A funeral is a somber occasion, where an air of dignity and respect are the order of the day, but there is much to be said about some light-hearted humor interjected at the appropriate time to help start the healing process.
Armenians traditionally hold a hokejash following the religious service to honor the soul of the deceased. It is after this meal when those close to the family speak of the highlights and successes of the person who’s passed away.
Several people recently spoke at Steve Karadian’s hokejash, revealing the fine character this loving family man possessed. Steve had a friend, Aram (Sonny) Gavoor, who like himself was also prominent in the banking industry and active in the Armenian community.
Gavoor had this to say: “I had great admiration for Steve Karadian. We spoke weekly, bank to bank. Upper management thought he was outstanding. He was just a great guy. We spoke often during his illness.”
A group of us were sitting at the table with Steve’s daughter Julie and her husband Raffi DerManuelian. To add a little levity at the conclusion of the formal speeches, I started to tease tablemates Rose and George Mouradian about the adventuresome twosome’s camping trip to Alaska. A hungry bear had caught wind of an enticing aroma and had invaded the camp to locate the item. The bear soon scampered off into the woods, but not without the Mouradian’s stash of basterma.
I remembered that Steve’s wife, Anne Karadian, was possibly the only Armenian I ever knew who disliked basterma, and it seemed like a good time to bring that matter up. She absolutely hated the smell of basterma, but her husband loved it and frequently made basterma and eggs for himself.
Also sitting at our table was Marty Hochbaum, the husband of Julie’s friend Alison. I asked Marty if he knew what basterma was, and of course he did not. Julie began describing the spice and garlicky beef delicacy to Marty, and I continued my explanation: “Basterma is delicious. I call it the Armenian birth control.” The DerManuelians and everyone burst out laughing, and it was just what this table needed to lighten the mood.
Julie said her mother would have died laughing at the comment, adding, “She would not go near dad after he enjoyed his basterma. Maybe that is why they only had two kids! I remember my mother spraying air freshener all over the house because she could not stand the odor.”
Steve Karadian’s friend Chris Spounias told Julie the story about how the two of them, unknown to Anne, used to go into Highland Park, a blighted city, to collect bricks from the Karadian homestead on Pasadena Avenue, which had burned and fallen apart.
“You could take my dad out of Highland Park, but you could not take Highland Park out of my dad.”
“We wondered what all those bricks were piled in the garage. My dad swore Chris to secrecy because my mother worried about dad’s safety and she would have had a fit if she knew he was going into Highland Park.”
“My sister Stefanie went to dad’s house, retrieved one of those bricks and put it by his feet in the casket. Dad would have loved that.”
Scout masters Steve Karadian, George Mouradian, and George Krikorian had welcomed Movses Movsesian and his four sons into the St. Sarkis Church troupe of 25-30. The men even attended classes on proper teaching techniques for scoutmasters. Several young men became Eagle Scouts. They went on monthly camping trips and attended the Boy Scout Jamboree. To this day those scouts have respect for their scoutmasters.
Movsesian said Steve’s snoring was legendary. Steve called it serenading. He then added, “We played tricks on the newcomers. We always had a campfire, and of course smoke would get in your eyes no matter where you sat, so we would tell the new scouts to go to the next camp and ask the scoutmaster for a ‘smoke shifter.’”
Julie DerManuelian took her mother a dinner from the hokejash—telling her, “It was from church”—and a rose from her father’s casket. “If she only knew.”
Just days before passing away, Steve had been moved to the same facility where his wife is, and on Saturday a family picnic was held for everyone. “They loved going out for ice cream, and on this day they had ice cream together for the last time,” Julie said. “Mom kissed dad’s hand for the last time. Dad died the next day with the tricolor flag in his hand. Now I know everything has come full circle for my parents.”