Long-time community activist, leader and benefactor Hacob Shirvanian passed away on August 23 at home surrounded by family and friends. A Requiem service on the 40th day of his passing was held in Armenia. During a funeral service on August 29 at Liberty Hall at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills. Shirvanian’s family and friends paid tribute to him, which we present below.
Hacob “Jake” Shirvanian — 1924-2018
Hacob Shirvanian’s biography was presented in English during his funeral service by his daughter-in-law Melody Petrossian
Hacob “Jake” Shirvanian was born in Tabriz, Iran in 1923 to Vagharshag Shirvanian, an Armenian war hero for the defense of Van, and Verjeen Shirvanian. Both of his parents were Genocide survivors. He had three sisters, Anelka, Savey and Angel and a younger brother, Kosti. Hacob’s father passed away when he was 13 years old, and as the eldest son, he had to drop out of school to support his family.
During the Second World War, Hacob served with the British Persian Gulf Command and the U.S. Armed Forces. His unique mastery of languages, including English, Farsi, Turkish, and Armenian, positioned him as an interpreter.
Hacob married the love of his life, Mina Hovanessian, in 1946 and was happily married for over 71 years, until her passing last December. They were blessed with 2 children, Alice and Armen. His dream was to come to the U.S to create a better life for his family. In 1956, the Shirvanians entered New York Harbor onboard the Queen Mary and soon after reunited with Kosti and Savey in California, making Los Angeles their home. Hacob’s quest for the immigrant dream became a reality after he joined Kosti and Savey at Western Waste Industries. Forty years later, Western Waste would become the 5th largest waste services company in the U.S.
Hacob felt very fortunate when Alice married Vahik Petrossian, not only because he loved Vahik like a son, but also because he loved Vahik’s family as his own. Hacob was later blessed with 2 grandsons, Chris and Shant, a granddaughter in-law Melody, and three great-grandchildren, Christopher Jake, Sebastian Monte and Katherine Mina. He was very fortunate to celebrate his 95th birthday on August 17th with his loving family by his side.
Hacob’s service, talents and expertise were recognized by Governor Ronald Reagan, who appointed him to the California Waste Management Board in 1973. Thereafter, Hacob was appointed by Governors Jerry Brown, George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Gray Davis to the State Small Business Board and then the State Contractors Board. Hacob holds the distinction of serving 33 consecutive years as a State Board member, serving five consecutive Governors in a truly bipartisan fashion.
Together, Hacob and Mina supported many Armenian organizations, including the Armenian Educational Foundation, Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian National Committee, Armenian Cultural Foundation, Armenian Society of Los Angeles, Ferrahian Armenian School and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Hacob was not only a supporter, but often an active board member to many of these organizations.
Hacob was also an active and dedicated member of the Glendale Adventist Church and Adventist Health of Glendale, where for years he has served on the Hospital Foundation Board and Civic Advisory Council.
Throughout the years, numerous Armenian and Artsakh Presidents, Catholicoses, Governors, and dozens of other state and local officials would honor and fondly call him Jake or Baron Hacob. Hacob and Mina were also celebrated by Armenian and American organizations for their commitment and support of our communities, including such tributes as Man of Year and Lifetime Achievement Awards. Both Catholicos Karekin II and Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia honored Hacob with the church’s highest honor for his hard work, dedication and commitment to the Armenian community.
Hacob and Mina’s greatest love was to support the Armenian youth. They renovated schools in the most impoverished areas of Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk and provided scholarships to deserving students. Their most recent mission was the construction of the Armenian Cultural Foundation’s Shirvanian Youth Center in Gyumri. After multiple visits to Armenia over the past 40 years, Hacob and Mina made their final visit to the homeland for the opening of the youth center in the summer of 2016.
Hacob Shirvanian has been described as a pillar of the community. He was a mentor to many and a champion for the Armenian cause. He made a pronounced impact on the lives of all who knew and loved him. His legacy will live on in all of us.
Letters to Dad
To honor the memory of their father, Hacob Shirvanian, his son, Armen and daughter, Alice Petrossian wrote heartfelt and personal letters to their dad. The letter were read during the funeral service by Shiravanian’s grandson, Shant Petrossian
How do I express the multiple feelings of love, gratitude, pride in this time of pain and loss?
We loved you so much, your way of love was strong and strict yet if we looked into your beautiful eyes we knew that it was because you LOVED us. I remember the day I said I want to go away to college and live in a dorm/apartment, you replied “not as long as you are my daughter.” I knew you loved me no matter what.
