SAN FRANCISCO—Richard Kloian, who established and directed the Armenian Genocide Resource Center, was laid to rest today in the presence of family and friends, at Rolling Hills Memorial Park in El Sobrante, California.
Kloian, 73, passed away on May 1 after a massive stroke. Funeral services were conducted by Reverend Father Hovel Ohanyan of Oakland’s St. Vartan church. Roxanne Makasdjian, Chairperson of the Bay Area Armenian National Committee, spoke about Kloian’s major contribution to the work of organizations pursuing recognition of the Armenian Genocide, to the field of genocide studies and to the general public understanding of the Armenian Genocide.
Raffi Momjian, Director of The Genocide Education Project, for which Kloian acted as advisor, read a few of the many comments sent by scholars expressing their remembrances about Richard. Israel Charny, Executive Director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, wrote, “I consider him a GIANT on behalf of Armenian Genocide recognition and memory. His devotion to his work in enabling education and memory about the Armenian Genocide was immense.”
Dennis Papazian, Professor Emeritus (Retire) and founding director of the Armenian Research Center at the University of Michigan-Dearborn wrote, “He was a man dedicated to the truth and willing to gather the evidence for all to see. He was a true gentleman, and hated no one. His only desire was to educate and enlighten. He believed that enlightened people would do the right thing. He had a positive outlook. He is irreplaceable. May he rest in peace and may his family be comforted.”
Below is a transcript of the funeral service remarks by Roxanne Makasdjian:
It’s hard for me to accept that I’m standing here this morning, to say goodbye to Richard. Richard was someone who you never wanted to believe would not be here one day. He was so much younger than his years, and he had such endless energy. Although on many occasions I wondered how his work would be carried on after him, I didn’t really think this time would come.
I met Richard almost immediately after I began volunteering for the Armenian National Committee when I moved here in the 1980’s. He had just published his book, The Armenian Genocide: News Accounts from the American Press, 1915-1922. This was truly a landmark publication, because the collection of these New York Times and other articles was not only an useful reference book for researchers, but for groups like the ANC, it was then and still is the perfect public information tool to make the case for recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Richard had done it all by himself, spending endless hours at UC Berkeley, going through pages and pages of newspaper microfilm.
When we initiated a committee to help teachers include the Armenian Genocide in their coursework, all roads led to Richard Kloian, who had been a key resource for teachers for years. Getting to know him, I soon realized that he had an unstoppable passion and talent for bringing documentation about the Armenian Genocide to the broad public. I began getting a stream of e-mails from him, with the most interesting articles, reports, first-hand accounts. Sometimes, it came so fast and furiously, I had to stick them in a folder I called “stuff from Richard,” until I could make time to film them all properly.
Richard once told me how this passion of his first bloomed. It was when his father died in 1976. Richard discovered his father’s diary, which told a harrowing tale of genocide survival. It was then that Richard’s life work turned irreversibly to the Armenian Genocide.
His new interest filled his evenings after work. Soon, his mission became a full-time volunteer effort, bringing to light this “forgotten history.”
By 1997, he had established the Armenian Genocide Resource Center. Through the AGRC, Richard has single-handedly collected a vast amount of documentation on the Armenian Genocide, helped get long-lost memoirs and documents published, and has developed many useful materials for helping locate and acquire historical and current works. He also found films about the Armenian Genocide from around the world and got permission to reproduce them for the general public. As many of you know, one of his most recent labors of love was restoring and editing the only surviving segment of the 1919 silent Hollywood film, Ravished Armenia.
Richard’s perseverance and drive were incomparable. His work was an everyday act of courage because each day, by himself, and without any compensation, he fought the powerful forces of “forgetting.” Not only did his work fight historical revisionism, it served to enlighten educators and politicians alike, who encounter Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide regularly. His work has helped broaden the discussion of genocide studies, because so many non-Armenians sought out his materials and his vast knowledge of historical resources.
But to characterize Richard only in terms of his contributions to Armenian Genocide education would not give the true picture. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, one of 5 brothers, Richard, whose Armenian name was Diran, was an extraordinary Renaissance man. He had an avid interest in science, in music, in photography. He was an active member of the Astronomical Society in Detroit, where he organized public events and where he built his first deep space telescope with Dr. Donaldson Craig of Wayne State University. He studied French and comparative literature, and as an accomplished photographer, he was among the first in Detroit to capture on film the early phases of growth that revolutionized the Detroit skyline. And as a professional musician, he played in Detroit’s Latin and jazz orchestras. I’m told it was while playing music that he met his wife of 42 years, Antonia, and we all owe such a debt of gratitude that Antonia gave Richard the space to pursue his passion and give so much to the world.
The list of his accomplishments is so impressive, yet what I keep thinking about is Richard’s sweet and gentle demeanor, his genuine kindness, and his pleasing smile. Thank you, Richard, for brightening and enriching our lives, for teaching us, for showing us the way.