Glendale couple united in family's memory
Pair killed in car crash in May are being remembered here and in Armenia.
Last August, Vaché Thomassian celebrated his sister's whirlwind wedding — complete with a traditional church ceremony and a tour of the bride and groom's favorite locations in Armenia.
Sunday would have been Sosé Thomassian and Allen Yekikian's first anniversary. That milestone, tragically, will never occur as the two, who had strong ties to the Armenian community in Glendale, died in a car crash while on a weekend getaway in May.
"The difference in emotion from the emotions we felt last year during the wedding and now are worlds apart," said Thomassian, who visited the church in Armenia where the wedding was held with his mother last week.
The past three months have been nightmarish for Thomassian, but he said a desire to honor his sister and her husband's memories sustains him. He sees Sosé Thomassian and Yekikian as symbols of young Armenian Americans striving to improve their ancestors' homeland and he wants to continue their work.
Vaché Thomassian and some close friends launched the Sosé and Allen Foundation, a charity aimed at supporting the couple's core values: education, repatriation, volunteerism and democratic development.
The 29-year-old Columbia University graduate student timed the launch of a website for the foundation,soseandallen.com, with the couple's anniversary. He pulled together photos, videos and stories for the website, a cathartic exercise that he said made his sister and brother-in-law seem more alive than ever.
"They did a lot in a short time, they left a lot left to be done, which I hope to continue, but most importantly, they did everything with love, love for their families, love for [Armenia], their communities in California and love for each other," he said.
The couple met at the La Crescenta chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation, an advocacy group, and after hosting a destination wedding in Armenia, they moved there five months later. They were barely settled in their new home before they died.
The couple, along with Vaché Thomassian, helped run a youth camp in Armenia during the summers. The goal was to connect youth from the country and those from the Armenian diaspora.
Armenians have put down roots in many countries since the 1915 genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, but the couple decided to move back to help revitalize a struggling country.
"What they started cannot end on a tragic note, it has to be turned into something positive and constructive," Vaché Thomassian said. "They lived for bringing positive change to Armenia."
While there is still much to do to get the foundation off the ground, including completing nonprofit paperwork both here and in Armenia, other events have taken place to remember the couple.
After hearing of their story, Fuller Center, an organization that develops homes for the needy in Armenia, dedicated a "build day" to the couple. The center plans to dedicate one construction day a year to their memory.
"It was very symbolic to help a family in the creation of their home, something that Sosé & Allen were only beginning to do themselves," Vaché Thomassian said.
Two cedar trees have also been planted in Lovers Park in Yerevan, a green space that features a waterfall. Yekikian and Sosé Thomassian, who were 28 and 30 when they died, often walked through the park on their way to the American University of Armenia, where Yekikian worked as the director of communications and his wife took classes.
"I chose the cedar trees because they are evergreen; through cold snowy winter and hot summer, they will grow together, just like Sosé and Allen were meant to," Vaché Thomassian said.