Mina Hovanessian Shirvanian was born on July 29, 1928, in Nor Jugha, Iran to Vazganoush, a physician from Javakhk and Hambartsoum, a school principal from Shushi. She was proud to represent both those communities. Sadly, Mina lost her father and two brothers at a very young age. She then moved to Sultanabad with her mother, who was the only female physician in the city. Influenced by her mother’s strong spirit, Mina was an outstanding student and an avid reader. By the sixth grade, she had read every book in the school library.
Mina married Hacob Shirvanian in 1946 and they were therafter blessed with two children, Alice and Armen. Following in her father’s footsteps, she became the principal of the Seventh Day Adventist Elementary School in Tehran. In 1956, the Shirvanians came to the United States through New York harbor on the Queen Mary. They reunited with Hacob’s sister Angel and her family in Springfield, Massachusetts and then went on to join Hacob’s brother Kosti and sister Savey in California, making Los Angeles their home. The Shirvanians became whole again when Hacob’s older sister Anelka and her family joined them in Los Angeles in 1967.
During this time, Mina worked at Prudential Insurance to help support the family and after 35 years, rather than retiring, she chose to be an active participant in her son’s Mi Piace restaurants until the age of 83.
As a community leader and volunteer, Mina’s priority was to ensure that children raised in America would not lose their Armenian identity. She helped charter the first Iranian-Armenian organization in the U.S. and became its first female President. Mina co-founded the AYF Soghomon Tehlirian Hollywood Junior chapter – the first AYF Junior chapter in California – and was an active member and President of the Ferrahian Armenian School PTA. She loved to share Armenian poetry with the community, often taking to the stage to recite poetry and give speeches.
While Hacob held appointments at the State and Federal levels, Mina chose to be the ultimate local volunteer and activist. LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich appointed Mina to the Los Angeles County Lanterman Regional Center Board. She went on to become a role model for many young men and women who followed in her footsteps.
Catholicos Karekin II and Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia honored Hacob and Mina with the church’s highest honor for their hard work, dedication and commitment to the Armenian community. In addition, Mina was recognized by the Armenian Cultural Foundation, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian Educational Foundation and Ferrahian Alumni for her dedication and hard work for the community.
Together, Hacob and Mina supported many Armenian organizations. Through the AEF, they sponsored numerous student scholarships and multiple school renovations in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk. They also helped finance the ACF Shirvanian Youth Center in Gumri. After multiple trips to Armenia over the past 40 years, Hacob and Mina made a final visit for the opening of the youth center in the summer of 2016.
Most recently, Mina was honored with the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation Courage Award for her fight against cancer. In her 4 ½ year struggle with lung cancer, Mina never wavered. She fought her battle—with grace, dignity and a smile.
Through the years the Shirvanians have been recognized and honored for their contributions and their work. However, it is their love and their marriage of over 71 years that they cherished and celebrated most. She was blessed with two grandsons, Chris and Shant, a grand-daughter-in-law, Melody, and three great grandchildren, Christopher, Sebastian, and Katherine Mina, all whom she loved dearly. She is known for the quote “God has blessed us. We have truly lived the American dream”.
Mina made a great impact in the lives of all who knew and loved her. Her legacy will live on in all of us.
Community activist and benefactor Mina Shirvanian passed away on December. During her funeral service on December 9 at St. Mary’s Armenian Church, her grandson Shant Petrossian presented the moving tribute below.
“Never was there a person who said so much by saying so little. The epitome of grace.”
That’s what Peter Hosharian wrote about our Mamik Mina. And that’s how we will remember her.
I, on the other hand have inherited many of the Shirvanian family traits… and admittedly talk too much — but for some reason, this week I struggled to put into words what she means to us and how much we will miss her.
Many of you have shared with us what she meant to you and how much you will miss her. So I hope you don’t mind, today, I am going to borrow from you.
Our family has been humbled and overwhelmed by your messages of love and admiration for Mamik Mina. There are no words that will express our gratitude and our appreciation. Other than saying we are truly blessed and thank you… from the bottom our hearts.
I know grandma was a great woman, but they say when you’re in the frame it’s difficult to see the entire picture… and I don’t think I understood the impact Mamik had on our friends and the community.
I’m so happy to know we shared her with all of you.
Dro Amirian sent a note saying “I want to remember Mina as I knew her, and remember her, in her prime years as a poetry declaimer par excellence. Mina stood as a striking, stunning, attractive figure on the stage.”
And my Aunty Mimi Zaroukian continued by telling us: “It was amazing how she could recite verses and verses and verses of poems in Armenian–leaving us simply mesmerized. She could move an audience to tears.”
You see I’m a bit sad that i don’t remember seeing my grandmother on stage and I’m so grateful for longtime friends like Uncle Dro and Aunty Mimi for sharing their memories with us.
And for this I am thankful to have shared her.
I knew that she loved everything Armenian. The food (her manti being my favorite), the music, the dances and of course the organizations that helped keep the Armenian spirit alive here in the U.S. and in Armenia.
The tributes in Asbarez meant a lot to us.
