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James (Hagop) Makoulian was born in Jerusalem, Palestine to Asadour and Nectar Makoulian on October 14, 1926. James was the youngest of three children. James and his two older sisters were orphaned at a young age. The children spent several years at the Armenian Home Orphanage in Shemlan, Lebanon. At the age of thirteen, James was separated from his sisters and had to take various odd jobs in the region. He eventually moved back to Palestine and lived there until the partition of Palestine in 1948, when the fighting and lack of work and food forced James to wander as a refugee through Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
James made his way to the United States in December 1956. He knew two people by name only. He was able to get a job and attended vocational school. After graduating in 1962, James went to work at the University of Pennsylvania in the Physics Department and then, as an invaluable employee at the School of Engineering until his retirement in 1995. James married Sona Keusseyan in December 1964. James & Sona made their home in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania where they raised their three children.
James was very active in the Armenian community. He was a lifelong member of Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church where he held many positions of service, including Chairman of the Board of Trustees, member of the Mission Outreach Committee, head of the Coffee Hour, and, on several occasions, Grand Chef. Throughout his life, James was also involved in the Armenian Students’ Association, Knar Choral Group, Philadelphia Armenian Theatrical Group, Armenian Cultural Group, American Armenian Society, and the Knights of Vartan, for which he was the local branch Commander for one term and received the Man of the Year award in 2009.
James loved volleyball, tavloo (backgammon), swimming in the ocean, telling jokes, making his famous iced tea, shish kabob (cooking and eating), and most of all, gardening. He was an award-winning vegetable and flower gardener. He was even featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on the local news for his gardening prowess.
James went to his eternal rest on June 18, 2019. He will be dearly missed by his wife, Sona, their three children, and their spouses, Haig, Tina (Paul), and Sylvia (David), and eight grandchildren: Jacob, Juliet, Nicholas, Claire, Audrey, Luke, Samantha and Alexandria, as well as many relatives and friends.
Armenian Martyrs' Congregational Church
100 North Edmonds Avenue, Havertown PA 19083
Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA)
31 West Century Road, Paramus NJ 07652