Louise Manoogian Simone passed away at the age of 85 on February 18, announced the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). Louise will be remembered for her unwavering dedication to civic leadership and philanthropy and her unmatched passion for the promotion of the Armenian culture and heritage.
Louise was born in Detroit, Michigan to Alex and Marie Manoogian on May 19, 1933. Her father was an Armenian immigrant who left Turkey after the Armenian Genocide, developed the Delta single-handed faucet and went on to become one of America’s leading industrialists as the founder of MASCO corporation. Upon achieving business success, Alex used his resources to work tirelessly for the benefit of the Armenian people worldwide.
Louise inherited her parents’ passion for Armenians, which led her to follow in her father’s footsteps and serve on AGBU’s board, the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs around the world. In 1982, Louise made her first trip to Armenia, then still a Soviet Republic. She quickly fell in love with the country and over the next few years, returned frequently, bringing others with her, whether it be to make documentaries or to connect and contribute in other ways. Her brother, Richard Manoogian, joined her in supporting a number of projects in Armenia.
In 1988, after the deadly and devastating Spitak earthquake, Louise was on the first U.S. cargo plane delivering relief supplies and organizing rescue teams to support the disaster area on behalf of AGBU.
In 1989, Louise was elected the international president of AGBU and began directing operations in 31 countries and 74 cities. She was in charge of the building and continued funding of schools, churches, scout programs and services for Armenians worldwide. She opened an office in Yerevan and when Armenia became an independent country following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Louise—through AGBU and her own resources—focused her efforts on rebuilding a newly independent homeland. She was a charter board member and a major benefactor of the American University of Armenia in Yerevan.
In 2002, after a million miles traveling around the world to oversee operations and projects, Louise retired as President of AGBU. However, she continued her significant charitable efforts through the Manoogian-Simone Foundation working with the Armenian Apostolic Church in reconstructing and maintaining hospitals, schools, historical monuments, and children’s and cultural centers. And as was always a theme throughout her life, Louise was a proud supporter of the arts and many artists.
Though she was most passionate about Armenian causes, Louise was also an invaluable benefactor to American universities, museums and cultural institutions, including the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts. She received many honors throughout her life, among them the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Heartfelt sympathies have been pouring in. In a letter to the Manoogian Simone families upon her passing, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote about Louise’s exemplary lifelong mission to preserve the Armenian identity and development of an independent Armenia.
With deep sorrow learned the news of passing Armenian American philanthropist Louise Manoogian Simone. Her contribution for earthquake victims, refugees from the #NagornoKarabakh war, promotion of #Armenian #culture worldwide and charitable efforts are invaluable.
— Nikol Pashinyan (@NikolPashinyan) February 20, 2019
Louise’s AGBU family worldwide is also grieving. She was the first and only female leader of the non-profit organization. In a statement, AGBU President Berge Setrakian wrote, “She was called upon to steer AGBU through many challenges rising to become a driving force behind many of the successes and benefits that Armenians across the world enjoy today. She was a role model for all who had the good fortune to work with her and watch her brilliant mind at work. Always idealistic, yet practical, efficient and wise, she managed to see past the immediate obstacles to find solutions that would yield lasting results.”
Louise is survived by a brother, three children and two grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to American University of Armenia (American University of Armenia Corporation, 1000 Broadway, Ste. 280 Oakland, CA 94607).
This article originally appeared in Asbarez and has been edited and expanded by the Weekly staff.