Ungerouhi Mary Rose Mooradian: The Legacy of an AYF Pioneer

Last week, we lost ungerouhi Mary Mooradian, an exemplary member and lifelong supporter of the Armenian Youth Federation—Eastern U.S. (AYF-YOARF).

Ungerouhi Mary was a member of the junior and senior chapters of the Merrimack Valley AYF. She was also a member of Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Lawrence chapter, and she served on the ARS Eastern U.S. Board of Directors.

The 1971-72 AYF Central Executive, featured in the Aug. 26, 1971 issue of the Armenian Weekly. Mooradian is on the far left.

Members of the region will be forever grateful to Mary for her forward-thinking approaches, most notably the annual AYF-YOARF Junior Seminar, held every Memorial Day weekend since the early 1970s. Mary’s vision for a weekend of education and camaraderie has turned into the organization’s premiere event, bringing together over 350 juniors, seniors, and speakers from all parts of the world.

The AYF-YOARF is proud to announce that the 2018 Junior Seminar will be dedicated to the memory of ungerouhi Mary Mooradian for her years of service to the Armenian community.

—The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern U.S. Central Executive

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Ungerouhi Mary Rose Mooradian: A Wonderful Life

By Michael Najarian Jr. (AYF National Junior Seminar, Class of ’71)

On Monday, Dec. 11, a wonderful, thoughtful, and caring woman lost her valiant battle with cancer, leaving behind heartbroken friends and an unmatched Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) legacy that few AYF members, young or old, are aware of.

That wonderful woman was ungerouhi Mary Rose Mooradian, and her AYF legacy is the AYF National Junior Seminar (NJS). How can her legacy be the NJS? We’ve known who has run the seminar for years, even decades, and not once have we heard this name, ungerouhi Mary. As happens all too often in our organization, those who have come before us are frequently forgotten.

You couldn’t have known her name, or who she was, unless someone told you or you were there in 1971 for the first National Junior Seminar. I happened to be there that year and had the great honor and privilege to work with Mary on that groundbreaking seminar. Now it is time I told you who she was.

Ungerouhi Mary was a member of the 1970-71 AYF Central Executive (CE) and chaired the Central Junior Council (CJC). She took her responsibility toward the Juniors very seriously, but stayed very humble about her accomplishments. The AYF educational program for the Juniors wasn’t as organized as it could have been, and it was limited in what it offered. Changing that program become her goal. She wanted “as many Juniors as possible” to learn their history—to know who they were, where their families came from, and what they could do for the future of the AYF and their communities.

She thought that a weekend of education and fraternalism would be the unique key to accomplishing that goal. Now you’ve been told: The first NJS was Mary’s idea and dream.

“Junior Chapters to Participate in Seminar Weekend at AYF Camp” reads a headline in the May 27, 1971 issue of the Armenian Weekly

Being new and unique also provided many obstacles to success. 1971 was a much different time in the AYF. There were five regions in the organization: California, Canada, Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic, and New England. It took a lot to manage that many regions, chapters, and members.

Mary’s term on the CE also provided many challenges with general AYF business, in addition to her CJC responsibilities. The CE at that time would meet as often as every other week, and the weeks between were reserved for field trips to all the regions. Everything we did then took extraordinary commitment, coupled with our personal lives and responsibilities. Try to imagine how Mary and the CJC had to plan this amazing event back then with no Internet, no Google, no cell phones, no Facebook, no twitter, and no websites. We made phone calls on landlines and mailed physical letters.

Mary held countless meetings on top of her other responsibilities to plan the lectures, presentations, transportation, and food. The selection of counselors and educators was very important to ensure there was a balance of learning and knowledge as well as other activities.

On our field trips, Mary and I had to sell the importance of this new event to some wary families, many of whom thought AYF Camp Haiastan was enough for their children’s education. When they heard the descriptions of the weekend schedule that we had prepared, they were pleased. The best response, however, came from many when they heard that at least one of the weekend meals would be chicken and pilaf. (You can laugh, it’s OK… We did too.)

The original educationals were greatly affected by the lack of available resources of the time and posed quite a task for all the presenters. They worked so hard to gather enough material to teach about Armenia being the first Christian nation, ancient battles like Avarayr, the siege of Bank Ottoman, the Battles of Independence, and many others. There was no Google to fact-check anything.

Ungerouhi Mary wanted something different, something unique, and something that the Juniors would respond to and that would encourage their curiosity about Armenian history. That “something,” the first NJS, was a wonderful success and a memorable one for all who attended. Its worth was immediately recognized, and the planning for the second NJS began at the very next meeting.

That first NJS was attended by about 95 members, including representatives of Junior chapters from California to the East Coast, representatives of the ARF Central Committee, AYF Central Executive its Junior Council, and Junior advisers.

