Diramayr Zabell Kalayjian, transitioned in eternal peace on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at the age of 97 in Emerson, NJ. She was born in Aleppo, Syria to survivors of the Armenian Genocide, George and Jemileh Mardigian. Her family Bible attests to her birth being “in the August when pears were ripened,” but later legally recognized as November 15, 1923. The Mardigians were from the famed Cilician-era town of Kilis and were blessed with six daughters and one son. They endured Ottoman Turkish Genocide, WWI and WWII.
Diramayr Zabell Kalayjian attended The Immaculate Conception Schools in Aleppo, where she received academic excellence, and high honors for being hardworking, diligent, responsible, and intelligent. She was also admired for her beauty, grace, and striking sky-blue eyes.
On 28 August 1938, she married Kevork Kalayjian, son of Girgi and Tervanda Kalayjian at Holy King Armenian Apostolic Church in Azez, Syria. They were blessed with seven children; their first son Zaven Kalayjian who became a priest, the late Very Rev. Fr. Vertanes Kalayjian along with Yn. Anahid dedicated there lives to the Armenian Church and Youth Ministry; Zareh who died in infancy; Zarminé Boghosian writer, poet and educator – dedicated her life to teach Armenian children; Mary who died in infancy; Kevork who is a poet and a financial auditor; Ani Kalayjian, Ph.D. a psychologist, author and educator who has dedicated her life to helping victims of trauma; and Vasken Kalayjian, a branding specialist, artist, and author. Diramayr Zabell Kalayjian was blessed with 10 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.
In 1962, the family moved from Azez to Aleppo and then to the United States in 1971 with the efforts of Fr. Vertanes and Yn. Anahid. Living in North Jersey, Diramayr was active in the Holy Cross Armenian Church Women’s Guild (Union City, NJ) and was honored with the 1979 Mother of the Year Award from the parish. In 2003, in recognition of her 80thbirthday, a large family gathering was organized in New York, which included the participation of Zabell’s maternal cousin the late Mrs. Artemis Nazarian and her husband Baron Nazar. On that occasion a special education fund was established in Zabell’s honor.
Zabell was a spiritual and Christian Armenian woman and the matriarch of the family. She was a devoted member of the Armenian Church and dedicated to her family. A God-loving woman, she would insist that her children read from the Holy Scriptures before breakfast, which quickly became a mandatory tradition in the home. Caring and helping others through her prayers, advice was a common gift that she gave generously to everyone starting with her children, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, neighbors, cousins, in-laws, and others.
Diramayr Kalayjian homeschooled her children up to first grade, both in their religious studies and literature. She was an avid reader of novels scientific journals like ԲԺԻՇԿ Monthly in Armenian and The New England Journal of Medicine in english. She strived for excellence and instilled in her children a strong set of values and faith in God. She practiced the teachings of Jesus Christ, love and compassion for others and good work ethic. She instilled in all her children courage to follow their passions and excel in their careers of choice.
Losing her firstborn son Fr. Vertanes Kalayjian (2016) was emotionally distressing for her, and she often expressed, “no mother should bear to witness the death of her child.” Yet, her happiest moments were to witness along with Fr. Vertanes just two weeks before his passing, the ordination of Fr. Vertanes’s youngest son, Saro into priesthood as Der Avedis Kalayjian.
Her death is mourned by her youngest sister Jaklyn Yahyeian, of Los Angeles, CA. Yeretsgin/Diramayr Anahid Kalayjian, Zarmine and Missak Boghosian, Kevork and Maral Kalayjian, Dr. Ani Kalayjian, and Vasken and Jacqueline Kalayjian. She is also mourned by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as the Tashjian, Shamamian, Yahyahian and Mardigian familieswho are all grateful for her angelic presence in their lives.
Diramayr Kalayjian was a matriarch very well described through the loving words of Yeretzgin Anahid who said: “Our precious Diramayr went to be with her son, Der Vertanes. She was an angelic person, and we all loved her very dearly. She will have a special place in heaven! She will be adorned with crowns! We all have a lot to learn from her admirable life.”
As Dr. Vartan Abdo expressed so well, “Your mom fought the good fight she finished the race, and kept the faith! Her motherly angelic and saintly character will forever be etched in my memory. She was a remarkable mother, grandmother and great-grandmother whose energy, spirit, kindness and determination were admired by all who knew her. She had an amazing and inspirational life filled with friends and family and so much purpose.”
Whatever we say and whatever we do, we will always remain indebted to her. Even before taking her last breath her last words were: “Thank you and God Bless you!”
May God rest her soul and comfort all her loved ones. Due to the unfortunate situation regarding the current pandemic and the resulting lock down, her funeral services will be subject to physical distancing safety practices. The Kalayjian Family expresses sincere gratitude to friends and family from far and near for condolences and prayers. Details of the funeral will be shared soon.