Ara Khatchatourian thank you for saying: “As I grew to know Mina and Hacob, my respect for their unwavering devotion and their caring approach to all things Armenian only was heightened as their humility and aplomb became life lessons that I will always carry with me. Our community has lost a true activist.”
Yes. We are proud to have shared her.
One of her favorites, Dr. Viken Hovsepian, was the first to let us know how he felt. He wrote: “Some people touch your heart and soul in such a way that rationality cannot define or explain….. I’m sad for having lost a special friend and a role model, but I’m also sad for our collective –that it lost such a wise, classy lady, and a courageous soldier of the Armenian Cause.”
I may not have remembered her reciting poetry, but I do remember coming home from school and seeing her passion for organizing an event. I mean she loved chairing dinners for the Ferrahian School and the AEF. Some have called her a trailblazer.
And I just loved seeing her dressed up to the nines excited to go and champion the Armenian Cause.
Isabel Zohrabian says it better than I: “Mina was a role model for so many of us in so many ways. She taught us so much in her quiet way: how to live life, love life and live it to the fullest. She was an angel here and now she’s our angel in Heaven.”
Aunty Isabel thank you… And we don’t mind sharing her with the angels in Heaven.
When my brother called me to say that Mamik had taken her last breath, he was choked up. I’d never heard him like that before. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be in the room in that moment. I was 3,000 miles away but immediately a flood of memories came rushing in–memories of our travels, our dinners and our conversations.
So I didn’t cry, I smiled and I laughed and smiled again, because that’s the way I remember our Mamik Mina.
She was grandmother, second mother and most important, best friend to chris and me. She knew our differences and embraced them. Even when it came to cocktails. Chris loved having his bloody mary with Mamik. Margaritas were our thing and Armen taught her how to sip a martini.
Her home was our home and so many of our friends enjoyed swimming in their backyard and spending time at their Lake Arrowhead cabin.
So when Alvin Galstian said: “she was like a grandmother to us all… would always light up a room and was young at heart. And she touched many lives including mine.” I say, I am honored that we shared her.
As you heard from her biography, she didn’t have a large family. So when she married Babik Hacob, she didn’t just get a husband, she got a clan. You see, she didn’t have a sister, but with Aunty Anelka and Aunty Angel she got two; with Aunty Savey she got a best friend.
She lost two brothers but with Uncle Kosti she got more than she bargained for and she loved every minute of it.
With them, Mamik had a family that didn’t stop growing and continued to grow until a couple of weeks before she passed. With neices and nephews and their kids and their kids. There was always so much love and so much food. Her tadik was the first thing to disappear at every holiday.
And it didn’t stop there, ask anyone on my dad’s side of the family… our Mamik Tania and her kids and grandkids were not just khnamis. To them, she was their sister, their aunty and their Mamik as well.
We were lucky to share her.
My Uncle Garo is one of those on my dad’s side and he sat next to me last night and said the thing about Mina was that she could easily go between some adult function and then hold a conversation with his grandson Joey who is nine. She had this magical quality of crossing generations.
Mom and dad’s long-time friend Angela Savoian brought me to tears when she wrote: “As a young girl I was in awe of her. Her warmth, elegance and graciousness were always present throughout the 60 years that I was honored to know her and value her as an exemplary woman. “
Then our friend Alex Kalognomos shared on Facebook: “I got to know her as a person with an unmatched mind and depth of soul. Supportive of everyone around her.”
Aunty Sarah Khachekian told me that she would whisper in Mamik’s ear that she wanted to be just like her…
And for my one of my closest friends, madlene minassian, she was and I quote: “an idol for generations of Armenians!… She was the perfect blend of elegance, strength, and love!”
So yes, we are thrilled to have shared her.
Speaking of love… how do you talk about Mamik Mina without Babik Hacob.
You simply can’t. Mary Khanian will tell you: “Theirs was a partnership in love that neither-ever doubted. They were as inseparable as the sunset from the sunrise, complementing one another like the colors of the rainbow, never seeking to outshine the other. For Hacob, home was wherever mina was and his eyes followed her around the room.” Aunty mary saw that…
And we gladly shared both of them with all of you.
For me, I loved the way they looked at each other. And joked with each other and the way they took care of each other.
So I asked Babik what i could say on his behalf and he said (and I didn’t change a single word… ):
“I am a lucky man, even now. She was the greatest. Beautiful. She was a good wife always. Good mother to her children, good grandmother. I loved every minute of my life with her. We will miss her.
Mina sirelis, kez kuh pntrem. Kartsum em vor oosh es galis. Doone arants kez dadarkootyun eh. Oor vor pntrem chem charoom.
Every day I’m looking for you and you are not there. Goodbye Mina. Good bye, Good bye, Good bye.
During the funeral service for Mina Shirvanian, Rev. Vazken Atmadjian read a eulogy by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian
I join you in spirit and share in your sorrow as you have gathered to lay to rest your cherished wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and sister-in-law, and highly admired and respected pillar of our community.
