The Eastern Diocese was deeply grieved by the passing of Louise Manoogian Simone: the late president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and in her own right a visionary benefactor of the Armenian Church, nation, and numerous institutions. She died in the early hours of February 19, 2019, at age 85.
As the daughter of legendary benefactors Alex and Marie Manoogian, Louise Manoogian Simone brought a distinguished family legacy to a new level, extending its commitment to service, excellence, and innovation to a new generation. She succeeded her father as the international leader of AGBU, and likewise embraced her parents’ dedication to the worldwide Armenian Church.
To the Eastern Diocese she was a genuine trailblazer: the very first woman elected to the Diocesan Council (in 1979) who served as treasurer during her term. She played an important role in the history of St. Nersess Seminary, advocating for its mission and fundraising on its behalf at a critical time, thus laying the foundation for a significant expansion of its academic role and outreach to students. In 1991 she sponsored the first international gathering of Armenian clergy, which convened at the Diocesan Center in New York.
During her tenure as president of AGBU—which coincided with one of the most critical periods in Armenian history—Louise Simone rose to every occasion and surpassed every demand upon her. In its announcement of her passing, the AGBU rightly called her “one of the most consequential figures in modern Armenian life.”
She was a leader in the relief effort to an earthquake-shattered Armenia; delivered aid and comfort to her countrymen in Karabagh; and was an influential advocate for the newly-born independent Armenia. Her fierce devotion to the fledgling republic helped it to weather many hardships of its early years, and established enduring achievements in outreach to children and seniors, and in the establishment of the American University of Armenia.
She retired from the AGBU presidency in 2002, and was succeeded by Berge Setrakian, who had served as vice president under her leadership. But she remained a major global benefactor through the Manoogian Simone Foundation. Hospitals, schools, cultural institutions, and historic monuments all benefitted from her generosity—as did the Armenian Church and its Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Louise Simone was a woman of refined taste, a patron of the arts, and a benefactor of the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and the Detroit Institute of Arts, among countless other concerns. Chief among her numerous distinctions were the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the rare “Knight of Holy Etchmiadzin” Pontifical Medal.
“She was a national hero, a passionate Armenian and a highly capable leader,” said Diocesan Primate the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. “Louise wanted above all that the Armenian people be strong as a nation and as a church. And she gave of herself without reservation.”
While funeral arrangements will be private, the Primate has directed all Diocesan parishes to observe the karasoonk for Louise Manoogian Simone on Sunday, March 31.
She is survived by her children Christine, David, and Mark; two grandchildren; and her brother, Richard and his family—to all of whom we offer prayers of consolation. May our risen Lord bless the soul of Louise Manoogian Simone, and remember her in his kingdom.
By C. H. Zakian