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Final Farewell for Andrew Kevorkian, Keeper of the Armenian Flame

 

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 (Andy) Kevorkian

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.

 

6 Comments on Final Farewell for Andrew Kevorkian, Keeper of the Armenian Flame

  1. avatar Mary Ann Kibarian // April 27, 2017 at 3:18 pm // Reply

    Absolutely wonderful tribute to this great man.It captured his his intellect, his savoir faire and Big Heart.

  2. avatar David Boyajian // April 27, 2017 at 3:54 pm // Reply

    I knew Andrew as a deeply committed Armenian American activist, thinker, and writer.
    I will miss him very much.

  3. The Armenian flame is still alive, giving strength to the survivors, to the generation that followed, to the generations to come–provided we reach out to each other around the world in support of all Armenians, all those who were maligned and persecuted.

    We don’t have to be Armenians to recognize that, in many ways, we all are Armenians–moving forward with a nurturing fire within us, giving warmth to the world, and honoring all those who were not given that chance.

    Andrew Kevorkian was one of those who kept that flame alive wherever he went. Thank you, Andy, for never giving up.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx7uAMf75fA

  4. avatar A. Aveda Kitabjian // April 30, 2017 at 6:30 pm // Reply

    Well written obituary for an incredible man who will be missed. Thanks Henrik for your interest in the Armenian culture and community.

  5. avatar Phil Wagner // July 8, 2017 at 9:15 pm // Reply

    I sit here prior to heading to work Monday to turn in my playbook, as it were, rounding out a 49-year marketing communications career, and, because this is Philadelphia, Andrew Kevorkian’s name comes to mind. So I google him, only to read his recent obituary.

    The back story is, I wrote him, and scores of ad/PR agency others, a clever May 1973 letter explaining how I’d just spent four years promoting one of the least liked entities in Vietnam-era America, the U.S. Navy, and so I could surely promote whatever needed a boost upon my return. Here’s his gracious 7/6/73 reply, albeit sounding eerily contemporary:

    “Please accept my apologies for the tardiness in replying to your letter of May 31. Believe me when I say that it was the press of business and not rudeness that cause the delay.

    “Unfortunately, I cannot be encouraging to you with regard to employment–either here or, generally, in the field. As you have learned, things are quite rough, and the job situation and general business psychology during this Nixon Boom are fast equaling the negative aspects that prevailed during the Hoover Boom of the early 1930s. Many good persons with far great experience than yours and with extremely fine credentials are long out of work. The few jobs that are available are quickly gobbled up at the lowest bid. A most revolting situation!

    “I am sorry that I am so negative. But, keep trying!”

    WOWWW…Kudos to me for making a few bucks and living to tell the story, huh! But I’ve always appreciated the gesture, the candor the heartfelt integrity of a man I never met. Having long felt that I should frame his sincere, if frightening words, now that I no longer need that job, I gratefully will.

  6. avatar Margaret Paregian Shaphren // November 19, 2017 at 6:33 pm // Reply

    I did not know Andrew Kevorkian but knew his brother, Aram, who was such a beautiful writer and I looked forward to receiving his articles each month. I was born in Philadelphia and my father was a subscriber to his father’s newspaper, The Groong. I had the good fortune to meet Aram in San Francisco in honor of William Saroyan where he spoke of his client and friend. Another loss of brilliant and talented writers. I also have visited Chunkoush.

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