In Memoriam: Colonel Victor V. Arzoomanian

The Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was deeply saddened by the passing of Colonel Victor Arzoomanian on June 14, 2015.

What follows is the text of the eulogy delivered by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Diocesan Primate, during the funeral service at St. Leon Armenian Church, in Fair Lawn, NJ, on Wednesday, June 17.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.  For if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  (1 Jn 3:17-18)

These words from the First Epistle of St. John have a special meaning for us as Christians. And they are all the more meaningful today, as we gather to remember a devoted and faithful son of the Armenian Church: Victor Vartan Arzoomanian.

St. John’s question cuts to the very root of what it means to be a follower of Christ. It reminds us of the human obligation to open our hearts to those around us. And deeper still, it tells us that the open heart of love is our greatest evidence of the divine presence in the human soul: of God’s love abiding in us.

I am well aware that these softer, quieter emotions are not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Victor Arzoomanian. He was truly a larger-than-life personality—a man who would dominate a room when he entered it, and always left it laughing when he departed.

But the deepest truth about Victor is that he was a man with an open heart. It was a great and generous heart, which could embrace many, many people: family and friends, his comrades-in-arms in the National Guard, countless people throughout the Armenian community-and even people he would meet in the most casual way. Whoever he came into contact with would go away with a deep, long-lasting impression of Victor Arzoomanian.

Victor was a dear and exceptional man: an Armenian gentleman, and a rare individual who truly devoted his life to heritage and church. He brought his native industriousness, his great capacity for work, and his even greater capacity for friendship to everything he did.

He was a familiar figure at the St. Thomas parish, here at St. Leon, at the St. Vartan Cathedral in New York, and throughout all the parishes of our Diocese. But most of all, in every one of these places, Victor Arzoomanian was known for his open heart. And for that reason, he was loved.

Victor lived a long life; a full life; a life of service, generosity, and respect. His actual life story is well known to us all-well known to everyone who spent time with him. He was a lifelong native of New Jersey, the son of Ahron and Mary Arzoomanian, and a descendant of the great Armenian city of Dikranakert. With the onset of World War Two, Victor-still not much more than a boy-enlisted in the Army as a Private, and served with honor and pride in the South Pacific.

With the end of the war, he began his long service with the New Jersey National Guard, eventually advancing to the rank of Colonel. That would become a second name for Victor—and indeed, for many people he will always be remembered simply as “The Colonel.”

Victor was, of course, a great storyteller, and his period of service in the Guard was the source of many of his best personal stories. But it was also the source of many deep and abiding friendships, which Victor would carry with him throughout his days.

The centerpiece of his life was the family he created with his beloved wife, Alice. The home they built for their four children in Hackensack was a place of warmth and love. In turn, Janet, Edward, Karen and Nancy were devoted to their parents, and blessed them with grandchildren and even a great grandchild.

His other great love was service to the church—first at his home parish of St. Thomas in Tenafly, where he served for countless years as a Parish Council member and chairman, as chair of the church bazaar and picnic, on the Men’s Club and bowling league—and also at the St. David Church of Boca Raton, and more recently here at St. Leon in Fair Lawn. Through it all, Victor played an active, lifelong role in the Knights of Vartan. It was on the strength of his leadership of these organizations that Victor was responsible for erecting an Armenian Genocide monument in his town of Hackensack.

Even when Victor retired from the Armed Forces, his life of service to others was not over. Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, of blessed memory, the late Primate of the Armenian Church of America, acted on the wise advice of a leader of our community, and tapped Colonel Arzoomanian to serve as Executive Director of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund.

It was a role Victor excelled at. His style was organized, outgoing, direct, and personal—all qualities he had developed during his service with the National Guard. One of his favorite mottos was “Take Charge”—and he truly made himself the public face of the Endowment Fund.

When he began his tenure with ACEF, its assets stood at a relatively modest 1.5 million dollars. He saw it grow to over 40 million dollars.  And while Victor always insisted that everything was a “team effort”—Vic never failed to credit men like Suren Fesjian, Hamo Darmanian, and the ACEF board and donors, as the key to its success—it was the Colonel’s constant promotion of ACEF that elevated it into one of the most successful enterprises in the Armenian-American community.

As I think about those years, I see them as joy-filled, optimistic times. And of course, Victor reflected that positive, upbeat, can-do spirit.  But he had his struggles and trials as well. The passing of his beloved Alice, almost a decade ago, marked the end of a great chapter in Victor’s life. His children and their beautiful families circled around him, kept him active and engaged in the years that followed. But I know the final passage of Victor’s life was difficult for him and for them.

We can be consoled that Victor is now in the hands of our Lord, and at peace.

Throughout his life, Victor Arzoomanian brought laughter, friendship, optimism and good feeling into the world. And I feel in my heart that we will all notice the absence of his laughter, his sense of humor, his generous spirit, now that he is gone. The world, for us, will be a more solemn place now.

For most of us, the news of Victor’s passing this week marked the first and only time that the mention of his name has brought sadness to our hearts. That is a legacy anyone would be proud and honored to leave behind; and it is the legacy of joy and friendship that Victor Arzoomanian leaves with us.

My deepest sympathies go to his children, Janet and Bob Davidian, Edward Arzoomanian, Karen and Carlos Garcia, and Nancy and Dennis Gilbert; to his grandchildren, Robert, Gregory, Michael, Lauren, Daniel, William, Jennifer and her husband Chris; his great-grandchild Rya; all of Victor’s loved ones, friends, colleagues and comrades-in-arms. May God rest the soul of Victor Arzoomanian, and may He grant strength and consolation to you all in the days ahead. Amen.

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