By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
This column is devoted to Serge Samoniantz, former English editor of Asbarez newspaper for 10 years, and current editor of The California Courier for the last 25 years.
Serge is a modest person who has worked quietly most of his life, shunning any attention to himself. When I told him last Sunday night that he was about to be honored by Asbarez, Serge whimsically replied in his typical self-deprecating style: “Did they run out of people to honor?”
The occasion for honoring Serge was the banquet celebrating the 105th anniversary of Asbarez, one of the world’s oldest Armenian newspapers. Asbarez began publication in 1908 in Fresno, California, and moved to Los Angeles in the 1970’s.
While my weekly columns receive considerable attention by being published in dozens of newspapers worldwide and posted hundreds websites in half dozen languages, Serge quietly prepares The California Courier for publication each week. He is in charge of everything from news gathering to editing, layout, and advertising.
The management of Asbarez should be commended for honoring Serge. Even though he hasn’t worked for Asbarez since 1988, the newspaper’s current Armenian and English editors, Apo Boghigian and Ara Khachatourian, had not forgotten their former colleague and wished to express their appreciation for his good work a quarter century later. It is not very often that Armenian organizations remember their employees and organize banquets in their honor.
While it is proper to recognize those who donate considerable sums to Armenian institutions, since not much can be accomplished without their generous contributions, it is just as important to honor humble servants of the nation, who have devoted their entire lives to the community, such as teachers, journalists, and clergymen.
Making the celebration truly memorable was the surprise announcement that His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, had bestowed upon Mr. Samoniantz the Mesrob Mashdots Medal. His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, read the special encyclical prepared by the Catholicosate, as he pinned the Medal of Honor on Mr. Samoniantz.
I was asked to introduce Serge at the October 20th banquet, held at the Baghramian Hall in Montebello. Here are my introductory remarks which include a short biography of Mr. Samoniantz:
Serge was born in 1943 in Marseilles, France, where he lived until age 9. His family moved to San Paolo, Brasil, in 1952 and then to Massachusetts in 1961. He joined the Armenian Youth Federation and then the ARF Keri Gomideh in 1966, after moving to Montebello, California.
In 1964, Serge enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and was honorably discharged as sergeant in 1970. After completing his military service, Serge attended California State University at Los Angeles, graduating with a degree in History. He later received a Certificate from UCLA in Public Relations.
Starting in 1973, Serge assumed the editorship of the English edition of Asbarez for seven years. He then served as Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee, Western U.S., from 1983 to 1984. He then resumed his previous post as the English editor of Asbarez from 1985 to 1988.
In 1985, Serge and I were part of the ANC delegation in Geneva, Switzerland, successfully lobbying for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United Nations.
In 1988, Serge joined the California Courier as editor where he has been employed for 25 years. He is a consummate journalist and a top notch professional. It has been a great honor and pleasure for me to work with him both as a close friend and colleague for a quarter century!
Serge is a quiet man and tireless worker. He has been a life-long activist in various social and political issues and a staunch defender of the Armenian Cause.
Sharing the joy of Serge's honor was his family, including his wife Mariam, sister-in-law Laura Manukian, his son Raffi and wife Nano, and their two children, Emilly and Sebouh.
Congratulations to Serge Samoniantz for his unwavering dedication to Armenian journalism for the past 35 years and congratulations to the staff of Asbarez for their hard work and commitment to continue the legacy of those who founded the newspaper 105 years ago!