By Astghik Bedevian
Alex Manoogian, one of the most prominent Diaspora Armenian philanthropists, and his wife were reburied in Armenia with state honors on Tuesday more than a decade after their death in the United States.
The remains of Alex and Marie Manoogians were laid to rest near the main cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in a state funeral attended by Catholicos Garegin II, President Robert Kocharian and other top government officials. They were flown from Detroit and escorted to the church headquarters in Echmiadzin by an honor guard of the Armenian army on Friday.
Speaking at a reception that followed the funeral service in Echmiadzin, Garegin paid tribute to the U.S.-Armenian businessman’s lifetime support for worldwide Diaspora communities and Armenia. “Our souls are happy today to see the bodies of Alex and Marie Manoogian interred in their beloved homeland, in Saint Echmiadzin, which was so dear to their hearts,” he said.
“The life and activities of Alex Manoogian were a unique embodiment of love and dedication to his family, his people and the Fatherland,” parliament speaker Tigran Torosian said, for his part.
Manoogian, who died in Detroit in 1996 at the age of 95, is primarily known as a former longtime president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the largest Diaspora Armenian charity founded in 1906 and currently headquartered in New York. His nearly four-decade leadership of the non-profit organization was marked a dramatic expansion of its worldwide activities.
With an annual international budget of $36 million, AGBU finances educational, cultural and humanitarian programs which benefit hundreds of thousands of Armenians around the world each year. Its activities in Armenia began in Soviet times and were expanded in the late 1980s. AGBU has provided more than $50 million worth of humanitarian and other assistance to the country since the Soviet collapse.
The Armenian Church has been another major beneficiary of AGBU aid. Much of it has been spent on the construction of new churches, notably a massive cathedral in Yerevan. Incidentally, an open-air altar where Garegin led a prayer service during the funeral was built with AGBU funding in 2001.
During the early 1990s, Manoogian became the first Diaspora Armenian to receive Armenia’s highest state award, the title of National Hero, by then President Levon Ter-Petrosian. That is why his coffin was draped with the Armenian national flag.
Louise Manoogian Simone, the deceased couple’s daughter who officially ran AGBU between 1991 and 2002, was also present at the ceremony along with her brother Richard. She thanked Garegin for initiating the high-profile reburial.