Not Quite an Angel over the Olympics

This article, as in the past few years, is dedicated to Angel Perethian and modeled after her long-running contribution, “Angel over the Olympics,” to the Armenian Weekly’s Olympic edition. Tommy Vartabedian and I always talk about her and how much people loved her Olympic articles. Tommy has always said it was the article most people first turned to when the Weekly’s AYF issue arrived, and may have been the most read article of that issue. While she was not at these Olympic Games in Detroit and has not been for a few years, it was great seeing her ad in the Ad Book this year. Her ad was a collage of photos of her, her late husband, family, and friends. She also included a photo of her and Tommy from the 1970’s or 80’s as well as a photo of Judy and me. Thanks Angel. You continue to be an inspiration.

The Olympics are indeed about traditions and history…

Peter Crane and Sonny Gavoor
Peter Crane and Sonny Gavoor

Who doesn’t love the theme the Detroit chapter picked for the Olympics this year? “Our Roots Run Deep.” It resonates with everyone that takes being Armenian seriously. It resonates with every one of us who values our time in the AYF and for many more of us who have valued years of being an alumni. It also resonates with Detroit pride. Indeed, the roots in Detroit run deep.

The Detroit shish and lule kebab we had Thursday night at the “Agoump” and Saturday at the picnic might have been the best Armenian kebab in the whole country. Maybe we need to organize a kebab cook-off competition much like the BBQ competitions that are so popular today.

It was a pleasure to see the Boyadjians of New York, the Dulgarians of Massachusetts, and the Alashaians from New Jersey. It would not seem like Olympics without seeing them there supporting their grandchildren and reveling in all things AYF and Armenian.

Bob Tutunjian, formerly a Boston “Siamanto” and now a Providence coach and supporter, is a walking encyclopedia of the AYF Olympics. He has been actively involved in AYF athletics since the late 1960’s. He knows more stats, facts, and figures than anyone in the history of the AYF Olympics. He is simply amazing. Bob is the fact checker for all the articles in this special issue. He has a lot memorized, but can also refer to a library of Ad Books and official results that he has amassed over the years. He loves to write articles about swimming, track, pentathlon, and more, and never wants a byline. He is a true treasure and an absolute gem of a person to work with.

I had a chance to speak with Angel after the Olympics. She lives in Georgia with her daughter. As with many of her generation, she speaks highly of the AYF and the role that it played in her life. She talked about her column, “Angel over the Olympics,” and how her husband helped her collect the news items and personal stories that made her stories so very popular. She wrote it from the late 1940’s well into the 1980’s and even occasionally thereafter.

We missed a lot of folks that were not able to make the trip to Detroit this year. Personally, I truly missed Peter and Maryanne Bonjuklian. We always enjoy spending time with them. We have known them for years, but the friendship has grown simply from seeing each other every year at the Olympics.

Roots indeed run deep. The Detroit-Armenian community is basically rooted in Keghi, Van, and Sepastia. There are ads in the Ad Book from the Vasbouragan Society and two from the Nor Keghi Association, a recently revitalized group to basically keep the bond with the descendants of Keghi living in Detroit and to celebrate all things Keghetsi. Both ads are for their Kef Time Keghi II event, which will take place on Oct. 25. If you are anywhere near or around Detroit, come and enjoy some pagharch, the iconic dish of this great Armenian village.

Who didn’t love Kenar Charchaflian’s “Char Kenar” written on the back of her Olympic jersey?

It was truly a treat to be able to hear two iconic oud players over the Olympic weekend. The great Richard Hagopian regaled us on Friday night and John Berberian performed on Sunday. It would have been great to hear them both give a little concert together.

Steve Panosian was named Olympic King and we needed to know what events he swam during his first Olympics, and if he set records in some or all. As that was 44 years ago, many of us were not sure. Heck, even Steve was not sure. Bob Tutunjian did not know off the top of his head, which would have been no surprise if he did, but he got back with the definitive answer within an hour.

There are two families in Detroit: the Tcholakians and the Cholakians. The fathers are brothers and thus the athletes are cousins. Keep the T? Drop the T? They came to a fork in the road and, in this regard, each took his own way. It may have been done just to play havoc with Olympic reporting and scorekeeping, or yours truly, in particular.

Congratulations to Detroit for another great Ad Book. Ralph Kourtjian and team did a spectacular job getting participation and assembling a beautiful book. The cover, designed by Meliné Topouzian, was very appropriate to the “Our Roots Run Deep” theme. There were runners with the names of all the AYF cities, present and past. Below were roots with Moush, Sepastia, Malatya, Palou, Ani, and Kharpert written in Armenian. It was very clever and well done. Roots Run Deep.

Phil Nigon and Alidz Oshagan
Phil Nigon and Alidz Oshagan

In the spirit of AYF Olympic magic, Phil Nigon and Alidz Oshagan got engaged. I am surprised we do not see more engagements at Olympics. Surely enough people have met and fallen in love because of their involvement in the AYF.

Alidz noted, “Phil proposed to me on Aug. 30, the Saturday of Olympics. He asked me out for a fancy dinner and once we got back to the hotel he got down on one knee and proposed. I was not expecting the proposal, but of course said yes right away! After making a few phone calls, we met up with our friends to celebrate. Some of my friends from out of town were there to surprise me—all planned by Phil! I can’t imagine a more fitting place for Phil to propose than Olympics. The AYF is incredibly important to us. We actually started dating at an AYF Olympics years ago! We were lucky to celebrate with our AYF friends and family that weekend.”

