Gavoor, Aram “Sonny” Martin. Born on Feb. 25, 1929 in Cambridge, Mass. His proud parents were Aram Gavoor born in Keserig in the Kharpert Province and Haigouhi (Agnes) Asoian Gavoor of Andover, Mass. He was named Aram for his father and Martin for his paternal grandfather. A non-Armenian neighbor couldn’t pronounce Aram and just called him “Sonny” and because of his blondish hair, light complexion, and outgoing disposition—the name stuck. Everyone has called him Sonny or Uncle Sonny ever since.
Sonny was a student in the Watertown Public Schools from Kindergarten through high school. He graduated from Watertown High School in 1948. He was involved in the full breadth of school activities. He exhibited both acting and singing skills by performing in the Senior Play and as a member of the Watertown High School Choral Group. Most did not know about Sonny’s acting and singing talents because he was known much more for his athletic skills. He was a star letterman excelling in both football and track. In his senior year, he was awarded the Most Valuable Player in the 1947 Belmont–Watertown rivalry game on Thanksgiving Day in which he scored five touchdowns even though two of them were called back. Perhaps even more special was being part of the 1948 track team that won the State Championship, the first ever for Watertown. The Watertown track coach, Arthur Perkins, left a lasting impression on Sonny who eventually followed in Coach Perkins footsteps to become a talented track coach in his own right. After high school, Sonny attended AIC in Springfield, MA on a football scholarship.
As Watertown was the hub of the Armenian Community of Greater Boston, Sonny joined Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) as soon as he was old enough. It was the perfect place for this teenager who loved sports and was immensely proud of his Armenian Heritage. He was a staunch AYF member, which led his becoming an equally staunch member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). He held many executive leadership positions in both organizations. As a dedicated AYF member, Sonny participated in Basketball Tournaments, Track and Field at the Olympics and helped to build Camp Haiastan on weekends. He was part of the infamous five-man Watertown Gaidzag team that won the 1950 Worcester Olympics.
In 1951, Sonny co-chaired the AYF Convention in Boston with Charlie Shoushanian of Detroit. Charlie introduced Sonny to Violet “Itchie” Merian also of Detroit. Friendship quickly blossomed into an AYF romance and just a year later Sonny and Itchie got married. This AYF couple started off in Boston where their son Mark was born and moved to Detroit where the job market was better. In Detroit, they had three more children: Nancy, Laura, and Ani.
Professionally, upon moving to Detroit, Sonny joined the banking industry. He started with Wabeek Bank which became Detroit Bank and Trust which in turn is now known as Comerica Bank. He essentially spent his 38-year banking career with one bank. He was instrumental in the growth and development of Comerica Bank’s credit card services signing numerous national brand name accounts. He retired as a Vice-President of BankCard Services. In his career, he assisted numerous Armenians in the Detroit community with their banking needs from securing lines of credit to getting mortgages, business loans, and bank card services.
Sonny’s passion for coaching began with helping his sister-in-law Sue Merian Arzoian in her first AYF Olympics along with others before coaching his daughter Nancy. His real dedication to youth sports began in 1972 after the success of Nancy’s first Olympics with teammates Jill Tosoian Dolik, and Diane Panosian Rapin, finishing third in the AYF Olympics in Los Angeles. Sonny was part of the first AYF Governing Body with Shant Chebookjian, Dave Papazian, and Haig Varadian which put in place the operating procedures that have grown the AYF Olympics into the juggernaut that it is today.
Sonny and Cory Tosoian started the Detroit AYF Booster Organization along with other Fathers to provide uniforms, training stations, equipment and travel expenses for the Detroit AYF. The Detroit Dynasty was born, and the Detroit AYF Juniors and Seniors won multiple national titles, complete with Three Peats and retiring two cups. For 20 years Sonny’s Track practices would boast 80-120 athletes 5-6 nights a week. Sonny loved to recruit any Armenian to participate in the AYF and later on the Homenetmen.
In the 1990s, Sonny was recruited by Manuel Karjian to run the Homenetmen track and field event for the Eastern U.S. fourth of July games. He continued to do this for over fifteen years. He became a member of the Homenetmen Regional Athletic Committee. He was selected to coach the Eastern USA Track and Field team in the 2001 Homenetmen World Games in Beirut. His team surprised the Homenetmen world by placing third in a field of fifteen teams.
In the early 2000s, Sonny, who was well into his 70s, and his daughter Nancy coached the Schoolcraft Community College Women’s Cross-Country team. Their teams improved every year. In 2004, they were #2 in the country.
