BY DONIG L. DONABEDIAN
“I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” — Khalil Jibran
The thought, the cognizance, the passion, the burning desire that wrestles through the mind of a determined person to do goodwill cannot be reduced to a simple answer. Our reasoning may be as simple as, “well the person is nice and affluent,” and therefore, they “just” decided to give. What most of us do not ponder is, what process permeates such a move on the part of an altruist? How does one decide to become philanthropic, and why? What’s in it for them? How do they choose to align their well-being with others – so they are happy when others thrive, sad when others are suffering? Questions only a person with a certain consciousness can answer, really. Loving others as one-self, behavior that promotes the survival chances of others at a cost to one’s own, self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, are examples of altruistic behavior. One of the causes of such behavior, It would have to be said, is due to persuasion. There are those who commit goodwill in the interest of promoting human welfare. There are those who are inherently persuaded by the cause they’re aiding and are consumed by the desire to make a difference. Loyalty is their cup of tea. Loyalty towards a religious or an ethnic group, an organization fighting to eradicate a deadly disease, are some of the reasons people give. This is where our story unfolds, as Bedig and Mary Fermanian take center stage as Honorary Presidents at this year’s Navasartian Games.
In a world of technological dominance and fast changing times, traditions of any sort are becoming a thing of the past. What was considered venerable and immovable is quickly being replaced by non-traditional methods. Corporations, Organizations, civilian attitudes, even some religious institutions are somewhat puzzled at how society’s mindset is changing towards non-conformity at an alarming rate. For those who prided themselves of strong traditions and values are bracing themselves at the prospect of seeing everything they held dear erode right before them. The generational gap has never been wider. Things will never be the same again. Or so we thought! There is the odd exception though. As Homenetmen Western United States organized its 39th Navasartian Games, it serves to remind us of how its traditions are very much intact, an institution where traditions continue to spearhead generation after generation of Armenian American Youth without missing a heartbeat. Sure there are challenges, but those challenges do not pose an imminent threat due to Homenetmen’s deep-lying roots.
One tradition that keeps on giving is the Navasartian Games’ Honorary Presidency. Mr. and Mrs. Bedig and Mary Fermanian, an incredibly dignified couple, are set to inspire us of their journey from their traditional roots to what galvanized their noble resolve to become the philanthropists they are today.
Born in 1956 in the historic Syrian city of Aleppo, Bedig Fermanian, along with his two sisters and brother, grew up in a loving traditional Armenian household, raised by a mother who implemented what is called the seed of love in their hearts, and where hard work was the fabric of life. Bedig’s father, Hagop, a professional produce merchant was the inspiration that led Bedig to have the passion to go into the food and produce business later when he and his family settled in the U.S.
As a teenager in 1970, Bedig moved to Beirut, Lebanon, where he lived until 1978, after which he moved to Paris, France, due to the Lebanese civil war. After a short stay in France, Bedig decided to move again, this time to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirate (U.A.E.), where he was an air-condition, refrigeration and bakery equipment technician. An interest in seeing America brought him to these shores for a visit in 1981 where he visited 18 states. As he returned to Abu Dhabi, Bedig was convinced that one day his destiny would have him settle in the United States.
In 1985, Bedig married Mary Payaslian in Beirut, Lebanon and returned to the Emirates. In 1986, they were blessed with their first-born, Jake. They moved to US in 1989 and later in 1990 were blessed with their second son, Shant. Bedig and Mary stayed true to their Armenian roots by astutely following Armenian customs and traditions, especially when it came to speaking Armenian at home. Something Mary made sure of without exception.
Mary Fermanian, born in Beirut, Lebanon, has an older brother and a younger sister, was born into similar traditions as Bedig did, in a loving family and nurturing environment. Her father a car dealer manager and auto professional and mom who had graduated from Melkonian Institution. Mary attended Leon G. Nazarian Armenian School in Beirut until 6th grade, and later went to Tarouhi Hagopian High School until her graduation in 1979. Little did she know that after meeting and marrying her life’s partner Bedig, her life would never be the same again.
The young couple made their way to America in 1989, they settled in Orange County where Bedig wanted to pursue his passion of getting into the food business. He was convinced that food was “recession-proof,” and on that promise set out to go into business and open his first market in Anaheim, California in 1993 with a great support of his wife. His passion, his vision and his devotion and self-belief brought him unprecedented success. Super King Markets, as his stores are known took off and never looked back. Today, twenty years after his opening his first store, Bedig and his
brother are the co-proprietors of six Super King Markets with various locations in Southern California, and looking forward to expanding their empire even more.
The fact that Bedig and Mary kept it a family business and rise above any challenge that they face inspires them to work harder and strive for more success. In large part Bedig Fermanian attributes his success to his father and appreciates the advice he received growing up. Despite his achievements, Bedig takes great pride in what he considers his greatest accomplishment, being a loving and devoted husband, father and father-in-law.
For more than two decades, Bedig and his family have been dedicated supporters of the church, the schools and many Armenian organizations. It is by no means a surprise that Bedig and Mary Fermanian serve as this year’s Honorary Presidents at the 39th Navasartian Games because they take great pride and joy in being life-long supporters of Homenetmen. It’s an honor they gladly accepted because as Bedig said, Homenetmen is always in his heart and is always ready to help whenever possible and believes very passionately that it is a “beacon of the future of our youth.”
In retrospect, altruism is an innate quality, or something that can be taught, Bedig’s father’s teaching and advice is testament to that and along with his family exercise these principles with great fortitude.