On Friday, February 15, 2019, in Valencia, Venezuela, our beloved Emilia Samsonovna Babakhanian passed away in her sleep, at the amazing age of 100. Emilia (or Emma as many new her), was born in Tbilisi, Georgia on October 23, 1918, but she was raised in Yerevan, Armenia. Her Armenian parents were Samson Babakhanian, a famous pediatrician in Yerevan and Aukanush Loretzian, a self-educated dentist. Emilia was preceded in death by her husband Gurgen Gasarjian, who died during World War II, her older sister Magda Babakhanian (a Yerevan pediatrician) and her younger brother Isaak Babakhanian (a hydraulic engineer living in Moscow, Russia). Emilia leaves behind on this earth not a very large family, but a very loving one that is strongly united because of her. They include her only daughter, Violetta Gasarjian de Mendez, her granddaughter Jacquelin Mendez Gasarjian (both in Venezuela) and her grandson, Johnny Mendez with wife Kelly and kids Logan and Brianna (all living in Alaska).
Emma spent most of her life in Armenia (part of the Soviet Union at that time) where she graduated and worked as a teacher in various rural schools. Later she worked as an accountant at the Armenian Geological Survey, and finally as an accountant at a watch factory. After retirement in 1979, she moved to Venezuela to be closer to her grandchildren and daughter, married a Venezuelan doctor, Humberto Mendez, whom she met when he studied in Moscow.
From a young age, Emma was a voracious reader and liked learning about many topics, including literature, poetry, science, geography and medicine. She also loved music, opera, and dance. Through dance is how she met her husband, when they danced Tango in the Gyumri (Leninakan) theater. Emma was a pioneering and hardworking woman, who had to survive the hardships of the World War II era and raise a child without the help of her husband, who disappeared in action in the German-Russian front. She was a frugal person who adopted reuse and recycling ideas before they were popular in our modern environmental movement. For example, she made her own dresses from old curtains and hand-me-down clothes from relatives. She never liked to throw away food: if bread was getting old, she would make French toast, if milk was getting sour, she would make yogurt. Emma was also an amazing cook with great taste and flavor. She made delicious Armenian dishes (like dolma and eggplant caviar), but also Russian (e.g. borsht, blinis) and Venezuelan (e.g. arepas, watermelon jam) recipes and fused dishes from various cultures to inspire her own culinary creations. Friends and neighbors always enjoyed the gifts of her kitchen. Emma was also good with languages; aside from Armenian, she was fluent in Russian, knew a bit of German, and later in life acquired a great working knowledge of Spanish (it helped that she liked watching Venezuelan soap-operas). In her 100 years of life she saw many changes in the world, from horse drawn carriages to space ships that reached the moon, from radios to the advent of television, computers, and the internet; but through it all she learned to adapt and survive.
Grandma Emma or babushka like many of us called her, taught us many life lessons like loving and being faithful to your family, being honest and polite, appreciating nature and our planet, how hard work can help you advance in life, to make something useful of our lives, and to strive to broaden our minds by learning new things when possible. We will sorely miss Emma, her love, teachings and also her delicious food! Thanks Emma, for sharing your long life with us!