BY PATTYL APOSHIAN KASPARIAN
I hate the lack of control over my body’s physical reaction to pain—not the pain of a torn meniscus or a bumped shoulder, but pain that makes you sick to your stomach, changes your breathing pattern and makes you wish your heart was numb to all feelings.
I received a call Friday morning from an agoomp friend. His voice was not chipper as expected. He asked if I could handle some bad news. I said yes. Had I said no, I wonder if things would change?
“We lost Allen,” he said. “He died in a car accident last night.”
“No, he didn’t,” I responded. “I just saw his Armenia/Georgia Facebook check in and Instagram photo update.”
The rest hit like a ton of bricks. One blow after another. Hours later, we lost Sose too—‘til death do us part squared.
By this time, it was late afternoon in Los Angeles and time for me to pick up my daughter from school. As soon as she jumped into the car, she noticed my tear-soaked eyes. Even though I wasn’t sobbing and tried to smile, she detected the hurt and sadness in my eyes. I kept visiting Allen’s Facebook page, waiting for a status update. I checked my inbox to see if there was a private message. I looked at pictures and pictures and pictures.
“What’s wrong, mom?” my daughter asked. I pointed to a picture of Allen and told her that he was hurt and in the hospital. “He looks familiar,” she said. “Do I know him? Did he come to my birthday party?”
“No,” I responded.
“Has he been to our house,” she asked?
“Maybe,” I respond. “For a meeting or to drop me off after a meeting.”
She was still not happy with my answer. “Have you eaten lunch with him,” she asked like a typical first grader?
That’s when I broke down. What a simple question but one that remains unanswered.
Do we consider food around a meeting table lunch? Do we count walking to Mario’s to pick up sandwiches for a five hour meeting lunch? Do we deem stale chips and expired soda from the vending machine lunch?
Not only can I not explain this to a first grader but I’m confident most adults won’t understand the relationship of the ANCA family—or in laymen’s terms—agoomp friends. Under one vision and a common purpose, we work together. We work as a family. We spend our most valuable time together because it’s time we put in without conditions, without expectations and without restrictions.
I met Allen Yekikian seven or so years ago at the ANCA office in Glendale. He started as an intern but soon after took over the office’s networking responsibilities. Prior to Allen, none of the computers were networked together. Until today, I don’t know what that means, but I know he spent countless hours volunteering his time, knowledge and talent. He came and went at various hours—sometimes to feed the network and other times to talk shop with Haig Hovsepian and Antranig Kzirian. Even in his early twenties, he was passionate, assertive and opinioned.
The more he learned, the more he would speak out. We kept seeing him everywhere—from Asbarez to many leadership roles in AYF– local and regional. We became dependent on his talents in so many organizations. We would pull Allen in many directions and he would comply with our requests with such energy and joy. Even though he was inundated with Asbarez online, he didn’t turn us down when we asked for help with the ANCA Telethon. He would jump right in and take things over. For months on end, twice over—for the 2009 and 2012 Telethon, Allen played an instrumental role in media, web, marketing and design. He was a smart kid—with vision and optimism.
He had a sweet way of showing me (of course with a little bit of Allen sarcasm) that he was annoyed with my string of questions when I would ask him logistical questions. “Pattyl. Just get me the content, timeline and the contact list and I’ll take care of the rest,” he would say. “But Allen, how are you going to do it? Is it possible? Can I see a sample?” I would ask. He would slouch behind his Mac and through clenched teeth, he would say. “I told you I would take care of it.”
This time last year, a group of us were exchanging at least 30 emails and 50 text messages a day. Two weeks before the Telethon—we were in full swing. Allen was working full time at Operation Hope and running a double volunteer shift with AYF Central Executive. Over 100 volunteers working and everyone wanted a piece of Allen. After all, he was so talented. He understood the phone system and social media so Marketing and Media Relations enrolled his talent. He understood digital signage and web so Sponsor Relations and Development needed him too. However, it was more than his talent and knowledge people were after. His humility was unparalleled.
At the end of every big project or event, I would send him an over-the-top congratulatory message and I would receive the typical Allen response. Thank you. No problem.
We were so happy when Allen met Sose. Since I didn’t know Sose personally, I would refer to her as Vache’s sister. He was quick to remind me of her name on two occasions. Now I know why. She was as strong and as independent of a person as Allen. He knew she did not want to be known as Allen’s wife or Vache’s sister but as Sose Thomassian from Orange County.
With all this said, what do I consider the Yekikian and Thomassian families? Since Allen was a part of “my ANCA family, are they family too? If you ask me which cereal Allen ate for breakfast or which cartoon he watched as a kid, I couldn’t tell you. If you asked me the age difference in exact days between Vache and Sose, I would take a guess. But ask me what Allen believed in or what his position was on a specific topic, and I’d tell you with certainty. And not only me—but many of us in our ANCA family.
The ANCA-WR oval-shaped Board table is equivalent to a family’s dining room table. For our ANCA family, that’s where we share our most intimate moments, create memories and implement policy. We yell. We laugh. We argue. We react. We get things done. Sitting around the table, we have countless memories of Allen Yekikian. More so—we have countless completed projects and boundless blueprints for the future because of Allen Yekikian.
I will miss so many things about Allen. I will miss seeing him sitting on the floor of the ANCA office at the ripe age of 21 working on his laptop and connection hundreds of wires together. I will miss reading his articles in Haytoug and Asbarez. I will miss receiving texts and emails from him asking me why I chose to use a particular word over another in my articles. I will miss seeing him pop in his head for the quick greeting and run off to another meeting yelling from the hall—“I’m too busy to stay and talk.”
I will miss our walks across the street to the grocery store for chocolate and sunflower seeds when I used to bombard him with questions about his future. I will miss seeing him blush when I would ask him about his personal life with Sose. But most of all, I will miss his contagious energy and drive.
Allen and Sose were taken from us much too soon when they both still had so much more to offer our organization, our community and our Nation. Their memories, their ideals, their passion, and their drive will remain their greatest legacy for all of us as we continue the work of Hye Tad, motivated even more by their profound loss. On this sad occasion, the ANCA-WR Board of Directors, staff, local chapters, interns and family express their deepest condolences to the Yekikian and Thomassian families as we share their grief.”