Not an Angel Over the Olympics

This is the article I always leave to the last to pen. It is a reflection from a social and fraternal perspective on this year’s AYF Olympics and how this ‘stone’ adds to the 85 year old structure we have all been a part of building.  It is also an homage to Angel Perethian, Washington, D.C. and the articles she wrote for many years for The Armenian Weekly: Angel Over the Olympics. Perethian wrote a very social and interesting who’s who at the Olympics. Tom Vartabedian always said, “It was the first article people turned to when the Olympics issue of The Weekly arrived.” I believe he was correct in this. Hence the title of my article as I am neither Angel nor am I not close to being an angel.

First and foremost, hats off to Philadelphia! What a fantastic Olympics weekend! Bravo and kudos to the awesome team led by co-chairs Shant Aghajanian and Gevork Dramgotchian. Everything ran like clockwork. All events were well-attended. New Jersey Arsen and Central Executive member Kyle Dinkjian said it best, “The Philadelphia Sebouh chapter and community maximized all the features that make AYF senior Olympics great to create a truly amazing weekend for everyone who attended.”

“The Philadelphia Sebouh chapter and community maximized all the features that make AYF senior Olympics great to create a truly amazing weekend for everyone who attended.”

When we pulled up to the Philadelphia Downtown Marriott on Thursday afternoon, we saw Olympic King Harry and Clare Kushigian sitting on a bench outside ready to greet us.

Aram ‘Sonny’ Gavoor (1929-2018)

It will be hard for me to write this article without referring to my father, Olympic King Aram “Sonny” Gavoor, who passed away this past June. The AYF, specifically the AYF Olympics, was a major part of his life. He was a coach of the Detroit Chapter and on the Governing Body for several years. The Central Executive dedicated the Track and Field events in his memory. So many people came up to us to express their condolences and share inspiring or humorous stories about Coach Sonny. It was truly special.

As the AYF Olympics is about old friends, especially at our age, it was great to hang out with Rich Berberian and Chris, Michael and Armenie Varadian, the Antranigians, the Bonjuklians, the Dinkjians, and whoever else passed by. As we all know, whether it has been a year or three, old AYF friends pick-up right where they left off without missing a beat.

We missed seeing Ken Topalian. It was great however seeing Dina and the two boys, Alexan and Shahan, enjoying the weekend. It was especially fun seeing Shahan competing in his first Olympics. It was fun seeing his cousin from Detroit, Nick Sarafian, raise him from the stands. These two cousins were a comedy act that was thoroughly entertaining.

It was bittersweet to witness Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan address us, bless us, and lead us in prayer for the last time as the Prelate of the Eastern United States. His encouraging and kind words have been a special part of the opening ceremonies for the past 19 years.  

Carol, David, and Glenn Papazian did a great job with the Ad Book. It was refreshing to see the return of an enhanced history section. It was one of the largest and most lucrative books in the history of the AYF Olympics.

The kiddie race is always entertaining at the track and field. This year, the Philadelphia Chapter sold future AYFer shirts that easily half of the children in the kiddie race were sporting. And there is always that one boy or girl who doesn’t stop at the finish line and just keeps going. Speaking of which, this year, in his first ever kiddie race, was my own four-year old grandson Aris Gabriel Gavoor. We were talking about the kiddie race and he told me, “Dede, I am very fast.” I thought it was very cute. Later, when his dad handed him to me from the stands for the kiddie race, Aris took off as soon as his feet hit the track. He ran a 200 in the wrong direction. We gathered him up, and he assembled with the other children at the starting line.  He did not win the actual kiddie race, but he did not stop. He ran a full lap, 400 meters, and looked good doing it. We knew his great-grandfather, Coach Sonny, was smiling down upon him and, most likely, urging him to run smart and keep his pace. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Claudia Antranigian and Christine Berberian

One of the great highlights of Olympic weekend is the Alumni Dance on Friday night. The host chapter’s alumnae ladies strive to live-up, if not out-do, the hospitality shown in other AYF cities. Yes, I am talking about the buffet, the food, the feast served up at the Alumni Dance. This year, the team led by Dori Keshgegian and Debbie Tashjian provided a bountiful and delicious spread.

I always enjoy our Sunday morning breakfast with Peter and Marianne Bonjuklian. Our friendship has been especially strengthened over the years because of our AYF Olympic Sunday breakfasts. We are not sure how it started, but it is a tradition that neither of us would give up.  

The Vosbikians’ performance at the Olympic Ball exemplified a Philadelphia treasure that has helped folk music of the “old country” become part of our family tradition. They were joined by Onnik and Ara Dinkjian. The sound was awesome and the dance floor was full.

I had heard glowing testimonials about Apricot Stone in Philadelphia. The food was amazing from boeregs to kebabs. But, the piece de la resistance was the Midya dolma. Rich Berberian couldn’t believe it. “The BEST Midya dolma I’ve had in years! Dare I say, better than my grandmother’s!”

It’s always a treat to see Harout Pamboukjian live. He’s a showman with an incredible following; like any other dance he hosts, he filled up the AYF dance floor that night.

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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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