of the Radio Sport (FFRA) in Haiastan for his years of dedication and for his generous contribution of many radios sets to his short wave radio friends in Armenia. … Awarded to Stefan Karadian N8BGD for fulfilling the Criteria for a Two-Way Radio Connection in Celebration of the 20th anniversary of Independent Armenia.” It was signed by George Hadatyan, the president of the FFRA, and Karen Karapetyan, Diploma Awards.

Steve and Anne attended lectures and book signings together. He knew how important the written word was. A long-time subscriber of the Armenian Weekly, the July 21, 2012 edition was prominently displayed in his casket.

Steve also initiated a Boy Scout troupe at St. Sarkis Church, assisted by several community members. He taught the boys Morse Code, went on camping trips, and helped them earn merit badges. Some attended his services knowing he contributed to their character-building. Steve also expressed disdain for those who did not attend Sunday church services at St. Sarkis and instead were nearby practicing marching. “They belong in church,” he’d exclaim vehemently as the Scout troupe at church eventually came to an end.

He belonged to the Armenian American Legion, and many area stamp and coin clubs, served on the St. Sarkis Senior Board, and had the largest known collection of Near East-related stamps, covers, and posters. He was always proud and eager to share his Armenian stamp collection.

Steve wrote the first letter to the U.S. Post Office to kick-off the process of creating the Willian Saroyan stamp, which was released in 1991. Steve and Anne drove to Fresno for the official activities related to the First Day issue of that stamp. His Saroyan stamp collection was unparalleled.

During one conversation with Steve, whom I considered a gentleman of the utmost character, he said, “My fervent ambition is to accomplish 50 years of marriage to Anne.” They actually celebrated 52. “A limousine pulled up with our kids in it. They took us to the Dearborn Inn to celebrate our 50th anniversary,” he told me.

The day before he died, his facility had an outing for guests and their families. Steve, then quite ill, was in his wheelchair and Anne was there, too. Her daughter told Anne to kiss Steve’s hand, and she did. This was the last meeting for the devoted couple. Steve passed away the next day.

The most touching words come from daughter Julie: “I knew Dad’s time on earth was dwindling so I placed the tri-color in his hand. He played with it and held it all day. I was hoping he would pass with it in his hands and he did. It was possible he knew he was transferring and that flag brought him comfort. He needed that to let go.”

Services were arranged by Simon Javizian Funeral Directors. Memorials are to St. Sarkis Church and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.


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.”


  1. We were deeply sorry in the loss of Stefan Karadian, a great friend & Philatelic collector of Armenian Stamps of which we were both deeply involved. He will be sorely missed in his many Armenian activities he was involved with down thru the years. My condolences to his wife Anne and family. God Bless Stefan. Steve & Angele Dulgarian

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