Anne R. Movsesian

Anne R. Movsesian
1933 – 2018
Eulogy spoken at my mother’s funeral, 5 December 2018, St. Leon Armenian Cathedral, Burbank, California
If you have ever received a card or a letter from our mother, you have a sample of her beautiful script which was an outward expression of her inner beauty. If you ever spoke with her, your ears were filled with poetry that rhymed with the harmony of the world. And, if you ever were the object of her prayers, you received a blessing in your life that was from her connection to the Divine.


Mom, or “Mamajan” as she was affectionately referred to by family, was a woman of conviction and deep faith. She was a lady of dignity and class. She shared the blessings of life with others – with family, with friends and those in need. She shared her affections through her laugh, smile and hugs. She was good to a fault, if there was such a thing, and perhaps that’s why her name “Mamajan” became the name by which others – friends and acquaintances – would refer to her.
Mamajan was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts during the Great Depression, a fact that defined her life in many ways. More so, she was born to parents who were Genocide survivors. Gabriel and Nartuhi Vartanian survived the massacres in the village of Palu and arrived in the United States as orphans. They were married and worked hard to establish a new life, always grateful to America and the great country it is. Anna Rose was the second of three children born in the Vartanian home. She was the younger sister of Gill (Gabriel) and the older sister of Grace. 
The family moved to Southern California in the late 1930s. While her parents were working double-shifts, Anne was left tending to household responsibilities at an early age. In the midst of the uncertainties of World War II her parents brought them up with Christian values and a love for the Armenian cultural heritage. They were early members of the St. James Armenian Church in Los Angeles. They sang in the choir and became members of the ACYO, where they established many of the friendships they carried through life.


Early on Anne began demonstrating her artistic talents in drawing, painting and poetry. She won competitions for her poetry, written in Armenian, and was featured on local radio. After graduating LA High, she continued her education at Los Angeles City College. She met her future husband Varougan, a young Armenian boy who shared many of the same interests. They sang in the the St. James choir. Varougan and Anne were engaged in 1952.
Our parents shared a love for Armenian culture, from the language to the music to the dance, they found joy in sharing that love with others. Soon they organized a dance-troop, dancing at functions and exhibitions. In 1955, on Varougan’s birthday that year, they were invited to dance at the opening of an amusement park by a young entrepreneur named Walt Disney. The rest is history: Varougan and Anne Movsesian presented Armenian dance at the opening of Disneyland!


The couple married that same year and laid the foundation to their family life. They were blessed with four children: Hovsep, Anush, Haig and Sona, and set up home at an old Victorian at 711 N. Hoover St, in Los Angeles. The house became a landmark for friends and family. There, whether you were an old acquaintance or newly met, you could be guaranteed a night of Armenian music, dance and some of Anne’s best Armenian dishes. It was a warm and magical house because of mom and dad’s willingness to share the gift of love with others.
During the 1960’s their love for Armenian dance was expanded with the introduction to dance instructor Jora Markarian and the formation of the Armenian Folkloric Dance Ensemble. They performed at some of the most exotic locations such as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the LA Music Center and George Mardikian’s Omar Khayam in San Francisco.


Anne taught Armenian language at the St. James Armenian Church in Los Angeles and was the superintendent of the school for 26 years. Even against our objections (having  to lose our Saturday morning), mom and dad would put us in the car, all four of us with all the supplies, snacks and drinks and drive from Hollywood to St. James on Saturday mornings to learn Armenian. Of course the next day we’d repeat the same ritual to go to church, except on Sundays we would pack the car with two grandmas as well.
She found any opportunity to teach Armenian, to sing, dance, recite poetry. She was teaching children at the Diocesan camp during its first years of formation. However, she soon discovered an inadequacy in the teaching material and with the insistence of the then-Primate, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, she wrote and illustrated the first Armenian-American Textbook for use in the Armenian Schools throughout America.
She raised her four children with strong Christian values. We each learned our prayers on her knees. In 1977 I went away to seminary in Armenia to study for the priesthood. After six-months of being separated by continents, Anne being a mama first-and-foremost, found a way to stay close-by. She approached the Primate of the Diocese at the time, Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian for a job as secretary. It didn’t take long before her talents were noticed and she became the Executive Secretary of the Western Diocese. More than anything else, her 26 years at the diocese gave her the chance to share her talents. Together with Abp. Vatché they drove the Diocese during some of its most difficult years. We are grateful for the friendship of His Eminence Abp. Vatché, who became a spiritual brother to her.


She took pride in the achievements of each of her children as they went through school and reached their life goals. Their joy became her joy as they married, had children and formed their own families. In 1990, mom and dad closed the doors on Hoover Street and opened a new chapter in La Crescenta. Unfortunately, dad succumbed to an early death the following year and mom lived the rest of her years learning many new skills of survival by expanding her horizons with new educational pursuits and opportunities.
Mamajan loved to travel and manifested her dream of visiting Armenia on a few different occasions  including with her sister Grace, Europe with her mother and daughter Anush, and South America with Haig and Sona. She especially enjoyed the fellowship of and with her khunamis the Boranians and the Smiths. They shared many smiles, laughs and good times together around their children.
She was a prolific writer of letters. She corresponded on a personal level with church-greats such as the venerable Catholicos Vazken I and Archbishop Torkom Manoogian of Jerusalem. In August of this year, our Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian hosted an evening where mom presented one of her scrapbooks with her memoirs of His Holiness Vazken I to the public. We are grateful that Abp. Hovnan will be printing this book next year in a special tribute to the Catholicos.


