My 2-year-old son is obsessed with trains. The living room feels like a constant construction site with a mix of Lego parts, Thomas the Train pieces and all sorts of materials used to build the ever-expanding railway system in our house.
He has also learned an Armenian nursery rhyme about trains that he’s always murmuring.
As real trains go through Glendale blowing their horns, the topic in the house inevitably turns to trains. So in November when I attended a special event at the Glendale train station, the meaning wasn’t lost on me.
With his recent passing, officials decided to dedicate the train station to former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian to honor his contributions to the community. The station is now known as the Larry Zarian Transportation Center.
One of the reasons for dedicating the train station is that Zarian was deeply involved in transportation issues on the local, state and national levels and was a strong advocate for public transportation. A couple of ways he did this was by serving on the board of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority and on the California Transportation Commission.
A large number of area political leaders were there for the dedication event and spoke about Zarian’s special contributions, but also about his character. They spoke of Zarian’s unwillingness to compromise his values when faced with conflicting choices; his diplomacy skills in bringing sides together for the benefit of the community; and his tenacity in getting things done — just to name a few.
I found this commentary very touching and appropriate for the person I had come to know over the past decade; both as an American and as an important figure in the Armenian community as the first American of Armenian descent to be elected to office in Glendale.
But I couldn’t help but also feel a little irony because a few of the people speaking of these virtues or at the event also have fomented community division as a path to their personal power. This is something Larry and I spoke about often on his television show, and he was always deeply disappointed to see such behavior.
In our off-camera conversations, Larry always stressed the importance of sticking to the issues and what is best for the greater good of the community; not letting political ambitions bring out the worst in us by driving wedges in the community.
What I also always appreciated about Larry is that with every interaction, I always came away learning something, even if it was during a five-minute conversation on the sidewalk. This was no doubt based on the wisdom accumulated over his many years of public service.
I’m sure that Larry Zarian’s work for the community came at a personal price of time not spent at home. For this we owe thanks to the sons for having shared their father with us. Glendale is a better place because of Larry, and he set the bar for how to serve your community, how to conduct yourself as a leader and be a gentleman in the process.
I recently took my son to the Glendale train station so he could see up close the trains going by with horns blowing. Needless to say, he was mesmerized, with eyes wide open. As we walked down the platform holding hands, the focus was clearly the glory of the big locomotives.
I look forward to going back with my son someday to also tell him the story behind why the station is called the Larry Zarian Transportation Center. I hope to share what I know of Larry, what his leadership meant to Glendale and his inspiring spirit.
I hope to impart the lesson from Larry that rings in my ears every time I hear those locomotive horns at night: the power of one person to make a big difference in their community.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications and public affairs professional. He can be reached at email@example.com.