In Memoriam: Haig Didizian
With profound sadness, St. Nersess Seminary mourns the loss of Haig Didizian, of London, England, who passed away earlier this week. It was Haig and his wife Elza’s magnanimous gift that enabled St. Nersess to purchase the land that is now the Armonk campus and build the HH Karekin I Theological Center which includes the St. Hagop Chapel, library, classrooms, and offices.
“St. Nersess Armenian Seminary is forever grateful to Haig and Elza Didizian for their generosity and support in making the building of our new campus possible,” shared Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean. “May God rest Haig’s soul in peace, and may his family members be comforted through the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
A Hokehankisd will be offered on the 40th day of his passing by the seminary community in the St. Hagop Chapel, built in memory of Haig’s parents, Hagop and Khengaper Didizian.
Haig Hagop Didizian was born in 1930 in Jerusalem into a family that had fled the Armenian Genocide.
As a young boy, Haig began his education at Sts. Tarkmanchatz School of Jerusalem until the age of eight and then went on to St. George’s British School in Jerusalem. In 1947 he attended the American University of Beirut because of the unstable political situation in the region. Six months later, his parents, two brothers and three sisters joined him in Beirut. It was a very hard time for the family, having to be uprooted once more and leave everything behind.
In 1952, Haig joined his father in the recycled clothing business, which had been established by his father and great-uncle in 1923. His natural instinct, discipline and hard, meticulous work allowed him to expand the business in the second half of the ’60s into military clothing and footwear which were supplied to various governments.
Haig married Elza Azirian in 1964 and they had three children.
Due to the civil war in Lebanon, they moved to Switzerland in 1975 and a new head office was established in Greece. In 1976 the family moved to London, England, where they have been living ever since.
In the late 1960’s, Haig began diversifying into real estate in Lebanon, the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Australia.
In the 1980’s, 1990’s and beyond, Haig’s business continued to grow and further diversified into the manufacturing and distribution of food products.
The success that Haig’s innate qualities brought about allowed him to give back to the community. He began in the ’60s by helping orphans, poor children, and poor families. He remembers donating two dialyses machines to a hospital in Jerusalem. For Haig, giving was more satisfying than receiving.
One of the people he loved, respected, and admired most was His Holiness Karekin I, of blessed memory. Their first encounter was at Haig’s summer house in Lebanon in 1965.
Haig was only too delighted to accommodate His Holiness’ wishes including his last wish of all, which was to have his works published and for a Theological Center to be built.
To honor the memory of His Holiness Karekin I and to realize his wishes, Haig and Elza commissioned and sponsored a series of multi-volume “Karekin I Studies”. To date, over 17 books covering his life and works have been published, all of which have been distributed to religious educational centers, universities, and libraries worldwide, dignitaries and friends. It is certain whoever reads them, appreciates them and benefits from them. Vehapar was a scholar, philosopher, and a theologian.
As for His Holiness Karekin I’s wish for a theological center, Haig and Elza set out upon their mission and wholeheartedly undertook the building of two theological centers aimed at furthering the education of the clergy. The first His Holiness Karekin I Educational Center was built in Etchmiadzin, Armenia and was opened by H.H. Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, in September 2015. It accommodates clergy and provides them with higher educational facilities.
The second theological center built for the purpose of preserving the spiritual and national heritage of the Armenian people, is the St. Nersess Karekin I Theological Center in Armonk, New York. The St. Hagop Chapel was also built in memory of Haig Didizian’s parents.
For many years, Haig helped the Armenian community worldwide by promoting the Armenian Church and the Armenian language and culture so that they remain alive for generations to come.
Other projects undertaken by Haig and his family have included the task of safekeeping St. Gregory Armenian Church in Singapore and the construction of a Scout Association House for young Armenians in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In 2013 Haig went on an exploratory visit with other eager Armenians to Armanitola in Dhaka, Bangladesh where the group was able to help save and preserve The Armenian Apostolic Church of Holy Resurrection built in 1781. This was later followed by another exploratory visit, under the auspices and leadership of His Holiness Karekin II, this time to Yangon, Myanmar where the group was able to save The Armenian Apostolic Church of St. John the Baptist, the oldest surviving Church in Yangon built by the Armenian community in 1862.
Furthermore, Haig and Elza have supported numerous organizations, mostly Armenian, by participating and helping the cause of the Armenian community. They are benefactors in the “Yerevan – My Love” project, a new center opened in 2017, addressing the social, educational, and cultural treatment of children with physical disabilities, refugee and displaced children.
In 2020, Haig and Elza Didizian donated to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin to assist those in need due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.