George. Son. Husband. Dad. Grandpa. Papa. Mr. D. Uncle George. Colonel. Midshipman. Officer. Armenian. Classical Pianist. Chef. American. Sailor. Astronomer. Poet
Our father counted his blessings every day. He loved his life and he honored his friendships. He adored Mom with every breath. Every smile for her included a twinkle in his eye. He praised our achievements. He appreciated all efforts. He absolutely never wavered in the possibilities of his own life or in the life of others, and believed that we could do anything; forge a marriage for sixty years across the United States in 26 homes, fly a plane off an aircraft carrier, design clothing, teach school, take charge of a church library, raise our own families well, or truly end prejudice and poverty. We could absolutely count on his support, always. He helped us navigate the world with a moral compass. Whatever we choose to pursue, anywhere we lived, was fine with Dad.
Our father grew up as the son of Armenian immigrants who had fled Turkey with the shirts on their backs to escape the Armenian genocide. Raised in Hartford, Connecticut, his father, Charles, worked at Colt Manufacturing and, after enduring the harsh years of the depression with so many others, Dad never forgot that a life worth living must include helping others. His first language was Armenian, and he shared that heritage proudly throughout his life. His mother, Elmas, received her master’s degree at the turn of the century. Consequently, our grandparents, instilled hard work, determination and drive in both sons, Uncle Mike and Dad. They, in turn, studied and read voraciously as children, and those habits endured. The written word was important. Punctuation, diction, tact, and flair were always part of everything Dad wrote, whether it was for his church, the Air Force or a dear friend’s memorial service. Then, at age 18, as my brother, John says, “acceptance to attend the United States Naval Academy, changed his life in ways never imagined.”
As an engineer and soldier, Dad had Top Secret Clearance. He had a job he could never talk about when we were children. He knew that the ramifications of breeched confidences could lead to lost lives or ruined reputations. He devised new procedures for wide band recording of “unknown electromagnetic emissions.” He evaluated multi-million dollar airborne equipment. He knew all the technical aspects of space flight. He directed satellite communications across the world.
As our brother-in-law, David Shoemaker writes, “when I first met the man who would be my father in law, he was nearly a year into his retirement from the Air Force, and yet, to a hippie drama major finishing his junior year in college, he seemed every bit the Colonel: dignified, distant, and slightly disapproving. I was more than a little intimidated. Six years later, when his daughter called him on the telephone to announce our engagement, news for which neither he nor Jacky had the slightest forewarning, he asked to speak to me. I took the phone with trepidation, uncertain what to expect. Instead of challenging me to prove myself worthy, or worse, castigating me for failing to ask properly for her hand, both of which he had every right to do, he welcomed me to his family by quoting one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. It was only then that I began to appreciate fully his complexity and the depth of his humanity. I don’t know anyone who was closer to the ideal of the Renaissance man than George Deranian. A man who taught us that one can combine strength and vulnerability, authority and compassion, art and science, dignity and humility, faith and humanism. A man of sly humor and clever wit, he successfully pulled a prank on Jacky, April Fool’s Day, every single year. As Peter, his eldest grandson, remembers, “It is clear that grandpa was a gentleman of a bygone era, who never wore shorts!” A man of intellect and passion, of principle and compassion, I shall not be his equal – few men are. But I am proud and privileged to be his son in law.”
We have also greatly admired the strength, courage, and indomitable spirit with which Dad faced the challenges in his life–especially the way he bore the years of pain and discomfort of his sciatica without complaining, and without losing his sense of humor. If the measure of a man is courage with which he faces adversity, our father was a hero.
Dad lived his life forward, looking back only during times of sorrow. And today, our hearts are heavy. But, Dad, each of us here, will remember your great love forever.