Mary had a vision; she saw the bigger picture of what the NJS could become. As daunting a task as it was, she was able to simplify it so it didn’t seem so intimidating. The real success of the weekend was Mary’s ability to involve all of us in her vision and to see it ourselves. When it was over and the last AYF member headed home, there was a collective sigh… of confidence—that we had made it work.

“AYF Junior Seminar Held” reads a headline in the June 17, 1971 issue of the Armenian Weekly

Her humility, her humble nature committed her to the success of the seminar without needing the accolades or attention that some might have expected. That humble nature has left her an anonymous soul, who 46 years ago lit a torch of success that has been committed to and carried on by so many others. With her passing, it is now time (and regrettably late), that every one of us who’s had any part in those following 45 years of seminar acknowledge and remember the person who started the journey.

Without Mary’s wonderful insight and wonderful life, would there have ever been a National Junior Seminar? Ironically, in the days following her passing, the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been showing on TV. Almost as a reminder.

That reminder is found in the movie’s main character, George Bailey, who gets a chance to see what life would have been like without him. Well, Mary is our George Bailey, and it’s our turn to try and imagine what our AYF Juniors’ lives would be like if she were never here and there never was an NJS.

My brothers and I proudly followed in her footsteps and were able to achieve the truly national-level seminars that you experience today and which Mary had always dreamed of. With all we did, I doubt we would have ever been able to come up with the idea on our own.

There aren’t many events, activities, or programs in the AYF that can be attributed to just one person’s idea, thoughts, or dreams. The NJS, however, can be. How many lives has Mary touched with her legacy? Simple math holds that amazing answer: If you figure a modest average attendance of 300 Juniors per year for the past 46 years, you will find that an astonishing total of over 14,000 Juniors have attended at least one National Junior Seminar. Thousands of you have attended as Juniors, as counselors, as educators, and even as the organizers, all the while never knowing whom to recognize or thank for this wonderful event.

It is my hope, now that you all know, that the 47th Annual NJS in 2018 be dedicated by the AYF to the lifelong commitment to our Juniors by ungerouhi Mary Rose Mooradian. Her name should never be forgotten again, and from this day forward the AYF should always dedicate the seminar to its founder.

Mary would never want to make a fuss, but she was always uplifted with a simple “thank you.” Be thankful that there was that one brave, young, 20-year-old woman who wanted to change our AYF world so that it could better serve all its members, their families, and their communities.

It was an honor and a privilege to work with Mary and to share in her dream.

Forever Grateful,

Michael Najarian Jr.
(AYF National Junior Seminar, Class of ’71)

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles written and submitted by members of the community, which make up our community bulletin board.

6 Comments

  1. A very appropriate and loving tribute Michael. Mary was indeed a visionary….an idea generator with a clear view of the future. She also had the commitment and will to implement. As you mentioned, we didn’t have the digital tools and communication mechanism. Productivity was more on time commitment and significantly less efficient than today. I was honored to serve with Mary on the 71-72 CE. Her commitment level AND humility were unparalleled.
    Years later , I would see the same passion for Armenian Christian education as we attended the same parish for several years.
    The Armenian community functions because of people like Mary. They not only make incredible contributions but also INSPIRE others to come forward and take their place.
    Continuance happens when today’s leaders inspire others to take their place in the generational transitions. Thank you Michael. God bless the soul and memory of Mary!

  2. Tears filled my eyes as I read Michaels moving account of one of Mary’s accomplishment. The article wonderfully captured Mary and her vision, Mary and her must-do spirit. Rest In ungerouhi Mary and thank you.

  3. A moving tribute, indeed. Thanks Michael for recounting this important slice of AYF and community history. NJS was an important innovation for the AYF; hopefully we can continue innovating, especially given the many paths available for our youth today.

  4. Moving tribute indeed Michael, and having taken part in some of those early seminars as a counselor, I didn’t realize Mary’s involvement in getting it started. We just thought it came as an idea/directive from CE, not the vision of one individual. It’s certainly an honor to pay tribute to Mary with the 2018 seminar, but why stop there? In this day and age of naming rights, why not give credit where credit is due and preserve her legacy by calling it the “Mary Mooradian AYFYOARF National Junior Seminar”? God bless her.

  5. Though I lived 3000 miles away, I remember our phone calls and discussions re: NJS. We would discuss logistics, content and even social aspects. She always had such inspiring ideas. I may have just been a “sounding board”as she expressed her vision, but I also think she listened to the necessity and importance of social interaction.
    Many lifelong relationships were born and nurtured. After all, it’s our commonalities and love of our ethnicity and rich culture that forever binds us. Mary, you are sorely missed.

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