Rev. Dr. Mesrob Tashjian Kept His ‘Kids’ Together

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Whether it was the altar of God or the frenzy of a basketball court—a schoolhouse room or church picnic—Rev. Dr. Mesrob Tashjian was a “kid” at heart.

Rev. Dr. Mesrob Tashjian

He never allowed his clerical collar to stand in the way of humility. If anything, it authenticated his belief that titles were simply a matter of protocol and yes, respect, but in no way bravado.

The beloved pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church took his place among the most popular clergymen of his time or any other era. He was endeared by his flock, including the youth of his community.

Simply put, he never put himself in a compromising position when it came time to attract his future parishioners. In some ways, this spiritual icon was the Armenian answer to the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

His death July 23 signaled the end of an era for Providence, where his tenure covered four decades of dedicated service. He was 92, spending his latter days in California.

“Without a doubt, many people have their own impressions of this giant of a man,” said Steve Elmasian, a close friend and community activist. “Der Mesrob touched the lives of generations whether through baptisms, weddings, funerals and countless other ways.

“He commanded the crowd’s attention whether he stood on a pulpit and having lunch with the political elite of Rhode Island,” added Elmasian. “You’d find him on a street corner in Yerevan attracting friends and acquaintances or in his village of Aleppo which he always called home.”

When he traveled to Armenia for the Second Independence, like Evangelist Billy Graham, he would start speaking and people gathered around to hear his message. When he finished, literally hundreds where there soaking in his every word.

Then off he’d go to another place and the same scenario would occur. None of the speeches were scheduled. They just…happened.

Our paths crossed frequently, whether it was a picnic, festival, bazaar or church anniversary. He always took the time to rekindle a friendship.

Of all the unlikeliest of places, he’d find his way to a gym where his beloved Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) basketball team would be playing its game. No back seat for this emotional fan. He took his place at the end of the bench but not before giving his very own pep talk to the boys.

Any coach—whether it was Gary Giragosian or another—couldn’t help being taken aback by his presence. The same could be said for the Olympics or any other such venue. When it came to competitive spirit, Der Mesrob set his own tone.

And if he didn’t agree to a referee’s call, out came a verbal tirade. I saw him once jump from his seat to set the record straight. What leg did a referee have to stand on when a disciple of God was in his face?

Perhaps he was playing their game. He happened to be a fitness buff himself who kept himself in peak physical condition. He played soccer with the Homenetmen and spoke at no fewer than 37 AYF Victory Ball dinners. He brought both organizations to unity and Providence became all the better for it.

You saw him compete in the sprints at the CVS Cranston Senior Games, dressed in black running attire.

He was a learned man, always trying best to better himself. Being schooled for a doctorate was his choice—not the Prelacy’s, not his own community’s, but by his very own intuition. It didn’t come easy, in the midst of keeping an active parish buoyant, along with maintaining his own family.

I remember him telling me how he tried being a role model for the others. Perhaps if he found the time and energy to return to school, so would others. So would his peers. And he went back with a flourish, securing honorable grades.

When Catholicos Karekin the First came to the Marriott Hotel years ago, he boasted about the Providence community with pride with its long and storied history of developing leaders at all levels.

It’s a concentrated hotbed of all sorts around these parts—a myriad of endless activities and events that would choke any calendar. Der Mesrob had a way of inculcating progress and getting people to do the work.

Whether it was his infectious personality or his rank and file, the job got done. Many of his young constituents became the future leaders of his community. More than one bore the Varadian name or happened to be a Giragosian.

A crowd of 850 showed up for his retirement party at the Venus De Milo. The Reverent Doctor Mesrob Tashjian Educational Center is named in his honor at the church. You can access it from the Armenia Street side. His legacy knows no end.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Source: Armenian Weekly
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