In 2005, Sonny was asked to assemble a swim team for the Eastern USA for the 2005 World Games in Athens. It was the first time the Homenetmen included swimming as a sport in the World Games. Despite major obstacles, Sonny struggled to “pool” together a team of four men and four women. That team won 23 of the 26 Gold Medals and set records that will not be equaled for many years.
Sonny was a salesman, a negotiator, an athlete, a coach, a Dad, a fierce competitor, a loyal friend, an impassioned opponent, an innovator, a motivator, astute, and passionate fan of all things Armenian–especially music.
Sonny was predeceased by his sister Seeran Wisner and his daughter Laura Ani Gavoor. He is survived by his wife Violet Merian Gavoor, his brother Richard Gavoor (Priscilla), his children Mark (Judy), Nancy, Ani Niffin (Jeff). His grandchildren, Aram and Anoush Gavoor, Armene and Dr. Michael Kapamajian, Kara, Kyle and Jacob Niffin. He delighted in his four great grandchildren, Aris and Lara Gavoor and Vaughn and Sasoun Kapamajian. He was adored by many nieces and nephews, cousins and friends as well as the young people that called him Uncle Sonny or simply Coach.
Visitation (“Dan Gark”): Tuesday June 5, 2018, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with “Dan Gark” prayers at 7:30 p.m. in St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church; 19300 Ford Road, Dearborn, Mich. 48128
Funeral Services: The family will receive friends in church on Wednesday from 10 a.m. until time of Funeral Service at 11 a.m.
Interment in Woodmere Cemetery, Detroit, Mich.
Memorials: The family suggests memorial donations may be sent to either St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church or to AYF Camp Hayastan.
Floral Arrangements: Please have florists deliver flowers to the church before 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
Kindly leave a condolence here for the family and friends. Thank you.
The Armenian Weekly and Hairenik Weekly newspapers extend their deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of longtime community member and supporter of our publications, unger Sonny Gavoor.
The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States and all of its membership express their deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of unger Sonny Gavoor.
Oh what a grand fellow Sonny was. I got to know him later in his life from the paddleball games at School Craft College. He would always engage you in conversation about yourself and also in the things he was doing. He had a great genuine smile and I always loved it when he would come over and talk to you while you were waiting to get into a paddleball game. Sonny one so true I love you. Until we meet again God bless us all and especially the Gavoor family. Praise the Lord for beautiful Sonny Gavoor. It was my pleasure to know you. Bruce Miedema
For Sonny, a fiery nationalist , it was always the kids.
Coaching track for AYF juniors and Seniors as well as Homenetmen was Sonny’s means to a significant , greater end. The medals , trophies, records and retired cups meant a lot but there was a greater outcome in life for our kids in Sonny’s contributions.
Sports was Aram’s vehicle to create a greater depth of “Armenianism” in youth, preparing them not just for track meets in the Armenian family, but developing and creating confidence, commitment and maturity for the later life challenges of Armenian youth to participate in church and community activism as well as professional endeavor.
Perhaps not widely known, Sonny’s touch with youth was not limited to Armenian youth.
He and his beloved daughter Nancy voluntarily coached Schoolcraft College track teams, lifting this local community college to national achievement and ranking.
Sonny gave it all he had and then some for a long time —- for many years, Armenian youth have been better off for Sonny’s devotion because his volunteer mission was: “…it’s all about the kids”.
In that regard, Sonny had no peer and there are none in sight.
With sympathy and respect to Vi and the proud Gavoor family
Harry and Margo Derderian
God Bless Sonny Gavoor, he will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his wife Violet & his family. His support with the A.Y.F. down through the years will never be forgotten.
My condolences to the Gavoor family. My remembrance go back to those AYF Olympic games, Conventions and Camp Hayastan work sessions. The appreciation of his competitive attitude and respect of his competitors resulted in a bond of over 70 years whereas we enjoyed each others company whenever we met. He added much to the Armenian community as a compassionate individual and a friend. May he rest in peace.
Sonny Gavoor was a lion among men and a role model to all. He represented all that is admirable in the Armenian people and humanity. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the entire Gavoor family.
My condolences to the Gavoor family. I was a colleague of Nancy’s and I know how much her father meant to her.
I was very sorry, Nancy, to hear of your father’s passing.
I had the great pleasure to spend two years hanging with Sonny at Schoolcraft College cross country meets. My daughter ran for him and absolutely loved him, as did all the girls on the team. He truly was a father figure to all the girls. In addition, he was a great coach and brought out the best in the girls. He left quite an impression on me in the short time I was in his company. Kind, thoughtful, funny, dedicated, loyal and any other great thing you can think of. Sonny left quite a legacy. We should all strive to be the kind of person Sonny was. My sincerest sympathies to the Gavoor family.