Creating the Garo Djeghelian Endowment Fund for AYA is like an eternal flame, which for us is more than an honor and privilege since it will forever keep my father’s name and legacy alive in the Armenian community.
The epitome of enthusiasm, hard work, good humor and optimism, Garo Djeghelian was a pillar of AGBU and the Armenian Youth Association (AYA) community in Lebanon and made a lasting impact that will continue to shape the lives of young Armenians around the world.
His greatest impact came through AYA. In the 1930s, upon the request of Catholicos Papken I of the Holy See of Cilicia, AGBU took charge of the AYA. Founded as the Near East Relief ’s Youth League, the AYA promoted national cohesion through cultural, sports, scouting and social activities and flourished throughout the Middle East, producing men and women who would proudly go on to lead Armenian communities worldwide later in life.
Garo—born in Lebanon in 1953—was one of these leaders and the AYA became his second family. As an only child growing up in difficult circumstances, the AYA—as well as the AGBU Yervant Demirdjian Elementary School and the AGBU Hovagimian-Manoogian Secondary School—gave Garo countless lifelong friends who became the siblings he never had. As an AYA scout and supporter of the AYA theater and choral groups, Garo brought his infectious joy and sense of perseverance to everyone around him.
In 1973, Garo joined the ranks of AYA and diligently served the organization in various roles, including as a member of the AYA Antelias Executive Committee, the chair of the AGBU-AYA Central Committee and the vice chair of the AGBU Lebanon District Committee. During his 43 years at the helm of the organization, he was sometimes jokingly referred to as the unofficial Minister of Sports because of his active involvement in AYA sports teams and his close ties to major sports leagues in Lebanon.
During the 1970s and 1980s, when civil war ravaged Lebanon and tested the resolve of the few valiant leaders who remained in the country, Garo reached out to all sides of the conflict—with a great deal of personal charm—to help people caught in the power struggle among warring factions. Once the war came to an end, Garo was instrumental in the negotiations to regain the property of the former Ahramjian School, renovating it and turning it into an active Armenian community center in the heart of Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian district.
His exceptional character and humility, in addition to his clear vision for the future, made a profound impression on his friends and colleagues. When AGBU took the initiative to purchase land in the Lori region of Armenia to establish a scout campsite and bring AYA scouts in the diaspora closer to Armenia and to one other, Garo was one of its most enthusiastic supporters. The project soon grew into the AGBU Antranik Scout Camp. Since 2008, the camp—the first of its kind in Armenia—has welcomed hundreds of young Armenians each year—from Uruguay to Iraq, from the United States to the United Arab Emirates—for a summer of adventure and friendship.
In his devotion to the Armenian community, Garo and his wife Seta set an excellent example for their two children, Hagop and Ani, who followed in his footsteps both into the AYA and into the family business. In 1959, Garo’s father, Karnig, started a textile factory in Bourj Hammoud, and in 1973, Garo transformed it into Anitex, one of the major manufacturers and distributors of school and company uniforms in the Middle East—another mark of his determination and resourcefulness.
When Garo unexpectedly passed away in March 2016, his family established an AGBU endowment in his memory. “Creating the Garo Djeghelian Endowment Fund for AYA is like an eternal flame, which for us is more than an honor and privilege since it will forever keep my father’s name and legacy alive in the Armenian community,” said his son, Hagop, a member of the AGBU-AYA Central Committee. The Garo Djeghelian Endowment Fund will now enable AYA to host cultural activities, organize events and undertake projects that will create pillars of the Armenian community just like Garo.