Since former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian passed away about a month ago, his sons have gotten to know him in a different light.
“We’ve been introduced to him all over again,” said his son, Lawrence Zarian, at the a “Celebration of Life” event that took place at the Alex Theatre Monday in honor of his father.
After Zarian died of blood cancer on Oct. 13, many have told his sons about the important role Zarian played in their lives.
“The thing that my brothers and I have been saying is that we’re grieving the loss of our father, but the community is grieving the loss of one of their strongest voices,” Lawrence Zarian said.
Zarian’s family photos hung on the theatre walls as about 400 people reminisced about the city’s first Armenian-American mayor who was often called “The People’s Mayor.”
Zarian was elected to the City Council in 1983 and served for 16 years. He was also a director for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and served as a state transportation commissioner. Later this month, city officials will officially rename the Glendale Transportation Center the “Larry Zarian Transportation Center.”
“Someone was telling me this is the who’s who of who’s who in Glendale,” said Todd Hunt, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Glendale, an organization Zarian was deeply involved in, as he surveyed the crowd.
During the program, City Manager Jim Starbird said Zarian had a “lifelong love affair with Glendale” and described him as a “take-no-prisoners, damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead” leader.
“Larry was like a force of nature. Larry was like gravity...always there,” Starbird said, adding that Zarian would promote Glendale like Muhammad Ali promoted a fight. “He was bold. He was brash.”
Lyrics from Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way” were posted on the theater marquee. When Zarian died at 73 at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, his family played music by Sinatra, his favorite singer. A cardboard cutout of Zarian—wearing a purple Hawaiian lei in honor of his favorite vacation spot—stood in the lobby. Paula Devine, chair of Glendale’s Commission on the Status of Women, said the likeness made her remember Zarian’s love for Glendale..
“You just want to go like that,” Devine said, touching the smiling cutout’s cheek. “You just want to give him a smooch.”
Many did not know Zarian was ill before he passed. Councilman Ara Najarian said he didn’t know Zarian was in the hospital when he heard he had died.
“He wanted to be that proud warrior never showing any weakness,” Najarian said.
For Zarian’s son, Gregory Zarian, the event was bittersweet.
“It’s amazing that all these people showed up to celebrate my father,” he said. “But there’s a hole in my heart that will never be filled.”