Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Marilyn Altoon Arshagouni (center) at the Airlie House in the early 1970’s when the Armenian Assembly of America was founded.
Marilyn Altoon Arshagouni, beloved wife of Hagop Arshagouni and devoted mother of Robert, Mary (Papazian), Michael, and Paul Arshagouni, passed away peacefully early Sunday morning, February 14, surrounded by her loved ones.
Born in Los Angeles in 1935 to one of the earliest Armenian families to settle in the Los Angeles area, Marilyn lived a fulfilling life of dedication to the Armenian community. A brilliant student from her earliest years, Marilyn graduated from Marshall High School in Los Angeles with highest honors and attended UCLA, where she became the first student at the University to be elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society as a junior. She graduated with a BA in English in 1956 with highest honors and went on to receive her teaching credential and complete her graduate studies, also at UCLA. A dedicated educator and lover of the arts, Marilyn became a beloved teacher of English literature and history at the Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian High School in Encino, CA, which she served for over 25 years, touching and transforming the lives of generations of students.
Marilyn met her husband, Hagop Arshagouni, while both were students at UCLA. They married in 1956 and would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this September. Theirs was a marriage of love and shared commitment to their family and community. They were blessed with four children and five grandchildren and enriched the lives of their extended family and many students and community members with whom they shared so much.
While in graduate school at UCLA, Marilyn met the then young graduate student of Armenian history, Richard Hovannisian, who asked her to edit his dissertation. This work became the classic Armenia on the Road to Independence. She then went on to edit the first volumes of his History of the Republic of Armenia, ensuring that the writing was clear and elegant. This led to a lifetime of contributions to the Armenian community.
Marilyn Altoon Arshagouni
Together with her husband, Hagop, Marilyn was an active participant on the Armenian Monument Council that spearheaded the establishment of the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Montebello, CA. She was involved in the first conferences in Airlie, Virginia, that established the Armenian Assembly of America, contributed a year-long feature page for the California Courier entitled “Whispers of Armenia” to introduce Armenian literature, history, and culture to the growing California Armenian community, and was a driving force behind the creation of the Armenian timeline project at the Ararat Armenian Home.
In addition, Marilyn and Hagop dedicated their lives to bringing together their extended families who were dispersed across the globe as a result of the Armenian genocide, traveling around the world to be sure they recorded as many of the names of family members and their stories as they could find. These efforts led to emotional family reunions and the establishment of relationships that would have been lost, if not for their efforts.
Marilyn leaves behind her beloved husband, Hagop, her children Robert (Manya), Mary (Dennis), Michael, and Paul (Long), her five granddaughters Nina and Liana Arshagouni, Ani and Marie Papazian, and Beth Arshagouni, her sister Joyce, brother Ron, and countless nieces and nephews, cousins, students, and friends whose lives she touched.
Marilyn was laid to rest on Friday, February 19, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, CA.