The first time I met Jack Mouradian was on a Saturday afternoon in the winter of 1965. It was at a meeting in Hamilton Ontario, between representatives of ARF Executive Committees (Gomidai) of Southern Ontario. Vazken Terzian had asked Kourken Magarian one of the Toronto representatives to bring me along. (At the time I was visiting Toronto and was staying in the Simcoe Hotel that I wrote about in a previous blog about Kourken).
It was a meeting chaired by Jack as the president “Ատենապետ” of the Regional Executive (RE), “Շրջանային Գործադիր Մարմին” (Qordsateer). He was a handsome-looking man in his mid to late sixties. He had a blond complexion and looked more like a Canadian than an Armenian immigrant from an old country that he could have been due to his age. He reminded me of then the popular actor/singer Bing Crosby.
That summer I was elected a member of Qordsateer and for many years I enjoyed the friendship of Vazken, and still do. But unfortunately, my friend, rather than my “apprenticeship” to Jack, lasted only a few years due to his untimely death.
It is hard to write about Jack without writing also about Vazken. They were a duo that perfectly complemented each other. Jack the wise and the experienced fatherly figure, and Vazken, young and full of energy. At the time, together, they were considered to be the leaders of ARF Canada, Jack as the “Chairman of the Board”, and Vazken like the young “CEO” if I may say so.
Jack was a “Bon Vivant”. He was well to do financially and drove a Cadillac that at the time was considered to be the “trademark” of the rich people. He lived in Hamilton and was an avid golfer. He “owned” a Golf Course in Burlington. (I do not know whether he was a part-owner or investor in the Golf Course, but he acted like he “owned” the place. He had a private office where we use to have the Qordsateer meetings. (The office was equipped with a liquor cabinet stocked with his favored whisky, plus more, and a small fridge for beer and soft drinks).
The official address, of the Qordsateer, was in ARF Club (Agoomp) in St Catherine which was like a second home for Vazken. He lived not far from Agoomp with his parents and younger brother Varoujan. Vazken voluntarily managed the affairs of Qordsateer as the executive secretary that took most of his spare, and even his vacation time. (Qordsateer meetings were convened either at Hamilton ARF Agoomp on Princess street, or at Jack’s Gulf Course office, in Burlington, and seldom in Saint Catherine).
Jack played also a leadership role in Liberal Party in Hamilton. I recall during the first election campaign of John Munro as a Member of Parliament (MP) from Hamilton, Jack got me involved in the campaign as a canvasser and scrutineer with Erny “Աշոտ” Eloian? a Canada born second-generation ARF member. It was a great experience in the politics of Canada.
At the victory dinner party, John Munro came to our table and thanked Jack for his support and said something like, “it is time to relax and take a break”, and I recall Jack telling him “you cannot afford to take a break, you start your next campaign tomorrow and every day is a campaign day”. At the time it sounded like an unusual comment, but later on, when I got involved in other election campaigns, it proved to be not only true but also the “norm” for elections of Members of Parliament, if not for all public office elections.
In a recent article in a Toronto Armenian magazine “TORONTOHY” , Vazken’s daughter Talyn, characterized Vazken as a “diplomat” and she is absolutely right. So was also Vasken’s mentor, Jack Mouradian. They both were consensus builders especially so whenever there were divisive issues at the Gomidai level or during the conventions both in USA and Canada.
During my Canadian/Armenian “apprenticeship” with Jack and Vazken I had many memorable experiences with them and enjoyed their friendship and benefited from their experience and wisdom. Through them, I got to know also the ARF organizations in Canada either during Qordsateer visits to Gomidai(s), or at the Canadian Regional Conventions.
Through Qordsateer’s yearly meetings with the CE in Boston, I got to know also the leadership of the ARF, of the USA East Coast, where Jack and Vazken were well respected and treated like they were part of that leadership as well. Despite his age, Jack loved to travel with us to Boston and Montreal. Jack was an excellent companion with good humor.
During the ARF conventions in various cities on the USA East Coast, Jack and Vazken were like the “Canadian Team” co-chairing the conventions. (Jack was a heavy smoker, had a habit of taking “smoke breaks”, (or done it intentionally), to let young Vazken chair the meeting as co-secretary. Vazken handled the dual responsibilities rather well).
Jack was also one of the few ARF members who had participated in the ARF world Congress “Ընդհանուր Ժողով” in Cairo as one of the two, or three delegates from the USA East Coast. I have heard from Vazken that, at the time, contrary to ARF policy, Jack was also a high-ranking Mason in Hamilton. During the convention, he had managed to have a private and very confrontational meeting with Vahan Navasartian the powerful and controversial president of the ARF World Council (Buro) and a staunch anti-Mason proponent.
He had told Vahan Navasartian that he will write his resignation from the Mason organization right there in front of him if he could convince him how his membership or activities as a Mason was contrary to ARF policies or activities. Jack was not the type who will take a no for an answer. He had “won” the confrontational argument, and continued his leadership role in the Mason organization till his untimely death.
Vasken also says that, by Jack’s invitation, the Canadian Ambassador in Cairo had attended the welcoming banquet for the delegates at the ARF World Congress. Jack, as the co-chair of the convention, had welcomed the delegates in English, and at the end of the welcoming remarks complemented the “spring chicken” menu and interpreted it in Armenian and said “Հիմա վայելեցեք ձեր համով գարնանային վառեակները”.(Now enjoy your delicious spring chickens) that sounded funny, more so in Armenian, and got everyone laughing.
(Years later when Canada became independent from Boston CE and had the right to send one delegate to the ARF World Congress in Paris, Vasken became that first delegate to represent Canada in the World Congress. Worthy honorees indeed)
But the highlight of Jack’s achievements was at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide commemoration’s main event at Royal York Hotel in Toronto. This was the only “luxurious” and “inappropriate”Armenian Genocide commemoration event that I have ever got involved in, or attended.
It was a commemoration of victory and survival and the brain child of Jack Mouradian. It was a banquet held in the most expensive hotel in Toronto, the Royal York Hotel, and in it’s most luxurious banquet hall, the Royal Ballroom, with a capacity of about thousand people.
At the time, maybe, the whole southern Ontario Community was no more than two thousand people and Toronto hardly half of it. It was a huge and expensive undertaking. Every Gomidai specially the Toronto Gomidai, did their best to sell the expensive tickets to fill the big hall. Montreal attended with maybe two hundred people including the large coir conducted by maestro Yervant Alexanian and most of the attendees were accommodated in private homes in Toronto.
Jack was the Master of Ceremony (MC) and the head table guests included many prominent politicians from municipal, provincial, and federal, branches of the governments and if my memory serves me well it included also then the foreign minister Paul Martin Sr. Jack put the whole event in context if I may say so, with his opening remarks.
After thanking every one for their efforts for paying respect to the Victims of the Armenian Genocide in their local Commemoration Meetings “Յուշատոն”, he said this event was for us, the victorious survivors, and it is time to celebrate it. Jack was the embodiment of that victorious survivors with his self confidence and assertive personality, and a successful life with many achievements to back it up.
He managed to conveyed that victorious survivor’s feeling to the banquet attendees with his eloquent speech both in content and delivery. He got an standing ovation. No any other speaker, not even the guest speaker, then the very popular Radio and TV personality Charles Templeton could “outshine” Jack.
Jack died by a heart attack while golfing on “his” beloved Golf Course and was survived by his wife Nazely, a very sweet and gracious lady, and by his son Ara, a nuclear scientist and later the president of the Chalk River Nuclear Facilities. Աստուած հոգին լուսաւորէ.
Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian