BY DR. VERGINE MADELIAN
On December 29, 2016, the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) lost one of its longtime and most beloved supporters, Hrach Lukassian. His death is mourned by his wife, Carmen; daughters Anneth and Talin; and other family members, friends, and colleagues, as well as the entire ABMDR family across the world, from Los Angeles to Tehran, and from Yerevan to Sydney.
Hrach was one of those quiet, yet ever-present, forces in ABMDR. He believed deeply in the ABMDR mission, and, as such, not only was he part of the organization from day one, but also encouraged his entire family to follow suit: his wife Carmen was office manager, secretary, letter writer, and filer, all rolled into one, serving all things ABMDR for several of the early years of the Registry; daughters Anneth and Talin are still very much involved in our walkathons; sons-in-law Hratch and Ronny are our social-media and IT people; and sister-in-law Iline is one of our longest-serving recruiters, with husband Aleko our unofficial photographer, while his other sister-in-law, Dr. Frieda Jordan, is the co-founder and president of ABMDR.
Hrach himself never missed a chance to help ABMDR. He was our “go-to” man for props and displays. Ingenious and resourceful, he always came through and solved our problems. He was present at all our events, including banquets and walkathons; visits to our churches; and ceremonies recognizing and honoring ABMDR. During our walkathons, we could see him towering above the crowd—he was a tall man—his professional cameras and lenses hung around his neck. Ever the perfectionist, he would climb walls to find the best angles and would take thousands of pictures, just to give us the chance to choose the very best. Hrach was extremely generous with his time and talents. His donations of hand-carved backgammon sets and watercolor renderings of Armenian churches were big hits at our gala auctions year after year, and generated a lot of interest and financial support for ABMDR.
Hrach was an avid traveler, camper, hiker, and mountain climber. Even here, Hrach managed to use his hobbies and skills to bring attention to ABMDR: in 2013, when he reached the summit of Mount Ararat, he unfurled the ABMDR banner. For this, he and his partners received a Special Pride Award from ABMDR. A year later, he flew the banner at Mount Everest base camp.
A man of few words, Hrach was not easy to get to know. You had to work to draw things out of him. But once you did, you would discover an intense man, extremely gifted, with layers and layers of wide-ranging interests, layers and layers of deep kindness. He and I shared a few interests: flowers, watercolor, and making beautiful things with our hands. We exchanged a few seeds and cuttings. When I admired his exquisite watercolors of wild flowers and birds, he was excited and showed me more. When I asked him to make a hand-carved box to my particular specifications, he put his heart and soul into it and produced a gorgeous one, with beautiful details of rare and exotic woods. These were the threads that connected us. Our contacts were not frequent, but enough to give me a window, a glimpse, into this quiet and gentle man.
Hrach was a family man. He and Carmen spent a great deal of time traveling all over the world, and he always brought back mementos of his sojourns to his friends and family—whether in the form of a DVD of his visit to historic Armenia and the ruins of Ani, or a small piece of rock from the summit of Mount Ararat, he shared his curiosity, experiences, and exhilaration with people around him. Nowhere was this more evident than in his loving relationship with his grandchildren—whether taking them hiking, camping, fishing and canoeing, or simply through his vegetable garden and shed, he was playful, patient, and tender with the kids: a perfect granddad, teaching, guiding, leading, encouraging, daring, and protecting.
Hrach lived his life as a rich man: rich in interests, rich in talent, rich in experiences. He lived it to the fullest, and shared it all with his family and friends. And now he leaves behind all that wealth—that wealth of beautiful objects, experiences, and memories. It’s up to us to accept this gift, to cherish it, and to use it to keep his memory alive.
Dr. Vergine Madelian is Outreach and Education Officer of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry