In October, the city of Glendale and the region generally lost one of its great ambassadors, Larry Zarian. He died on Oct. 13 from blood cancer, a battle he kept from many, and one that came to a close seemingly without warning.
On Monday, the city of Glendale, Glendale Arts and Glendale Adventist Medical Center will host a public celebration of Larry's life. The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Alex Theatre, is free to the public, but RSVPs are requested. If you're interested in going, call (818) 409-8100 or visit www.GlendaleAdventist.com/Larry.
I'll admit, I had no idea Larry was sick. I had not seen or heard from him in a few months, something that had struck me as quite unusual. Normally, Larry — I tried to call him “Mr. Zarian” exactly once — would call at least once a month to kibbutz about Glendale politics, ask how things at the paper were going, or just to say hi. I suspect he had a master list of phone numbers that he would simply rotate. He was unstoppable.
Larry was one of the first people I met after starting here in 2009. Within a month of my arrival, I was scheduled to appear on his show, “The Larry Zarian Forum,” to talk about the paper and the community. He was an incredibly kind, fascinating person, and one whose thirst for knowledge seemed insatiable.
I heard of his death by an email to my Blackberry, as I came off a connecting flight in Dallas. I was on my way to Florida to visit my grandmother, who was in intensive care following triple bypass surgery. I was shocked, truly. How could someone so vibrant, so full of life, suddenly be gone? (My grandmother came through the surgery with no complications, and is currently recuperating. Whew.)
I had meant to call the week prior. But newspapering is an attention-deficit-disorder field, and I just plain got busy and forgot, or forgot because I got busy. I was saddened knowing I would never hear his voice again.
On Oct. 20, on what would have been his 74th birthday, a great gathering of people attended his funeral at St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church. The building is vast, but was still filled with the people Larry had touched over the years. Following the service, people lined up to give their respects to the family.
I have to believe Larry's sons — Gregory, Lawrence and Vincent — must have had their hands chapped from shaking so many hands. The line was as long as one for a Disneyland ride, and moved much slower.
As the first Armenian American to serve on the Glendale City Council, Larry broke down walls, making a new city partially in his image. Or, perhaps, he embodied a reality that already existed but had been suppressed. Until Larry, one of the largest communities in the city was underrepresented and underserved in government. Things are better now, more fair, and a good deal of the credit goes to him.
Truly, he was a politician, and as a politician, he was not perfect. I can't speak to those times, since I was not here. But from those who knew him then, I repeatedly heard he brought a professionalism and gentlemanliness to the board, a decorum seen less now.
We need more people like Larry, not only in the Armenian community, but for Glendale and the larger region. One only has to take a peek at the comments on our papers' websites to see that bigotry and hatred are alive and well in our community.
I've called Larry an ambassador, and here's what I mean: He was one that inspired good by doing it himself. By living the way he did, he inspired others.
DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.