The Spirits of Chicago

2019 Varadian Spirit Award Winner Maireny Soulakian (Photo: Mark Gavoor)

Maireny Soulakian is the “Mother Figure of Chicago” who mirrors the essence of the AYF Varadian Spirit award for giving back to the community and “making it better.”

She has been a lifelong dedicated supporter not only of the AYF but to the local community through her years of work in the local ARS and Ladies Guild. 

A bubbly lady, Maireny has been, hands down, a consistent supporter and cheerleader for the “Ararats,” whether in Chicago or at junior and senior events in the region.

She and her late husband Dikran, a respected and dedicated AYF and community spirit himself, raised nationalistic children –Hagop and Maral—passing on to them the spirit and conviction of being Armenian. Both Hagop and Maral have been active for many years.

Maireny’s community activity spans an amazing 60 years. “I am so surprised for this award. AYF has been our life,” she said. “It is a wonderful feeling to have such an extended family.”

Maireny and her family came to the U.S from Jordan in 1959; her involvement with the church was immediate. The rest followed. 

Maireny is a continuing role model not only to the community, but for her three grandchildren, who adore and embody the AYF and Hamazkayin spirit as well. 

No one has “made it better” than Maireny.

Art and Mary Bedian were activists in all respects of community life in Granite City. That strong spirit was passed along to their children, Greg and Lisa.

Coach Ara Krafian (Greater Boston) with Varadian Spirit Award winner Greg Bedian

Greg Bedian is the second recipient of the Varadian Spirit award.

Greg participated in 11 Olympics – primarily in swimming and track and field, medaling in the 110 low hurdles and the two-mile event. 

He was a member of three different AYF chapters (Granite City, Watertown and Washington) and served on CE for five terms in the early and mid-1980s.

After leaving AYF, he served as an advisor to his local chapter, has been a lecturer at multiple AYF junior and senior seminars, served multiple terms on the ANCA Eastern Region and ANCA national boards, as well as multiple terms on the ARF-ER Central Committee. 

He has been active in the Armenian church and also served as an Armenian history teacher in the local Armenian school for many years.

“It’s an honor to be recognized, but many others give back also,” said Bedian. “I dedicate this to my parents, Art and Mary, who taught me the meaning of service.”

Greg and Silva’s children are active also; Greg did what his parents did.

Knar is active in the Boston chapter. Garin is a member of the Chicago chapter and CE member, and Daron is a Chicago chapter executive.

“Anything in AYF is a great memory,” said Greg.

2019 Varadian Spirit Award winners Maireny Soulakian & Greg Bedian
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Harry Derderian

Harry Derderian is a native of Indian Orchard, Mass and resident of Farmington Hills, Mich. He is a member of the Marketing faculty at Eastern Michigan University as well as adjunct professor of marketing at University of Michigan-Dearborn and adjunct Professor of Business at Schoolcraft Community College.
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