In Memoriam: Khajag Sarkissian – The Aedificator

The late ANCA leader Khajag Sarkissian pictured in 2006 after receiving the prestigious Vahan Cardashian Award from the ANCA Western Region.

PASADENA, Calif.—The Latin word aedificator comes as close as any word can to capturing the essence of Khajag Sarkissian.

It was used in ancient times to describe a builder, architect, or maker. A creator.

It’s a start to describing the remarkable life of Khajag Sarkissian, to explaining why his legacy will endure long after his death this past December.

Khajag, a proud member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), was an exceptional creator.

He helped establish and long helped lead the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Saturday School.

He helped start and sustain the Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan School in San Francisco.

He helped launch the first Homenetmen Chapter in San Francisco.

He was the brilliant architect of the modern Hai-Tahd (Armenian Cause) movement in the San Francisco-Bay Area, and beyond.

More broadly, Khajag was the builder, architect, maker and creator of the modern Armenian American community in San Francisco.

For all these reasons, the name Khajag Sarkissian will forever personify the gold standard for an Armenian American leader. He led with strength and honor, but always with humility. He was honest and earnest. He was kind to a fault. He loved his family and his community, was deeply dedicated to America and profoundly proud of the twin Republics of Armenia and Artsakh. Khajag was a man for all seasons. He taught me and a generation of my peers what it means to be Armenian and American, inspiring us to dream big, work hard, and always invest in our common future.

I am grateful to have learned from Khajag Sarkissian and humbled to have been asked to deliver a eulogy (below) on behalf of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) at the national funeral held in his memory by the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In just a few days, on January 26, 2020, Saint Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, California will mark the 40th day memorial service since the passing of this Armenian American hero.

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Heroes are not born. They are forged.

Khajag Sarkissian was and will remain an Armenian American hero.

For the ANCA – Khajag was and is an iconic and brave pioneer. He imagined the ANCA. He helped create the ANCA. He built the ANCA. He sustained the ANCA. He fought for the ANCA. He sacrificed for the ANCA.

He was no summer soldier or sunshine patriot – Khajag was the real deal. And all that he did for the ANCA–he did with a manifest passion–for his people and our just cause.

When today’s hymns and prayers have ended. When the church bells rest, the candles have burned, the kushotz stand silent, and the khoong (incense) wafted away-one fact will remain–for all time.

Know this. Khajag Sarkissian was a titan of the Armenian Cause.

In many ways–in service of those known and unknown to us –he carried the ANCA on his back–on his strong shoulders–with joy–for decades. A happy warrior.

For this loyal son of the Armenian Nation – we can thank God, his family and this community.

After all–it is in Galatians 6:7 that we read, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

When the founder of the first Armenian Republic–our national hero Aram Manoogian died on January 29, 1919–his funeral–as historians have noted–was the most widely attended the Armenian nation had ever witnessed.

On that day, ARF Leader Nikol Aghbalian delivered the eulogy and shared these perfect words: “When the night falls, withdraw into the back chambers of your souls, speak to your conscience, and ask: Have you worked for the Armenian people as Aram has? Have you been as self-sacrificing? Have you dedicated your entire life to the Armenian people as Aram has?”

Khajag Sarkissian’s entire life – his very being – was a long form answer to Nikol Aghbalian’s question.

And today we would do well to ask–have we served our community and cause–as Unger Khajag did?

For now – it is left to us – the living – to carry forward his cause – with his love – with his passion – with his vision – with his humility – with his awesome strength, with his iron determination, and signature smile.

Farewell to our Hai-Tahd hero.

Well done, our good and faithful servant of the Armenian Cause.

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Raffi Hamparian

Raffi Hamparian is the Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Hamparian is a graduate of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he also earned a Masters Degree in International Relations. Raffi has worked for a number of members of Congress, most recently as the chief foreign affairs aide for former New Jersey Congressman Steven R. Rothman. He currently serves as the Director of Federal Affairs for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

1 Comment

  1. Raffi I knew Khajack and had worked with him in the eighties and the nineties on Armenian issues, such as High Tad, The earthquake and newly gained independence of Armenia. He was an exceptional man and an exceptional Armenian in the true meanings of those words. You have captured his essence with your eulogy. May he rest in peace!
    Rafi

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