In 2003 His Holiness Karekin II with a Pontifical Encyclical presented Diramayr Anna and her lifetime friend Prof. Hrair Dekmejian, the Nersess Shnorhali Medal Honor. In 2013, Abp. Hovnan Derderian gifted her a Khatchkar which is now a permanent marker here at the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral in recognition of her exceptional and dedicated service to the Armenian Church and the Western Diocese in particular. These were days that she cherished because they pointed to her purpose-filled life.
Over the last several years she was overjoyed with the marriage of her three oldest grandchildren, Nareg to Rosalind, Varoujan to Lauren and Ani to Eric and she was blessed with two great-grandchildren. She lived with the love and respect of her family and for the last six years resided with her daughter Anush and son-in-law Ned Avejic. She loved to be with people and didn’t pass up an opportunity to be in the company of friends, especially from church where she was everyone’s Diramayr. She spent her days writing letters and cards and in conversation with people she loved, mostly she had a very steady and intense prayer life which was her time to converse with her Maker.
Above all else, she was the head-cheerleader for every one of her grandchildren, showing up at games, plays, concerts and even from a distance made sure that they were covered by the “Mamajan-blessing.”


On the day Mamajan passed away when cousin Knar and Mike came over, Mike said to me, “Your mom is your biggest fan! You don’t have a greater fan than your mom!” I thought about that; It is so true! She was there everywhere I was, every step of the way. When I took my vows into the priesthood she graciously donned the name “Diramayr.” When I began editing the publication Window, she became the first subscriber. She was the first contributor to St. Andrew when we started building the church in Cupertino. When I moved to Pasadena she joined and became a member of St. Gregory and later of St. Peter Glendale when we started the church there. Recently she was a regular at our Monday evening Bible Study. And… the same is true for each of my siblings, our spouses and our children. She was our biggest fan! Each of us have felt her wind beneath our wings.
We prayed and played with Mamajan. She was fun-loving and we’d love having fun with her -especially her grandchildren. And so … the the grandchildren, and to everyone else who has been touched by this beautiful lady, I this message today: Mamajan will always be with you. She will always be your head cheerleader. She will always be your biggest fan. She’s deep down inside of you wanting you to be the best you can be.
Eighty-five years! Her heart beat steady and strong for 85 years. That’s the miracle we celebrate today. She’s of, what I call, the God Generation: Children of the Genocide, brought up in the Depression – like God, having NOTHING they created something!


Her passing was as blessed as was her life. She left us with grace and dignity. All of us were around her on that last day; we shared and laughed together. We prayed with her and she communed with Christ through the Holy Eucharist. On November 28, while holding Anush and Susan’s hands she slowly slipped into her eternal rest. There was no resistance, only compliance to the prayer she had prayed so often, “Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” She left this world with a firm belief in the words spoken by the angel: “He is not here! He has Risen!” We were blessed that her spiritual brother, Abp. Vatché came immediately and offered a prayer.
On the morning after Mamajan’s passing, my wife Susan woke up with this on her mind and I wish to share it with you, as she shared with us that morning. It points to what this incredible and blessed life has meant to us:
I went to sleep last night asking myself, what happened today? Not a dream, but something very dream-like. Not a nightmare because it was all too calming. Not scary or distressing because it was so the opposite of how we saw our mom the last few weeks. It wasn’t anger or fear because it felt too peaceful. I will miss our spoiled, sometimes demanding, always grateful/gracious and most certainly loving, classy and caring mama. I woke up not wondering what happened yesterday, but knowing I witnessed God’s handy work so graciously in play. I woke with a heart filled with gratitude for our mom’s life, how we each shared in it and for His Love. I know what happened yesterday! Mom returned to her (and our) Maker, the one who lent her to us for those many life-filled years. God is good. Faith is comforting. Love is all powerful. Praise completes… May our dear mom Rest in Peace. So thankful for each of you and for her life and her love. Hope you all slept well. 
Mamajan is survived by…
Her sister Grace Balayan, sister-in-law Lucy Movsesian, sister-in-law Linda Vartanian and their families
Her children Fr. Vazken and Susan Movsesian, Ned and Anush Avejic, Haig and Talene Movsesian, Jack and Sona Smith
Her grandchildren Nareg and Rosalind Burr, Varoujan and Lauren Movsesian, Eric and Ani Simonoff, Sevan Movsesian, Christaphor Movsesian, Madilyn Smith, Nicole Smith and Vartan Movsesian.
Her great-grandchildren Arek and Shant Simonoff
And many nieces and nephews, great and grand nieces and nephews and of course a multitude of people who referred to her as their own Mamajan.
After thoughts: A life lived in the ways of God: Mamajan’s 40th day coincides with the “Memorial Day” of the Armenian Church, January 7.
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