Maybe a couple will actually have their wedding reception at the Sunday Night Dance.

How incredible is it that two pairs of brothers and sisters were the high scorers? Even more incredible is that all four were from one team: Providence. Congratulations to Lynne and Stephen Tutunjian, and Tarvis and Andrew Hintlian! Proud papas Bob Tutunjian and Fred Hintlian were seen walking on air they were so happy.

In taking photos of the athletes at golf, tennis, swimming, and the track, there was one thing that impressed me throughout the entire weekend: We should all be very proud of our young men and women in the AYF. They are flat out good people. They all want to win, but they support and revel in each other’s effort. They are gracious both in victory and defeat. There was a quote from Karekin Njdeh in the Ad Book: “If you want to predict and see the future of a people, look at its youth.” Based on this, we have every reason to be optimistic about our future.

A lot of people were very happy to see Hachig Kazarian come out of retirement to play at the Alumni Dance on Friday and the Olympic Ball on Sunday. It was also a great way to welcome Hachig and his wife Christine back in the Detroit community, as they just moved back after living in Las Vegas for the past so many years.

It was a great experiment to have part of the Opening Ceremonies at the Friday Night Dance. Even for the short program, it was hard to get everyone’s attention—they had been dancing and were not in the mood for speeches. Only our prelate, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, with his deep, resonant, and deep voice, had any success in this regard.

Who didn’t love the spirit that the Worcester and New Jersey chapters brought with them to the Olympics? Both teams were on a mission to move up and be noticed. They succeeded on both counts. New Jersey moved from 5th place in 2013 to 3rd this year. During the New Jersey chapter dance on Sunday night, one could have easily thought that they were the overall winners. Worcester was 9th a year ago and finished 6th this year. Kudos to both chapters!

The Azizian and Tandourjian families placed an ad in the book this year with Kopernik Tandourjian’s photo. When Detroit went from two chapters to one, they chose Tandourjian’s name for the chapter. He was an active ARF member all of his life, held positions in the 1918 Republic of Armenia, and was instrumental in founding the AYF. It was a pleasure to see his granddaughter, Anahid Azizian, over the weekend.

Olympics social media took a great leap forward this year. The AYF Olympics? There was an app for that, literary. The entire schedule for the weekend and addresses that linked to Google Maps was on this very well-designed app. Sunday night there was another great innovation: People could take photos on their phones, post them to Instagram or Twitter with #ayfolympics, and seconds later the photo was on the big screen at the Olympic Ball. How cool was that. Ara Topouzian said, “I was really impressed with our AYF kids. Committee members Adi Asadourian and Ara Markarian did a spectacular job with this.”

There are a couple of great young men from Philadelphia, Peter Tashjian and Mark Santerian. They are golfers and close friends. They have been fighting for 1st and 2nd place over the past several years. Mark is in his last year at Drexel. He also competes in the backstroke, swimming and running relays, and the javelin. He won both the backstroke and javelin. Peter is a Penn State grad in communications. Peter won the golf this year with an 81. His friend, Mark, was second with an 83. They were both delighted that Peter won because he was playing in honor of his grandmother, Ann Topalian, who had suffered with ALS and passed away earlier this year.

I decided to see just how good Bob Tutunjian’s Olympic knowledge is. I wrote and asked him if there were any left-handed javelin, shot put, or discus participants, and if any of them had medaled. I also asked who the first AYF high jumper was to have used the now common Fosbury Flop? Did he possibly know who scored the five points for the Windsor, Ontario Chapter? Bob wrote back immediately and said I had exceeded his capabilities and, true to form, wondered why I was looking for such obscure information.

Leading up to the Games, the weather forecast called for rain. Thankfully, the forecast was wrong. For most of the weekend, the weather was great. It was a perfect day on Friday for golf and tennis. It was actually pleasant at the pool for once. The good weather continued on Saturday for the Softball Tournament . Sunday? Well, it didn’t rain but it was very hot and humid. The stands were full for the opening parade and the crowning of the Olympic Kings, but thinned out very quickly to a few die-hard fans and parents.

Peter Crane, his parents, and alumni that ran for him
Peter Crane, his parents, and alumni that ran for him

The Alumni Mile was a very special event this year. Every alumnus from Detroit that ran did so to honor and support Peter Crane, a Detroit AYFer battling some serious health issues. Seven Detroit alumni—Armen Derderian, David Shahrigian, Ralph Kourtjian, Vasken Cholakian, Greg Sarkisian, and Laurie and Harry Dakesian—all ran with Crane written on the backs of their shirts. The chapter honored Peter by having him walk the torch in as well. It was a very touching tribute to the young man and his family.

Being in Detroit for an Olympics, I always think of Hagop Mooradian. He was a charter member of the AYF and later on an honorary lifetime member. He was nothing but positive and energetic about all things Armenian and all things AYF. He was a great example to us all.

Mark Gavoor is Associate Professor of Operations Management in the School of Business and Nonprofit Management at North Park University in Chicago. He is an avid blogger and oud player.

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1 Comment

  1. Angel Perethian was the goddess of AYF Olympic gossip. Mark’s piece is an inspiration to a correspondent who left no stone unturned. And certainly a tribute to someone who manifested the very best that traditions like these have to offer our community.

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