“Say not in grief ‘He is no more,’ but in thankfulness ‘That he was.’”
Today, the Armenian-American community of Arizona grieves, celebrates, mourns, praises, remembers and loves someone very special. Special is a word used to describe a person who is ‘one of a kind,’ a person who is extraordinarily gifted and talented, a person who spreads love and laughter with that sparkling twinkle in his eye, a person who reaches for your hand and touches your heart. Special is a word that applies to someone who is admired and respected by young and old alike, someone who can never be duplicated or replaced. Special is the word that best describes our community’s beloved member, Charles Garo Takoushian.
In a perfect world, we would all have someone who listens without judgement, who values honesty over appearance and effort over accomplishment. In a perfect world, we would all have someone who accepts us just the way we are. Our community was lucky in that way. We had Charlie. One community member summed it up so aptly when she said to Charlie, “Baron Charlie, du yes mer hamaynkeen sird yev hokin.” “Mr. Charlie, you are our community’s heart and soul.”
Family was first and utmost in Charlie’s life. He shared 74 years of his remarkable 97-year life with his beloved and devoted wife Louise, whose support, encouragement and love motivated him to accept challenges, strive for excellence, accomplish goals, and, together with their family, celebrate his achievements. They are the proud parents of Jeffrey (wife Lusine), Robert and Susan. They were also blessed with five grandchildren: Armen, Daniel, Garik, Melissa and Marc.
Charlie was born in Manhattan, New York to Kaspar and Siranoush Takoushian. He was so proud of his Armenian ancestry and traced his roots to Gesaria in Western Armenia. Many of his family members were among the million and a half ethnic Armenian martyrs who perished during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He was part of a generation of survivors who struggled with the realities of survival: finding work, raising families, adapting to new environments and supporting their children’s education.
At the same time, Charlie and his family, like thousands of other Armenian families, persevered courageously and with immense sacrifice to preserve, protect and defend their Armenian culture, language and religion. Charlie made a lifetime commitment to pursue a just resolution to the Armenian Cause and was pleased that he lived long enough to witness the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide through congressional resolutions passed by both houses of the United States Congress in the fall of 2019.
Charlie was equally proud to be an American. He loved the country of his birth and appreciated the numerous freedoms, opportunities and safety it provided him, his family and his fellow Armenians and Americans. He courageously risked his life in the service of the USA during World War II. From 1943 to 1946, he was an Armorer Gunner assigned to the 400th bomber group of B-24s.
Charlie was the ultimate Renaissance Man, always dapper, charming and gifted with many artistic talents, skills and areas of knowledge. Charlie was well read in world history and the fine arts. Two of his favorite figures were Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci. Their life stories inspired him to always move forward and strive to expand his knowledge and improve his skills. He was never satisfied with being good at anything. He had to be the best in all he attempted to do. It can be said that Charlie earned the right to proudly walk in the footsteps of his two heroes.
Charlie had a wry and dry sense of humor. He aptly chose ‘Luke Skywalker’ to be his email moniker. Skywalker was a Tatooine farm boy who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest Jedi the galaxy has ever known. Charlie, too, rose from humble beginnings and became one of the most accomplished and respected members of our community.
Charlie was a lifelong learner. Whenever or wherever there was an opportunity to learn, Charlie was there to take advantage of it. He graduated from Galvani Junior High in 1937 and then enrolled in the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades, where he studied the making and servicing of aircraft and aircraft engines, graduating in 1941. After his military service, he attended the Pratt Institute for two years to study art and then went on to the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied the history, development and the building and restoration of wind and string instruments. He spent endless hours at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, studying and sketching all forms of art and musical instruments. His studies and talents led him to a lucrative 25-year career in graphic arts as a photo-engraver. He then joined the GAF Corp as a salesman of graphic arts products. In less than a year, he was promoted to district sales manager covering the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
He retired to Arizona at age 58 and took advantage of the sculpting and painting classes offered at the Glendale Community College. He attended four years winning multiple ribbons in juried art shows. In 1985, word of Charlie’s talents had reached Washington, DC. He was asked to fill a position at the Smithsonian Musical Instrument Department. He was honored but compelled to refuse, because he was in Arizona enjoying his retirement.
The honors, the awards, the certificates of merit, the first place ribbons, the multiple trophies and accolades bestowed upon Charlie for his skills and talent as an artist, sculptor, stained glass designer, poet, writer, luthier, photo engraver, salesman, and yes, even a marksman, are literally in the hundreds, and yet he remained a humble man of dignity and grace. Two of his most noteworthy artistic accomplishments are on display in the St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church in Scottsdale, AZ. A splendid 16 inch, gold plated cross, mounted on a beautiful marble base was the first cross to grace the church’s altar since its inception. The second is a masterful sculpture of Christ displayed in the church foyer. Charlie was blessed with a host of unique aptitudes and capabilities. He was grateful for them and worked hard to develop them. He earned and deserved each and every honor granted him!
Charlie’s life was a blessing. He was the author of his destiny, a role model for all of us. Our lives were enriched to know him and be his friend. We are heartbroken by his passing and will miss him, but we understand that grief is the price we pay for love. We have a choice to make. We can be sad and shed tears because Charlie is gone, or we can do what he would want us to do: cherish his memory and let it live on; celebrate his life and remember all the loving memories we shared. What a beautiful difference one single life has made…