Hovhannes Voskeridjian was born on May 6, 1928 in Cairo, Egypt. He was the third child of Garabed and Aghavnie, both of whom were Genocide survivors. Unfortunately, Garabed died at a young age, leaving Aghavnie at the age of 35 to care for 5 children. The sudden death of their father solidified the bonds within the household. Family meant everything to Hovhannes. He revered his two older brothers Hagop and twin brother Khacho and adored his younger sisters Madeleine and Flora. They were active in the Church and the Armenian community. Hovhannes along with his siblings were musically inclined. They played instruments and had wonderful singing voices. The 5 siblings were truly a singing and dancing group that loved to get together and celebrate.
Hovhannes began serving on the altar at the age of 8. He looked forward to every Sunday and would arrive at church extra early so he could secure his position as a candle holder. He often tussled with one boy in particular who also arrived early. That boy Hovhannes Bedros XVIII Kasparian later served as Catholicos of Armenian Catholics from 1982-1999. From Cairo, Beirut, Montreal, New York, and Philadelphia, Hovhannes served the Armenian Catholic Church for over 84 years.
In addition to the church, Hovhannes was an avid lover of the stage. His veneration of the theater too started at an early age. In Cairo alone, he participated in more than 40 plays. He continued his acting career in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1960’s. While preparing for the role of Vartan in Vartanantz, he met Therese Djabrayan, playing the role of Mezdn Diginuh. His love for the theater and love for Therese united and blossomed. Eventually they were to be married and started their lives together in the United States. In the 1970’s Hovhannes became an active member of the New York Hamazkayin Theatrical group under the direction of Herand Markarian. He performed in Vartanank, Parki Vashkharooner, Aghotkis Mee Kharnuvir, Medz Lrutiun, Sophigee Sukhaluh, Horizonneren Hrgizvadz, Ughevore, Shurchane, Soghomon Tehlirian and Haverjee Janabarheen. He also performed in Sudakhose with the AGBU Ardashad Theatrical Group under the direction of Krikor Satamian. Arevelian Adamnapouje with the Tekeyan Cultural Association Mher Megerdichian Theatrical Group under the direction of Vartanian Hovhanissian and Morgani Khenamin under the direction of Karine Kocharian, Armenian Star Artist and a monolog for Voice of Armenia, TVNY. He had performed in countless cities across the United States and in Canada. Twice he had the privilege of performing in Armenia. Whether he was the main character or had a cameo appearance, his theater presence was grand. The stage lit up with his talent and innate ability to captivate his audience. In 1991, together with Hamazkayin Theater Group, he participated in the Festival of the Diasporan Theater. In 2015, in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, he played the role of Vahram Garabet in Kemal Yalcin’s You Rejoice My Heart under the direction of Karine Kocharian and alongside renowned Armenian actors Arthur Karapetyan and Satik Hakhnazarian. The highlight of his acting career was receiving the Armenian Theatrical Actors Association Gold Medal for 75 years of dedication and the William Saroyan Gold Medal of Diasporan Theater Dedication.
As much as he loved serving the church and the stage, nothing compared to the love he had for his wife Therese and the life they built together. They were married for almost 55 years and were partners in every sense of the word. They lived and worked together every day from the very start. They owned and operated a dry-cleaning business where Hovhannes won several awards for his ability to remove the worst stains from the most fragile fabrics. For over a decade they left the dry-cleaning business and started Voskedar. During this time, they typeset hundreds of books from prominent Armenian writers and poets culminating with Therese’s first book Armadner and her second book, the first Western Armenian translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince.
Hovhannes and Therese had two children Armen (Patricia) and Arpy (Asadur) and five grandchildren, Vahe, Aleni, Sareen, Nare and Hovan. Nothing in this world brought Hovhannes more joy than his 5 grandchildren. Each one held a special place in his heart. His love for them was unconditional and their happiness was his number one goal. Their favorite fruits, candy or chocolate was on his weekly shopping list. He encouraged their talents and gifted them readily. He praised them often and always reminded them to listen and respect their parents. And until recently, serving on the altar every Sunday alongside his son-in-law, Asadur and grandchildren Vahe, Sareen and Nare provided him true contentment, honor and pride. He marveled at the natural talents of Aleni and Hovan. He would boast about Aleni’s artistic abilities and get a gleam in his eye listening to Hovan’s wit and performance on stage. He felt fortunate to see Vahe, Sareen and Nare almost daily. And he looked forward to the nightly routine of Arpy coming over at nights to wind down from the day, enjoy a glass (or two) of wine while recounting the days activities, talking politics and the state of Armenian affairs. He never missed his grandchildren’s performances, recitations, awards, or celebrations. He was present at every milestone and knew how to party.
