Seta Kaligian, beloved wife of Barkev Kaligian and mother of four sons, passed away on November 23, 2018. She was 89 years old.
She was born Seta Shoushan Tamzarian in 1929 in Aleppo, Syria. She first grew up in Kurtkoulakh, a small Kurdish village where her father was the stationmaster on the Berlin-Baghdad Railway. She was the second eldest child and the only daughter of Vahan and Leonie (Ajemian) Tamzarian. The family moved back to Aleppo when Seta was four years old; she attended the Haigazian Armenian School and later the Lycée Jeanne d’Arc.
She studied to be a nurse at Altounyan Nursing School in Aleppo, but she was unable to complete her studies there due to civil unrest. She transferred to the Kennedy Memorial Hospital and American Missionary School in Tripoli, Lebanon and graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1955. After completing rotations at the Kennedy Hospital in Deir-el Zor, Seta moved to Beirut and worked as a nurse at the American University of Beirut Hospital. There she met similar young Armenian women, who she would befriend for life including her son Aram’s future mother-in-law.
In 1959, as unrest was brewing in Lebanon, Seta accepted a position as an exchange nurse at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and then subsequently at Bronx Hospital. In 1960 she met Barkev Kaligian through mutual friends. He asked her to be the staff nurse at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts during the summer of 1960. They were married in September in San Francisco where their oldest son Dikran was born. They moved back to the East Coast in 1962, where their other three sons Zohrab, Aram, and Garin were born. Eventually, they would settle down in Lexington, Massachusetts in December 1967 where they lived for the next fifty years.
Seta joined the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) in 1973 and held many positions at the chapter, regional, and international levels. During a critical period of restructuring and internationalization of the organization, she served three terms on the North American Executive and then as the first chairperson of the ARS Central Executive Board. In this capacity, Seta traveled to ARS regions around the world, utilizing her multilingualism to help knit together far-flung branches of the organization. In all, she would serve three terms on the Central Executive Board of the Armenian Relief Society International.
Seta played a leading role in the ARS Ethnic Heritage Project, which received the first federal grant for Armenian-American education ever funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The grant funded the development and distribution of educational materials for Saturday Armenian Schools nationwide. She continued this work as a board member of the Armenian National Education Committee.
Seta leaves behind Barkev, her husband of 58 years, and their sons Dikran and his wife Seda of Watertown, MA; Zohrab and his wife Holly of Kenosha, WI; Aram and his wife Lenna of Belmont, MA; and Garin and his wife Hooshere of New York City. Seta also leaves behind her brothers Vartkes of Manchester, NH, and Hrayr of Centerville, MA. Her older brother Zohrab, of Pasadena CA, passed away in 2016.
Seta was a devoted grandmother to Keri, Rosdom, and Yeraz Kaligian; Areknaz, Arakel, Azniv, and Alidz Khaligian; Gayane and Arevig Kaligian; and Araxi and Masis Kaligian. She also leaves behind many beloved cousins, nephews, and nieces.
She will always be remembered as a loving and patient sister, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a wonderful cook, an avid reader, and an illuminating storyteller. She will also be remembered for her keen intelligence, sharp wit, and devotion to the Armenian Cause.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 11 am at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Artsakh Street, Watertown, Massachusetts. Graveside services will follow at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Armenian Relief Society of Eastern USA, 80 Bigelow Avenue, Watertown MA 02472, or to Camp Haiastan Inc, PO Box C, Franklin MA 02038.