RESEDA, Calif.—The small farming village of Kessab nestled in the northwestern tip of Syria has produced one Catholicos of the Armenian Church, two Archbishops, the principal of the first Armenian day school in the United States, and numerous educators, scientists, inventors, medical practitioners and other professionals who have preserved their dedication to their homeland and served the Armenian people. It is the Kessab villagers’ belief in service to their people that prompted the small expatriate community of Kessab Armenians in California to form the Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles more than 50 years ago.
The KEA of LA recently made a decision to honor its elders for their exemplary service to the organization and to the Armenian people. At the annual Armenian Christmas dinner held on January 12, the KEA of LA honored brothers and doctors Misak Abdulian and Hrair Atikian for their dedicated leadership of and service to the organization, which gives out scholarships in the U.S. and supports the Armenian schools in Kessab. Each of them was introduced by their children.
Mari Tamar Abdulian, born in Los Angeles, presented her beaming father’s background in clear Armenian. Misak Abdulian was born in Kessab in 1934, one of eight children of Hovhaness and Martha. Graduating from the American University of Beirut, he chose urology as his specialization and trained at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. After serving in the U.S. Armed Forces as a urologist, he entered private practice in Burbank and Hollywood, California, and married Hourig Khandjian. They have a son, Michael Hovig, daughter, Mari Tamar, and two granddaughters.
“My father was the vice chair of the KEA from 1975 to 1978, and he was chair in 1979 and 1980,” recounts Mari Tamar Abdulian. “Since the KEA had no center or hall at the time, our house became the meeting place. My brother, Michael, and I knew there was going to be a board meeting at our house when we smelled my mom’s coffee cake baking in the oven.”
Misak Abdulian was involved in several other community efforts. He was instrumental in founding and leading the Armenian American Medical Society of California as president and board member. He found the land for the Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School in Sherman Oaks and has served on the board of the school as well as serving on the board of the United Armenian Congregational Church.
“We’re proud and fortunate that our father instilled in us love of Kessab, humanity and service,” concluded Mari Tamar Abdulian.
Caroline “Carrie” Atikian O’Malley related how her father, Hrair, who was born in Kessab in 1940, moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 14. He graduated from Harvard Dental School, married Martha Bilezikian then completed his graduate internship in orthodontics at the University of Oregon. Blessed with three daughters, Hrair opened his own practice in North Hollywood in 1968. “I recall many of our friends and local youth receiving orthodontic treatment from my dad,” said O’Malley. “He took pride in his work and would bring home retainers he was working on for patients. I remember as a child watching my dad bend wires in our family room.”
Atikian, since 1969, served five years as chairman of the KEA of LA and has held other board positions. His civic involvement included serving as board chairman of the Merdinian School for five years and on the Deacons Committee of the United Armenian Congregational Church for nearly a decade.