The Der Manuelians: A Love Story for the Times
Some things are meant to be, like the blind date meeting of Julie Karadian and Raffi Der Manuelian. Romance arrived for them and bloomed when Raffi knocked at the door of his future in-laws, Julie’s parents Steve and Anne Karadian of West Bloomfield.
Raffi had come to Michigan from Lexington, Mass., after graduating from the University of Lowell with a mechanical engineering degree. He soon started his professional career at the AC Spark Plug Division of General Motors in Flint.
While working at AC, Raffi was also attending the University of Michigan for his MBA. Taking the same class as the young engineer was a close childhood friend of Julie’s. The friend recognized Raffi’s last name as being Armenian and asked if he had a girlfriend; he did not. With her permission, the friend gave Raffi Julie’s phone number.
The knock at the door would culminate into 25 years of marriage and 3 children: David, 21, a math and physics major at Oakland University (OU); Christopher, 19, a computer science major also at Oakland University; and Emily, 17, a senior at Rochester High School who also plans to attend OU next fall, following in the footsteps of their mother and aunt.
All of the siblings are high academic achievers and were on the first robotics team at their high school, where their father has been a mentor for eight years. Together they have traveled to many cities for robotics competitions. The Der Manuelian children were involved in various school clubs, activities, and sports during their high school years and still managed to be at the top of their class academically.
“It is a parent’s dream for all three of our children to receive scholarships to Oakland University. They are great kids and are driven to do well in school,” their parents say.
Steve Karadian was known to have said many times that Raffi was like a son to him. The Der Manuelians and Karadians, although separated by hundreds of miles, frequently traveled the distance to be together.
Raffi is currently a lead engineer in the Fuel Systems Group at GM and the couple resides in Rochester Hills. Before marriage, Julie had a position with a real estate management company. She became a stay-at-home mom chauffeuring and catering to the busy needs of her children.
The family, including sister Stephanie Karadian, all pulled together in the daily loving care of Ann and Steve during their illness. A more devoted family you would be hard pressed to find.
Julie and Raffi, mindful of their own upbringing, enrolled their youngsters at an early age in the St. Sarkis Sunday School program in Dearborn. They wanted to expose their children to Armenian history, culture, and tradition at a young age, disregarding the one-hour drive to and from church.
The distance to church in Dearborn was not daunting to these parents, who readily admit, “Being Armenian is in our blood.”
The Der Manuelians are pleased that schools are deciding to discuss the Armenian Genocide in their history classes and that their children are already up to speed on the subject by virtue on what they learned in Sunday School.
Having grown up in families with strong ties to their ethnic roots, Raffi and Julie have shared the stories of their exiled grandparents. The miracle is that David, Chris, and Emily actually listen intently to the stories and absorb them.
In these three intelligent young Armenian-Americans is a storehouse of inherited history, love of learning, and a strong unshakeable foundation.
This family is tied to Western Armenia, starting with Julie’s parents, Steve and Ann Karadian. Steve’s parents were Sahag and Yeranouhy (Tombalian) Karadian, Boursetzi. Ann’s parents were Bedros and Vera Varoug (Bagian) Keshigian, of Govdun, Sepastia.
Raffi’s parents were Vahram and Catherine Der Manuelian. Vahram’s parents were Barouyr and Veron Der Manuelian, of Chemishgezek. Catherine’s parents were Oscar and Catherine Bedigian
August is Dream Cruise time in Michgian, but cruising picks up speed in May and the Der Manuelian Team is right in there with Raffi’s prize-winning mint 1968 Dodge Charger. The family cruises together going to car shows and various classic events, which are frequent in this car loving state.
The family has vacationed in 42 states, sharing their love of travel around this scenic country. They tour national parks, presidential birth places, and cemeteries, exploring places off the beaten path, occasionally throwing in an ocean vacation.
The Der Manuelian kids have enjoyed stays at Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Mass., where they have collected many wonderful experiences and memories.
Recently, the Armenian Weekly featured interesting details about what is called the Armenian Orphan Rug. Steve Karadian’s mother, which is Julie’s paternal grandmother, Yeranouhy (Tombalian) Karadian, a Boursetzi, worked on that rug as a genocide orphan. Steve was so proud of that, and rightfully Julie is too. Dr. Hagop Martin Deranian wrote the book President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug, which includes a picture of the young girls that worked on the rug, including Yeranouhy.
Julie remembers her grandmother telling her she worked on the animals. “It would be very moving to walk up to that rug and see the little animals her hands made,” Julie said. “I’ll need a few tissues for that one.”
“Raffi and I have now lost our parents and many family members. It is probably the hardest thing we have had to go through in our marriage. We look back on only happy memories, though, never the sad times. We move forward, hoping and praying for good health and a long happy life.”
How could their story be any better? And it all started with a dashing gentleman’s knock at the door.
When Julie and Raffi wed in August 1990, it was a wish-come-true for both families. They were joined by many relatives from Massachusetts and the East Coast to celebrate the happy event.
Julie recalls the wedding day: “All our deceased grandparents were on my mind that day. I hope they were all dancing right along with us. We named our children David Vahram after Raffi’s dad, Christopher Stepan after my dad, and Emily Vera after my maternal grandmother.”
“I wish Raffi’s dad could have known the kids. He passed away exactly a year before David was born.”
The Der Manuelians’ life lesson: “Our parents instilled in us strong family values, the importance of getting a good education, the value of hard work, and of course the importance of finding an Armenian spouse!”
Link: The Der Manuelians: A Love Story for the Times