Hovhannes worked hard every day of his life. The boy who lost his father when he was only 10 spent a lifetime working to insure stability for his family. He was a jack of all trades. From his early days in Cairo, hand rolling cigarettes in a tobacco factory, learning to wire in an electric company, to owning, along with his brothers Hagop and Khacho, Gavros a tool and dye manufacturing company boasting over 100 employees. Immigrating to Lebanon, then the United States he was not afraid to work hard to put food on the table. He was the son of survivors and with Therese by his side, survived many ups and downs in his life. Had his life been different, he may have been a famous actor. He continued to act on stage until he was 87 years old, without missing a beat. He even had an appearance on the Philadelphia series HACK back in 2003. Although life did not allow him to pursue his true passions, he made sure his son and daughter had every opportunity he did not. He provided them the best education, vacations, and music lessons, driving them weekly to piano lessons for fifteen years. He would use that time to instill and reinforce the Armenian language and teach them songs. Thirty years later, the American Dream was in fact a reality when his son walked across the stage to henceforth be called Dr. Armen Voskeridjian. From that day forward any and every health concern was mitigated and resolved with a quick call or a passing remark to Armen. How fitting that after a long, productive, beautiful life, he took his last breaths in the arms of his son, who caressed and stroked him as he passed from this world to join all those who passed before him. The ones he loved so deeply, their deaths chipping away at his heart, his father, his mother, his sister Flora, his brother Hagop, most notably and devastatingly his nephew Garo and most recently his twin Khacho. Family meant everything to him. He was a wonderful and caring husband, dedicated father and grandfather, uncle, and great uncle.
To know Hovhannes was to love him. He epitomized the true meaning of a gentlemen. He was proud yet playful, reticent and yet a great raconteur. He could talk to anyone for hours. He loved politics and could watch the news for hours. He was proud to live the American Dream and took voting very seriously. He dressed in a suit and tie to vote because it was an honor not to be taken lightly. He spoke seven languages (a trait he shared with his daughter-in-law Patricia), and could tell stories for hours. He had an unbelievable delivery and facial expressions that would have you laughing or crying so hard you could not breathe. He played the mandolin expertly and could follow any tune. It was only during St. Mark’s 90th Anniversary celebration that we found out that a young boy name Robert Chilingirian used to work for him in his Flushing, NY dry cleaners and he taught him how to play the mandolin. He never boasted. It was Robert who ran to Hovhannes to hug him and shared the story. He was an amazing tenor and sang in Armenian chorus groups wherever he lived and throughout his entire life. He served his Church, his community, and his family and he did so with respect and love. Hovhannes was dedicated to all around him. He was the first to visit the sick, offer help to others, even giving financial aid when he himself needed money to pay bills. He was a true gentle giant of a personality, the last of a generation who paved the way for the rest of us and taught us the true meaning of loyalty and honor. His memory will live on in Therese, Armen, Patricia, Arpy, Asadur, his nephew and niece, their families and to all those he touched during his 92 years on this earth. His legacy will live on through Vahe, Aleni, Sareen, Nare and Hovan. They lost an angel on this earth but gained an angel in heaven who will watch and guide them as they continue their lives. He would want each of them to be the best that they could be, to remember that they are here because their great grandparents survived the Armenian Genocide. They are here because their grandparents were not afraid to work hard and to start over time and time again. They are here because they too can make a difference and leave their mark on this world. He would advise them to live, laugh, to love, to trust their faith and treasure their family today and every day. His vacant seat at the head of our table will be blinding and the absence of his voice will be deafening. Although he is no longer with us, Hovhannes is alive in our hearts and in our memories. Truly a gentle man with a heart of gold, he will be deeply missed and never forgotten. God rest his soul.
Due to Covid restrictions services will be private. We ask however, that you take a moment and offer a prayer for the repose of his soul.
In lieu of flowers Hovhannes Voskeridjian would have wanted a gift to be made to:
St. Marks Armenian Catholic Church
400 Haverford Rd.
Wynnewood, PA 19096
S.O.A.R. Families of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund
150 N. Radnor Chester Rd., Suite F200
Radnor, PA 19087
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Hovhannes Voskeridjian, please visit our floral store.
St. Mark's Armenian Catholic Church
400 Haverford Rd., Wynnewood PA 19096
S.O.A.R. Families of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund
150 North Radnor Chester Road, Suite F200, Radnor PA 19087