As a mother and grandmother, she made certain that we remained grounded in our family traditions and love for one another.
Flora Manavian lived a long and inspired life dedicated to nurturing others—be it her sons and grandchildren, the flowers and trees in her garden, or new generations of Armenian students looking to launch their careers. While the circumstances of her life took her across oceans, her inner compass always pointed in the direction of home and family.
Born in 1925, the oldest daughter of Minas and Arus Alagiagian, Flora was raised and educated in the Mediterranean coastal town of Tripoli, later moving to the Libyan capital of Benghazi for a position at a British based shipping company. There, she met and married George Manavian, who returned from World War II, having served as an interpreter with the British troops.
While George pursued a business career working for the British Embassy and Barclay’s Bank, Flora turned her attention to raising their three boys—John, Ed, and then Yervant. Three months after Yervant’s birth, the Manavians moved to Los Angeles, California close to Flora’s paternal aunt, an orphan of the Armenian Genocide. Two years later, their youngest son George was born, making Flora and George the proud parents of four boys. The couple’s final move was to Anaheim Hills, California, where they lived out their lives cherishing and cultivating their family ties.
As their eldest son John tells it, Flora was beloved by the entire family, especially her grandsons, granddaughter, and a greatgrandson. She was the ultimate homemaker, well known for her Mediterranean and Armenian dishes. Thanks to her miracle green thumb, she was able to grow grape leaves in her back yard so that her dolma would always be fresh. John recalls the care with which she tended her garden. “She took great pride in her flowers, plants and fruit trees. I have two huge fig trees in my backyard that started as a twig my mother brought from her garden and helped me plant. Gardening is tedious. There’s no fanfare, just satisfaction in seeing the labor of your efforts come to fruition. As a mother and grandmother, she made certain that we remained grounded in our family traditions and love for one another.”
When Flora’s husband passed away in 2007, relatives and friends helped establish an endowment to support the AGBU New York Summer Internship Program, an initiative they learned about in the AGBU News magazine, to which George and Flora had long subscribed. When Flora passed away nine years later, just short of her 91st birthday, family and friends raised additional funds to the endowment that now includes Flora’s name. Since its establishment, the George and Flora Manavian Endowment for the AGBU New York Summer Internship has made it possible for many students to gain valuable work experience in one of the great business capitals of the world.
Around the time of Flora’s passing in 2016, the family celebrated its 50th anniversary as naturalized U.S. citizens. John reflects on what becoming a U.S. citizen meant to Flora. “I still remember how, as an 8th-grade student, I would drill my mother at the kitchen table, asking her questions about American history. She worked so hard to pass the test. Thanks to her and my father, we all became proud U.S. citizens.” He added that what his parents loved about America was the opportunity. “So, we thought an endowment giving young Armenians from across the world the chance to gain work experience in the U.S. was the best way of honoring our parents’ achievements as Armenian-Americans.”