She never lost her sharpness; a week before her passing, she requested a book about quantum physics. Keeping an open and curious mind was important to her.
When Madeleine (née Bannayan) Aprahamian became a United States citizen in 2000, it was one of the proudest moments of her life—a framed photo from that day remained on her desk ever after. Her route from the Levant to the West would not be completed until much later in life, but the many stops along the way were always joyful and punctuated with the pursuit of knowledge.
Madeleine was incredibly intelligent and bright; she was already fluent in Arabic, Armenian, English and French by the time she graduated from the school run by French nuns in the Old City of Jerusalem, where she was born in 1928. But even though she had passed all the entrance exams to attend university, her family could not afford the tuition. Fate had other plans for her. In 1948, the family moved to Amman, and she began teaching English at an elementary school. She enjoyed the job immensely, and instead of funding her own college education, she sacrificed her pay so that her three younger brothers— George, Maurice and Elie—could attend university and become doctors and engineers. They remained forever grateful to their one sister. She was very close to her immediate and large extended family, unbreakable bonds that she cherished for life.
Another lifelong bond was created during her childhood with her fellow neighbor in the Armenian Quarter, Kapriel (Gaby) Aprahamian. They kept in touch once she moved to Jordan and then married in 1954. He had been pursuing engineering studies in England and she moved there with him. A few years later, Gaby started a job with the British Petroleum Company that would take them first to Iraq and then Lebanon until the onset of its civil war. Next came the move to Dubai, where Gaby established his own firm— Spectrum Engineering. In between, they traveled often for work and pleasure, and one of Madeleine’s favorite trips was to Singapore, where she delighted in meeting the small, but vibrant Armenian community.
Gaby was the most important person in her life; she followed his every wish. They retired to Vancouver, Canada, in the early 1990’s, and finally moved to San Antonio, Texas, a couple of years after to be close to her brother, Dr. George Bannayan, who had left Jordan in 1966. Sadly, Gaby didn’t get to share Madeleine’s joy when she took the US oath of allegiance; he passed away in 1997 after a battle with cancer. George’s daughter, Suzanne Rostomian, recalls that her father George became the caretaker to the sister who sacrificed her college education to ensure he received one. He would run errands with her and they would dine together often.
Throughout her life, Madeleine never gave up on her love for learning. She was always up to date on current events and very knowledgeable on a wide range of topics. She was particularly interested in books about science, and Suzanne remembers fondly, “She never lost her sharpness; a week before her passing, she requested a book about quantum physics. Keeping an open and curious mind was important to her.”
She was also multitalented: an accomplished pianist, she loved playing Bach and Chopin; could discuss philosophy and enjoyed Camus; and cooked a variety of delicious international dishes, including her signature apple pie.
Madeleine passed away peacefully at her San Antonio home in 2019, after which the AGBU Kapriel and Madeleine A. Aprahamian Memorial Endowment, totaling over $278,000, was established to provide scholarships to Armenian students enrolled in leading colleges and universities around the world. Madeleine’s unbeatable energy for higher learning, and her legacy gift will ensure that the coming generations will be able to pursue the same goals at even greater levels.