She was born in Richmond, Virginia to Mariam and Karekin Nicolian, Armenian immigrants whose families were emigrated to the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1918. Her mother was the only two family member who survived atrocities and was able to escape to America.
Years later, Arax helped her mother petition the State Department for a visa for her mother’s younger brother, Papken so he could come to America from France. The two were separated in 1918 and finally, 36 years later, he was granted a visa and they were reunited.
Her family moved to Philadelphia and when she started kindergarten, she only knew how to speak Armenian. At age 10, the family moved to Kearny, New Jersey. As a student at Kearny High School, she joined the Glee Club. Her music teacher encouraged her to try out the highly selective Allstate Chorus. Her audition was successful and she performed in their concerts. She also became editor-in-chief of her high school yearbook. After graduating from high school, she attended secretarial school and art school while working as a secretary.
She loved dancing and she fondly recalls being 16 and frequenting The Rustic Cabin, a club in Englewood Cliffs, NJ with her date. They used to jitterbug a young swing band featuring a young Frank Sinatra.
In her 20s, Arax was a member of the ASA (Armenian Student Association) and spent many enjoyable summer weekends at the shore in Asbury Park, with young Armenian American friends. It was there that she met her future husband, George Parseghian, Sr. They were married in 1950. In 1954, they moved into their new home in Closter, NJ, where they raised their family. She resided there for the rest of her life. She worked at Volkswagen of America’s Englewood Cliffs headquarters first, as a secretary and then as a Senior Customer Service Representative. Over the course of 17 years at the company, she has developed many treasured, lasting friendships.
Arax was very proud of her Armenian heritage and was a founding member of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, NJ, serving on the Building Committee. Through the years, she has served in various roles at St. Thomas: As a Sunday School teacher; Member of the Women’s Guild, including a term as Chair; Cotillion Committee Chairman; and was elected to the Parish Council, serving as Secretary. She was co-founder of both the St.Thomas Armenian Singles Group and the St. Thomas Armenian Dance Class. In 1989, she volunteered as a translator, helping young victims of a devastating earthquake in Armenia who needed medical attention and were being treated at Hackensack Hospital.
She was predeceased by her brother Edward Nicolian and her cherished daughter Joyce. She is survived by her sister Margaret Peterson of NJ, brother Robert Nicolian of Georgia, daughter Linda of NJ, (Louis Russi) and son George, Jr. of Florida. Also three beloved grandsons, Michael, Evan and Adam, and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, and dear friends.
She was devoted to her family. Anyone who was close to Arax appreciated her wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh with her. She touched many people’s hearts with her warm and generous spirit. She was an excellent cook and baker and she would never disappoint – – preparing her hummus, cheese boreg and kadayif (an Armenian dessert) when entertaining family and friends. She continued to sing and dance throughout her long life.
Funeral services will be private.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to St. Leon Armenian Church, 12-61 Saddle River Rd., Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.
Published by Legacy Remembers on May 14, 2022.