The day I married Vahik, a man you and mom adored, I saw you cry secretly because I was leaving home, and yet you stayed strong for me. Your love was evident with every visit to Oakland.
When the boys were born, you showed love by holding, feeding and even a few times changing them. Mom repeatedly said you never did that for your own kids. I wont forget the joy and excitement you showed when the grandchildren were born. But I know you prayed for a little girl and asked to live long enough and God granted you Katherine, who loved you to the last minute kissing you over and over again.
But your love was so grand it extended to your family, worrying about your siblings and their families, by the way you worried too much! Your love for Armenia and all things Armenian was beyond any measure, you brought that love into our lives. Your love for travel, history, nature and your zest for life was always impressive.
“Gratitude” a grand word that embodies you. We are all so very grateful to you…the family, the community, and many political leaders … have expressed their gratitude in ways I could never imagine. I wish you could read and hear the messages, the comments and the memories being shared with us.
Apo Bohigian said that even in your passing you manage to do good things, and I believe you will continue to make the world a better place. Your generosity is above and beyond any measure, you gave and gave to causes that had your heart…
Please know that we will do our best to continue your gift of giving and stay faithful to your wishes.
At age 13 you lost your father, and became the man of the house. Taking care and worrying about Anelka, Savey, Angel and Kosti, oh wait and 2 grandmothers Vergine and Vasganoush. How you cared for and supported your mother in law was a model for all of us. Proud that you worked hard to make a living in Iran and continued that same work ethic to the United States. Your life early on was difficult, but you were strong.
What continually made me proud was when you and mom would shine from stages and Podiums. What a talent you had for saying the right words and giving the right prayers and so the praise followed.
With the passing of each friend and family member you hurt deeply.
The greatest loss you suffered was that of mom, the love of your life for 72 years, she kept her 5 plus years of cancer pain from you so you would not hurt, and you kept your pain from her so she would believe that all was well. You suffered for 15 years with Parkinson’s and never, never, never complained. Your suffering the last month and a half was truly difficult, but never once did you let your family feel your pain.
After the loss of your precious Mina, you were never the same again. You asked for her regularly, you looked at her pictures with great sorrow. I only pray that you are together now, holding hands and smiling down on us.
You said near the end that you had asked God to live until 90 and anything more would be bonus years. We thank GOD we got 5 more …bonus years.
Dad your faith in GOD saw you through much, and now our faith in God and YOU, will see US through.
Be at peace, and know you will never be forgotten.
My beloved father,
You will be so missed but never forgotten.
I want to thank you dad for all you taught me and the life lessons learned. You taught me the love of the Lord you taught me the meaning of morality and How to live with integrity. You showed me with your beautiful wife what it means to love cherish and respect a woman. You taught me the love of people and nation. You showed what it meant to have a father and mother who would stand by their children no matter what life brings.
Most of all dad you and mom taught me how to love and what it means to love. God bestowed on me the greatest blessing of all a mother and father that were incomparable that loved without question that sacrificed without hesitation that truly gave all they had and lived an amazing life for themselves their children their children’s children their loved ones and friend
Proverbs 1:8 says: “MY SON, HEAR THE INSTRUCTION OF THY FATHER, AND FORSAKE NOT THE LAW OF THY MOTHER”
You will be missed but never forgotten. I love you dad. May God bless you and mom. May god bless us all.
An Ode to Our ‘Babik’—Grandpa
Hacob Shirvanian’s grandson, Chris Petrossian, presented an ode to his grandfather during his funeral service.
As you just heard, Hacob Shirvanian was a community leader, a successful businessman, a savvy politician, and a loving family man, but his most important accomplishment was being the best grandfather anyone could ask for. Ever since I can remember, Shant and I would proudly say that Hacob Shirvanian is our grandfather.
Shant and I were so fortunate to have the grandparents we had, for as long as we did. 9 months ago, many of you heard about our bond with Mamik Mina. Well, our relationship with babik was just as strong, as he was involved with every aspect of our life. We lived together, we worked together, we traveled together, we played together, we laughed together, and, more recently, we cried together.
He was our friend, our teacher, our role model, our hero and our babik.
As our friend, we enjoyed spending as much time with him as possible. He had a great sense of humor and was a lot of fun. The best part of working at Western Waste was seeing him every day and the conversations we had on the long drives from Glendale to Torrance and back. If we needed anything, like a good friend, he would be there in a heartbeat with no questions asked. Whether it was going with me to look for apartments at UCLA or driving across the country to move me to Chicago.
