June 14, 2021

JNH Resident Armen Tashjian Celebrates 99th Birthday!

Armen Tashjian and his younger brother Eghishe both served in the US Army Air Corp. Shown here with their sister Nancy.

Meet Armen Tashjian, resident of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home. Armen is one of our beloved Veterans, having proudly served in the Army Air Corp as World War II came to a close.

Born in Springfield on March 29th, 1922 to Anna and Eghishe Tashjian, Armen is the oldest of three children. His younger brother Haig, now 97 years old, also served in the Air Force as a navigator and bombardier in World War II. His sister Nancy, now 91, attended AIC and enjoyed a career in real estate until she retired at the age of 80. The Tashjian siblings are very close family and have been blessed with great longevity!

Armen’s father and uncle owned a confection store “Tashjian Brothers, –  Nobility Candy Store,” located at the corner of Concord Terrace and State Street in Springfield, just south of American International College, where they sold ice-cream, candy and fruits. People enjoyed coming into the store and sitting down to enjoy their treats.

Armen attended Tech High School. He then worked at the Springfield Armory as a precision tool maker. He recalls, “They gave me a fancy title, intricate tool maker!” Armen worked on the lathes and milling machines that made the tools. He wanted to join the Army Air Corp as a pilot. After three deferments he was accepted into service, and served in the Army, stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Columbus, OH.  The base was primarily used as a training base for B-17 and glider crews from 1942-1949. Armen served from 1943 through the end of the war.  He worked on airplane engines as a flight engineer. He did a lot of flying in the continental US, standing behind the pilot reading instruments and giving feedback especially on take-off and landing.

Armen enjoys playing the piano. He fondly remembers participating in a parade down the main streets of Columbus, playing “Nothing Can Stop the Army Air Corp” – the thought of it brings a broad smile to his face. He can be seen at the Leavitt Home playing the grand piano. His sister Nancy shared, “On our last visit to the Home he played the song Careless from beginning to end, just perfectly, even though he is stone deaf! He just won’t wear his hearing aids, because he says he can hear his own voice,” she shared with an affectionate chuckle.

After his service, with the help of the GI Bill, Armen received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, where he studied photography. He enjoyed a career as a professional photography where he worked for a time for Milton Bradley, Progressive Machines, and Westinghouse, taking photographs of their products for their sales catalogues.

While working at Westinghouse, Armen met his wife Shirley, who worked in the office. Shirley, also a resident of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home, predeceased Armen in 2015. They were married for 57 years. They did not have children of their own, but they loved taking care of people, especially children, and always treated them like they were their own. Special to Armen is his next door neighbor Sharon Dandy and her son Colin. They are like family. And it is clear to see that Armen and Shirley have a loving and very close family. Draped on Armand’s bed is a beautiful blanket with photographs of his beloved family members who mean so much to him!

Armen has remained active at his beloved St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in Indian Orchard, where until just 4-5 years ago he was the organist. Pre-Covid, he would attend weekly services. One of his favorite pastimes was dancing. He loved to square dance and enjoyed ballroom dancing. “He could do the tango like no-one else,” commented his sister Nancy. “The girls would all ask him to dance!”

When asked to share his secret to a long life, Armen replied, “I didn’t do anything special. I am not a drinker. I read a lot of health magazines and I loved to ride my bicycle for miles – especially my rides down to Watershops Pond. I also enjoyed ice-skating there. When my sister Nancy would get tired I enjoyed skating backwards and pulling her along.”

Armen was quick to respond when asked what he likes about living at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home, “It’s just like home,” he exclaimed. “I like my room and private bathroom. Plus I have the freedom of going anywhere.”

His sister Nancy summed it up, “Armen is a gentle soul, one of the good guys!”

Please join us in thanking Armen for his service to our country!  We are excited to be bringing back programming for our veterans. Cheryl Gumlaw, Director of our Life Enrichment Department, has been in touch with Lena Vellturo, the Director of Veteran’s Services in Longmeadow, and they are excited to have scheduled an outdoor Veteran’s Gathering on the Michael’s Café patio for June 29th at 10:30 AM. Local veterans will come to visit with our veteran residents. Let’s all hope it’s a sunny day!