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(SAN DIEGO) – The Knights of Vartan, Gomidas Tahlij #43 of San Diego has donated a commissioned painting of St. Vartan and Ghevont Yeretz for the side altar of St. Sarkis Armenian Church, San Diego.

The painting by Armenian artist Tigran Hovumyan was dedicated and blessed by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, and parish priest Very Rev. Father Pakrad Dz. V Berjekian, on Sunday, February 5, 2023, as part of St. Sarkis’ First Anniversary Celebration.

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Memorializing Nakhgin Sbarabed John George Poochigian, M.D.

(May 12, 1948 – January 3, 2020)

A Lifetime of Service to Others

Nakhgin Sbarabed John Poochigian was a member of the Knights of Vartan organization and a dedicated philanthropist whose zest for life benefited many causes and persons in the United States and in Armenia.

John’s untimely passing has been and will continue to be a difficult reality to admit by many of us. We find consolation in the fact that he lived a full life and cherish the benevolence his philanthropic activities brought joy and contentment to needy individuals, families in destitute, and numerous deserving students.

John George Poochigian was born in Los Angeles, California, to John George and Ellen Poochigian (nee Keshishian.) He studied pharmacy at University of Southern California’s school of Pharmacy where he received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree. He later attended University of California-Irvine Medical School where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree.

After completing his residency in internal medicine at the University of Wisconsin, John worked for Permanente Medical Group in Mountain View, California for 32 years in the Department of Internal Medicine, where he was beloved by patients and staff alike. He later joined the Kaiser Permanente Mental Health Center in Los Angeles as a consulting physician where he worked until his recent retirement.

John met his wife, Dr. Christine Avakoff, during their medical internship. John and Christine were married for 42 years. Together they traveled to more than 58 countries and shared their passion for philanthropy, volunteer work, and the arts.

John was a long-time member of the Knights of Vartan organization. He was named Asbed of the Year in 2001 by his then home lodge, Daron Tahlij, in San Francisco where in 2011 he chaired the 93rd Grand Convocation Committee. He was a founding member of the Face of Angel nonprofit organization which provides free-of-charge laser services in Armenia for patients who are mired with birth defects.

John also served on numerous charitable organizations, including the Cosmic Ray Division of Yerevan’s Alikhanyan Physics Institute. Among many of the charitable projects he was connected to in Armenia, a recent source of pride was his donation of a large bus that enables university students of the city of Aparan and nearby communities, located north of Yerevan, to commute to numerous universities of the capital city.

NS John did his benevolent work quietly and shied away from receiving accolades which he deserved. Very often he asked not to mention his name as the donor of the project.

60 seats bus donated by NS John for the Aparan students to commute to Yerevan

On Saturday February 8, 2020 the Armenian community of Orange County, California and members from the Knights and Daughters of Vartan service organization chapters in Southwestern and Northwestern Districts in attendance memorialized recently deceased NS John Poochigian during a solemn ceremony held at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, Costa Mesa, CA. The procession of Asbeds, Sbarabeds, Nakhgin Sbarabeds and two Nakhgin Avak Sbarabeds, led by Sbarabed of Vahan Tahlij Anton Markarian, entered the sanctuary and placed white roses of remembrance in front of John’s image set on a tripod in front of the church’s bema. Sbarabed’s homage to John was followed by the former Vahan Tahlij Yeretz, Avak Kahana Moushegh Tashjian’s requiem service assisted by Dn. Dennis Takessian, Sbarabed of Ghevont Tahlij, Pasadena.

NS Nishan Dulgerian delivering speech about NS John Poochigian during memorializing event on February 8.

John’s nephew Daniel Poochigian provided an inspirational eulogy of his uncle and spoke about their common interest in history, art and Armenian culture.

Invited by John’s widow, Sister Christine Avakoff-Poochigian, M.D., and members of John’s immediate family, those in the sanctuary proceeded to attend John’s  memorial meal, an Armenian Hokejush, served in Church’s Fesjian Hall. Many of John’s friends, cousins, classmates, schoolmates and colleagues from medical centers where he served expressed their heartfelt remembrances of him often peppered with anecdotes from times spent together and vivid examples of John’s joyful personality and friendly disposition towards his fellow human beings.

There were tearful moments of recollection, but John’s life was celebrated in a cheerful mode with the participation of many guests including one cousin who steered the flow of speakers like John’s brother Mark and son Daniel Poochigian, cousin Emile Lahoud, classmate Dean Ng from USC’s School of Pharmacy, a USC schoolmate of early 1970s, NS Nishan Dulgerian, NS Souren Toumanian and wife ND Izzy Toumanian from Vahan Tahlij and Anoush Otyag respectively from Orange County. Brief but emotionally charged moments were shared when the Toumanians mentioned that John and Christine attended their daughter’s wedding in New York the year before despite John’s acute health condition.

Letters of condolences sent to Christine included one that describes John and Christine, as some of us were privileged to know, read as follows:          

 “…I feel blessed to meet you and John. You are the relatives or parents          I wish I had. Your help, guidance, advice and encouragement in the few        short years I have known you has made an enormous footprint in my heart.  Your selfless and giving heart has set an example for me to live up to. Even with John gone now, he will always stay in our hearts and minds.”

John’s joyful nature, keen mind and gentle spirit will be missed by his brothers in the Knights of Vartan organization, by the numerous friends he had, and by   colleagues in the medical field.

Rest in peace dear Brother John. Your memory will live in our hearts and minds.

Let’s sum our celebration of John’s lifetime of service to others with a few kind words of compassion we receive from Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Submitted by                                                          

NS Nishan Dulgerian