As our teacher, he taught us about life and the world. Even at a young age, he would treat us like adults and set high standards for us to meet. He used to love to lecture us on any topic and Shant and I could not wait to get out of class. The only way out of that class was the class bell and that was Mamik saying, “Hacob, end it”. He used to say, the best education he gave us was the “passport to life” through all the travels, trips, political and other events he took us to. He wanted to make sure we learned from each of them. Well Babik, those experiences made us the men we are today.
As our role model, we looked up to him and marveled at what he had accomplished as an immigrant with only an 8th grade education. He was our motivation and cheerleader to succeed in academics, athletics, careers and in our personal lives. He wanted to make sure we had the opportunities he did not. As a good role model, he taught us how to give back to our community. Two years ago, we all went to Armenia for the opening of their Youth Center. They were so happy to not only visit the motherland one last time, but to know that they left a lasting legacy that we will do our best to continue.
As our hero, he taught us to stand for what we believe in and to never give up. When grandma passed away, he lost not only the love of his life, but also his best friend of over 70 years. Broken-hearted and not feeling well, he said he just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. However, he persevered to stay alive to celebrate his 95th birthday with us. The doctors said his body gave up, but he did not. He was a fighter who refused to quit… the story of his life.
As our babik, he loved us unconditionally and treated us like we were the center of his universe. Grandpa was a notoriously slow driver. Grandma said the only time he drove over the speed limit was when he was coming to see Shant, me or my kids. We wanted to honor the great man he was, so when Melody and I had our first son, we made Jake his middle name, with the hopes that he will grow up to be a great man like his great-grandfather.
Over the past week, it has been nice hearing how grandpa impacted many of your lives, too. He appreciated how you treated him when he was alive. On behalf of the family, I want to thank you all for how you honored my grandfather in the past and how you continue to honor him with your presence today.
Knowing him, he would want to stand in front of you all today, to thank you for coming and tell you not to mourn him, but rather celebrate the wonderful, blessed life he lived. He was an accomplished speaker who knew how speak from the heart and command a room. And whenever he went a bit too long, which was often, it would be grandma by his side saying “Hacob, end it.” I am sure she is up there now saying, “Chris, end it.”
The last time I spoke with Grandpa, he kissed me on my cheek and said “God, be with you”. Well babik, you are now with God and our beautiful Mamik. Please give her a big kiss from us. We will miss you both dearly and will never forget the mark you left on our lives, but you are where you belong… with each other and with God. I love you babik…
Celebrating Hacob’s Life
A long-time family friend, Charly Ghailian, paid a moving tribute to Hacob Shirvanian, whom he called “dad” during the funeral service
To some he was known as Jake, or how I knew and called him—Dad!
I would like to share a song from the 60’s, its lyrics portray a young man’s gratitude toward a father figure:
“One who would lead by example
Whose love was unconditional
Whose kind deeds heartfelt”
…And the repeating lyrics in the song are: “I call this man FATHER/I call this man LOVE”
Hacob Was Love
He loved his Mina… loved his Alice, Vahik and Armen; adored his grandchildren Chris and Shant; cherished his Melody and the blessings for Christopher, Sebastian and Katherine.
He embraced his siblings and treasured their family gatherings.
He was always grateful and respectful for this great country, enamored with his Hairenik and heartfelt with Artsakh.
He loved his parties…the Republican and Dashnak parties that is! At times, he struggled with their decisions… but was always committed and dedicated to both.
This GENTLE man of love was an activist, a revolutionary of his time, a servant of his nation, a mentor to many, a kind and generous soul… whose principles were Faith, Family and Nation!
Hacob supported just about anything that started with an “A” and a couple of “H’s” and “U’s”… ACF, AEF, ANC, ARS, Armenian Apostolic Church, Adventist’s/Adventist Health, AUA, Holy Martyrs School, Homenetmen, UCLA and USC.
The one thing Hacob wasn’t good at, was delivering the punch line of a joke. He would burst into laughter at that most critical moment, making everyone laugh hysterically as well…. However, no one ever knew the outcome of the joke.
Hacob played a big role in my life!!
He once said at my grandmother’s funeral service… “You’re not only laying to rest your grandmother, you’re laying to rest a part of our identity and history.”
I share the same with all of you, “We celebrate Hacob’s life and lay to rest a part of our identity and history.” … and assure you all… he is with his Mina planning their next trip to a heavenly destination!
We are all blessed to have had Hacob in our lives and forever in our hearts.
With all my love…