The word “special” is too often thrown around. Mina Shirvanian, however, was special, in the truest and deepest sense of the word. Her generosity of spirit, her gracious and joyful nature, her humility and kindness, and her altruistic benevolence made her a very special person indeed, and she will be so deeply missed by family and friends alike and by all the organizations and individuals whose lives she touched and bettered.
Matriarch, benefactor, and community activist; these were the primary roles in Mina’s life, and ones she juggled and fulfilled skillfully. A good mother is a blessing from God, for a mother’s love and influence is unconditional and unmatched. Mina was an exemplary mother who, alongside providing utmost love and care to her children, succeeded in instructing them with the values of our nation and instilling in them love for our nation and the great importance of service and giving.
As Christians, we are instructed to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Mina lived her life in accordance with this commandment. She loved the Lord and was grateful for the blessings in her life, and she demonstrated her love for her fellow man by bearing the burdens of others, by giving of her time and her resources freely and cheerfully. A lifetime of works cannot be summed up in a few words, but Christian charity perfectly encapsulates the essence and driving force of Mina’s life, service to others inspired by faith, love, and goodwill.
The number of organizations that benefitted from her service and generosity are too numerous to name, and her scope of influence too vast to recall. Locally, the ACF, AEF, ANC, and our Prelacy are just a few of the institutions which were dear to her heart and which have benefitted so invaluably from her and her husband Hacob’s benevolence. Internationally, her reach extended to Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk. And though she was fittingly honored with the highest medal of the Holy See of Cilicia and by various organizations, Mina was driven by unselfish reasons, by a sincere desire and eagerness to lend a helping hand where needed, and as she enriched the organizations she contributed too, I’m sure that she was equally enriched in spirit and found great fulfillment and purpose from her charitable works.
Dear Hacob, Alice, Armen, and families; Mina was certainly a blessing in your lives, as she was in the lives of many. Her genuine friendship is one that I truly cherished and one that I will truly miss. The Lord gave you and us the treasure of Mina Shirvanian, whom He has now called home. She has departed from us physically, but her presence will always be felt and her joyful and generous spirit will remain alive through you and through all the organizations and individuals she touched. May you find peace and comfort in that her life was full of love, joy, and purpose, and that she now rests from her lifetime of labors in the heavenly sanctuary of our Lord.
During this difficult time, may you find strength and solace in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the promise of the eternal kingdom where we will be reunited with our loved ones once again. May the countless precious memories you built and shared together in this lifetime brighten your hearts and souls in your time of mourning.
May God grant rest unto her soul and may her memory remain ever-blessed. Amen.
During a memorial luncheon following Mina Shirvanian’s funeral on December 9 at Glen Arden hall in Glendale, Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region chairwoman Nora Hovsepian delivered the following tribute to Mina Shirvanian
Mina Shirvanian was the epitome of dignity, grace, humility and unwavering strength. She wasn’t just Mrs. Hacob Shirvanian, the woman standing BEHIND a great man. She was indisputably one essential half of a power couple who stood tall as one of the unwavering pillars of our community, and was the equally strong woman standing BESIDE a great man. She was the essence of all that we, as Armenian women young and old, aspire to be. She was not a role model just to you as her daughter, Alice jan, but an inspiration to us all.
In my capacity with the ANCA Western Region, Mina would call me periodically to ask how she and Hacob could help. I would tell her about our projects and challenges and answer all her questions, realizing that many of those questions were not just curious inquiry, but were actually words of guidance and advice based not just on her wisdom and experience, but fueled by her unflinching passion toward the Armenian Cause.
She never had a negative word to say. She would express intense pride in our collective achievements and would offer encouraging words of solace in our defeats. But she was always there, unwavering in her support and invigorating us with her quiet fortitude.
I remember one occasion several years ago while I was at the ANCA Christmas Party when I got a call from Alice on my cell phone saying that Mina was upset because she and Hacob had not received an invitation. I said it was impossible. We immediately checked the list, and of course their name was there, but for whatever reason, Mina had not received it. Within a half hour, Mina and Hacob came to the party. I went to her and gave her a big hug and reassured her that they were number one on the guest list, and the last thing we would do is anything to upset them. She looked at me with her beautiful smile and said “We weren’t upset. We just wanted to be here to encourage and support you.”
Just a couple of months ago, though Mina was very ill, she still made the effort and came to our annual Gala Banquet. She said she would never want to miss it, and we were all so happy to see her and Hacob there. Her absence now will leave a huge void in all that we do, but her memory will serve as an ongoing inspiration to propel us forward.
On behalf of the ANCA Western Region Board of Directors and the entire ANCA family, I want to thank our dear Mina and Hacob for decades of service and support. We will miss her immensely, but her guiding light will shine on us forever. Our ability to fight is only as strong as the commitment of our best soldiers, and today we lost one of our best, a woman who dedicated her life to family, nation and Hye Tad. We should all learn from the example she set.
Hoghuh tetev ka Mina jan. Yev sireli Hacob yev Alice, both powerhouses in your own right, I hope you take some solace in this outpouring of love and respect for dear Mina. We love you and share your grief, but we know that her legacy will continue to live on through you.