From AYF Olympics 2012 Special Issue
By Harry Derderian
There were continued Sonny Gavoor sightings at the recent AYF Olympics in Boston. Not unusual, one would say, because Sonny and his wife and best friend Violet have missed only some five Olympics since he stopped competing 53 years ago. What was unusual is that Sonny had a heart valve replaced on June 25, ironically the birthday of son Mark.
This was Sonny’s biggest win, in a lifetime of many wins. His recovery was remarkable, given his 83 years of age. His life long regimen of healthy living and exercise was the foundation of optimism for the open-heart surgery with a team led by Dr. Stephen Keteyian, the brother of national network sports commentator Armen Keteyian.
For many years, Sonny would do his genuinely brisk walk daily along Five Mile Road and Newburgh Road in Livonia, Mich. It surely paid off!
“What also helps a lot is having a super wife of some 60 years,” Sonny told me with his characteristic smile and gleam in his eye.
The idea of going to Boston was unthought of and touchy for a while, but Sonny’s recovery was rapid and in the end, Sonny and Violet made the trip to be with their kids, grandchildren, and a wide array of extended AYF family and relationships spanning so many years.
With that longevity, Sonny—and Vi—have become patriarchs of sorts at the Labor Day games.
Sonny knows and coached many of the parents, and now he knows and offers suggestions their kids.
Where did Sonny’s motivation come from?
At this point, Sonny shows a bit of his emotional nature as he mentions Merton Bozoian, Arthur
Giragosian, and Jim Mandalian, leaders in the eastern region who fostered a sense of nationalistic pride and sense of community with an accent on educating and engaging the youth.
With regard to the youth, Sonny has become a leader in his own right. “It’s all about the kids,” Sonny has often said as he reflects on the AYF and Homenetmen. “We have to encourage our youth to be together in the AYF family and in the community, as it is the basis of true relationships that last a lifetime. The kids also are our future, whether in taking on future roles supporting the church or any of our organizations.”
His favorite Olympics?
“Easy. Going back when I was in the Watertown AYF, we had six participants and beat Providence. The second, our first Detroit AYF Olympic win that I coached,” Sonny states with pride.”
“We have had some great talent here in Detroit and it is satisfying to help a motivated Olympic participant seek higher levels,” he added. The AYF parents in Detroit have been very supportive, taking their kids to track practice, Junior Olympics all over the Mid-West, and Senior Olympics all over the region, with a deep sense of conviction. “We have a super AYF family here in Detroit,” he said.
For Sonny, it is all about the kids. He has been a coach and friend to so many. In 1990, the regional Homenetmen games were to be held in Detroit, and he was asked to help organize the games and also serve as coach of the Detroit unit. As a result, he continued as coach and in an advisory capacity for the worldwide Homenetmen games, taking teams to Beirut, Greece, and Toronto, and bringing his expertise to improving the Homenetmen World Games.
Sonny passed on knowledge from his days with early AYF Olympic Governing Bodies, serving with the likes of Avo Alashaian, Armen Boyajian, Shant Chebookjian, and Dave Papazian.
In the local collegiate environment, Sonny—and daughter Nancy—have coached Schoolcraft College and elevated that school to national level participation in cross country meets.
Let’s not forget the Gavoor family achievements. Sonny and Violet feel great pride in the AYF Olympic achievement of their children, led by Nancy’s astounding total of 144 points, the girls’ co-top scorer in Olympics with long time chum Jill Tosoian Dolik.
Nancy was an Eastern Michigan University standout trackster, son Mark played lacrosse at the University of Michigan (UM), grandson Aram on the UM crew team, and grand- daughter Armene tennis at St. Mary’s College, same as mom, Judy. Apples don’t fall far from the tree.
But all along, AYF members who have come and gone—in Detroit or elsewhere—have benefitted from a man who has seen the AYF as his extended family.
The 79th AYF Olympics: Sonny’s family and extended family joyfully celebrated Sonny’s biggest win.