Ara J. Bagdasarian passed away peacefully on January 21, 2021 at UCSF Hospital in San Francisco.
Ara was born September 1946, the second child of Mary and Hovik Bagdasarian in Tehran, Iran. Ara’s childhood was rich with a closely knit and extended family including aunts and uncles and many cousins from Tehran to Isfahan. One of Ara’s fond memories was seeing his father transforming a farm in Karaj, in the suburbs of Tehran, into an orchard, filled with fruit trees, vegetable, and flower gardens and an Olympic size swimming pool where Ara and his family would gather to relax and enjoy nature and entertain family and friends.
As he transitioned into his youth, while attending Kooshesh High School in Tehran, Ara was also involved in the Armenian Youth Federation in the community as a group leader.
Following his graduation from high school at top of his class Ara continued his higher education in the United States, at University of California Berkeley. At Berkeley, he studied Chemical Engineering in the College of Chemistry, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, followed by graduate work in the Materials Science and Engineering Department.
In 1968 Ara and Anna Khachikian met on campus – fellow students at Berkeley. Three years later they married in San Francisco at St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic church where Ara volunteered at the library. Newly wed, Ara and Anna returned to Tehran as Ara began his successful career in the oil industry working for the National Iranian Oil Company. However, in 1979 the Iranian Revolution changed the course of their lives, and eventually they departed for the US for a more predictable future.
Ara’s professional success continued in the US oil industry where he held leadership positions specializing in materials and corrosion engineering. A focus of his work was on individual and industrial safety, as well as on solutions to reduce environmental consequences of corrosion. Indeed, Ara was among the pioneers in addressing environmental impact of corrosion. He led and oversaw industrywide projects, most notably when he was at Chevron as Chief Materials Engineer/Technology Marketing.
Continuing his emphasis on environmental benefits, Ara also focused on enhancing efficiencies in oil refining. He chaired a Joint Industry Project related to the use of lower-cost, lighter materials for fabricating heavy-wall vessels and reactors that were key to the efficient production of clean fuels from heavy crude. He worked tirelessly with fabricators globally to improve light vessels. His work took Ara to over 33 countries. Often, he and Anna would meet midway in London during his round the globe journeys.
Ara was a gifted leader, who encouraged the best in others and helped many ascend in their careers. Colleagues remember Ara as: “wonderful mentor and brilliant strategist who made a real difference for many . . .young engineers and the business at Chevron.” They remarked on his “intelligence, warmth, and expertise.” Others remembered Ara as “practical in a crisis,” “one of the best metallurgists,” “a consummate gentleman,” and “a joy to work with.”
After his retirement in 2007, not one to relax, an overachiever as always, he turned his retirement into a renewed focus on numerous passions with characteristic meticulousness: collecting rare stamps and wines, enjoying fine food and film, staying on top of the financial markets, and as always, reading.
An independent thinker with a lively mind, Ara thrived in intellectual discussions. He was curious and well-informed, and always in command of his topic.
During his lifetime, Ara’s warmth and his wisdom touched so many hearts and inspired many people. Ara enjoyed mentoring young people starting new paths in life—college or career. Friends and family sought Ara’s advice knowing he would be generous with his time and knowledge. They knew his integrity and trusted him to be best man at their weddings, and to stand as godfather to their children.
Ara and Anna’s fifty years of love, devotion and friendship were an inspiration to all who knew them. They were best friends and true partners: Ara cared as much about Anna’s opportunities and successes as his own. They did not allow difficulties in life define their lives. Ara always said, “when life gives you lemon, make lemonade”. Their life together was full of love, laughter, and joy. During his last hospital stay, young doctors would often ask Ara “what is the secret for having a 50-year relationship?” Ara’s response was “mutual respect.” He believed in fairness and respect.
This is who Ara was..
We will miss him. May he rest in peace.
Ara is survived by his:
Wife, Anna Bagdasarian, by godchildren Lucineh Mikaelian, Arby Nahapetian, Ani Gabrielian, and Leonardo Stouffs, and by entire Khachikian, Hovanessian, Hovsepian, Nahapetian, Baghdassarian, Stouffs, Hurts, Yegumians, Khatchatourian, Papanian and Assaturian families in California, Massachusetts, Belgium, Germany, Iran, and Armenia.
Special thanks to the Salguero Family, Natalia Ozurkiewicz, and to Maria Zuniga for helping in Ara’s care over the years.
Funeral service led by Archpriest Fr. Der Razmig Khatchatourian will be held on Friday March 12, 2021, at 2 p.m., Old North Church (Red Church) followed by interment at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.
In lieu of flowers donation may be made to the Ara Bagdasarian Memorial Scholarship Fund at the American University of Armenia, 1000 Broadway, Suite 280, Oakland, CA 94607.