GLENDALE Y DISPLAYS ANI EXHIBIT ON YMCA VOLUNTEERS IN ARMENIA DURING THE GENOCIDE
David Elder and Louise Elder Lund honored with recognition of their father John Elder who founded the YMCA in Armenia
June 24, 2021
Washington, D.C. - At the invitation of the City of Glendale Y and the Armenian Assembly of America, a special event was held June 24 at the Y to display the Armenian National Institute (ANI) exhibit titled "The Lifesavers" and to honor David Elder and Louise Lund Elder, whose father John Elder, and fellow YMCA volunteer James O. Arroll, are featured in the exhibit. The exhibit was curated by ANI Director Dr. Rouben Adalian.
Elder and Arroll traveled to Armenia in 1918 and witnessed the dramatic events that led to the founding of the Armenian Republic. They had arrived to open a YMCA facility and ended up in charge of the extensive philanthropic activities of the Near East Relief, whose employees were recalled from the field when the situation in Armenia became too dangerous on account of the warfront advancing toward Yerevan and Alexandropol/Gyumri. Elder and Arroll were ultimately credited with saving thousands of lives as they cared for orphans and refugees when local resources were virtually non-existent.
With over 70 invited guests in attendance, several elected officials spoke at the event and bestowed certificates of recognition on Mr. Elder, Mrs. Lund, and Dr. Adalian. They included City of Glendale Mayor Paula Devine, California State Senator Anthony Portantino, representing California’s 25th State Senate District, and California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, representing California’s 46th State Assembly District.
Assembly Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan, who spearheaded the special event, was joined by several leaders of the Glendale Y who also shared their appreciation of the exhibit that highlighted the role of the YMCA during the Armenian Genocide. Among them were Dr. David Viar, President of Glendale Community College and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Glendale, who also acknowledged fellow Glendale YMCA board members in attendance, Mr. George Saikaly, President and CEO of the YMCA of Glendale, and Mrs. Nora Yacoubian, YMCA of Glendale Board Member and Chairperson of the Glendale-Artsakh Sister YMCA Committee, who reflected on the YMCA of Glendale’s partnership with the Artsakh YMCA.
Toumajan served as Master of Ceremonies and briefly reflected on the “unsung hero” status of YMCA volunteers Elder and Arroll in an era when the fledgling first Republic of Armenia faced existential threats, including drought, famine, epidemics, and continued genocidal actions by Turkish and Azerbaijani militias. His Eminence Abp. Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, delivered the evening’s invocation and remarks. Reverend Berdj Djambazian, of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, delivered the program’s benediction. Ambassador Dr. Armen Baibourtian, Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles awarded the Elder family certificates of appreciation on behalf of their father.
Dr. Adalian explained how the exhibit was created and spoke of Elder and Arroll for writing a new chapter in American humanitarianism by their courageous actions on behalf of the Armenian people. He was warmly praised by David Elder and Louise Elder Lund for recovering the story of their father of which even they were not fully aware.
Louise Elder Lund shared with audience the gift that John Elder received from the Armenian government, the silver souvenir cup that he spoke of in his memoirs, which is inscribed in Armenian “to the unforgettable captain Elder.”
David Elder spoke eloquently of the role of the YMCA during World War I and told the story of how his father reached Armenia during that critical year and how he went about organizing relief work and arranging for the delivery of supplies from Iran when all other avenues were cut off by surrounding forces.
Toumajan also noted that the Elder siblings and Dr. Adalian had received certificates of recognition from California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman (43rd State Assembly District), and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger (5th Supervisorial District). In addition, he acknowledged the attendance of elected officials, including City of Glendale Councilmember Ara Najarian, Glendale Unified School District School Board Member Dr. Armina Gharpetian, Glendale Police Chief Carl Povilaitis, and Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas. He also recognized Mr. Ara Kalfayan, owner of Phoenicia Restaurant and YMCA of Glendale Board Member for the generous buffet made available to attendees.
A wide cross-section of the Southern California-based Armenian American community was represented with organizational leaders. Armenian Assembly board members Joyce Stein and Talin Yacoubian were joined by Assembly trustees and members Margaret Mgrublian, Joe Stein, James Melikian, Flora Dunaians, and Helen Haig. The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) was represented by Central Board member Lena Sarkissian, Shahan Minassian, and Gohar Stambolyan.
The visit of David Elder and Louise Elder Lund was coordinated by Frida Valijan, a longtime friend of the Elder family.
The ANI exhibit first debuted on the West Coast in 2019 at the West Gallery of the California State University Northridge (CSUN) campus and continued onto the YMCA Glendale. A digital version of the exhibit can be freely downloaded from the ANI website.