Arnold Lee Papazian (1934 - 2012)

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Arnold Lee Papazian

Arnold Lee Papazian, 78, of Salinas, passed away Saturday, June 9, 2012, in his home. He was born January 23, 1934.

Arnold was a first generation American born and raised in San Francisco. His parents, Walter Papazian and Zabelle Saroyan Papazian, were Armenian immigrants who settled in the Bay Area, and provided Arnold with an early introduction to the farming industry. His father started Lucky Strike Brokerage Company in 1940, and it is still thriving today, owned and operated by his brother Gil, and his nephew Gib. There, Arnold got his start in the produce industry that he would come to know and love so well, unloading trucks filled with produce destined for Bay Area markets. He was 16 years old.

Upon graduating from San Francisco's Lincoln High School in 1952, he joined the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, where he served as a Boilerman First Class on a series of destroyers stationed in the Pacific theater. After his tour of duty ended, Arnold arrived in the Salinas Valley in 1957, and began a career in produce that would span more than 50 years, culminating in the ownership and operation of Papazian Distributing Company, Inc.

While produce was a huge part of his life, his family was even bigger. He met his loving wife, whom he always called Kathryn, on a summer evening in Salinas during Big Week. Three months later they were married. Six children followed -- Aaron, April, Arnold Lee (his namesake, born on the same day), Tony, Tiffany and Adam. His children describe him as a caring and generous teacher and mentor, who is tough as nails with a heart of gold. While he surely did things 'his way', he also served to guide his children "with a hand on the shoulder that will remain forever." His son, Tony, describes life as a circus, with his Dad the Ringmaster. His 14 year-old granddaughter, Sierra, says, "Grandpa loved me for me and gave me the gifts to reach for the stars."

Bob Nunes, his best friend for more than 55 years, describes Arnold as a man whose word was his bond. Arnold booked his first load of lettuce using Bob's phone, and in a short span, "became one of the biggest and best brokers in the industry." Nunes describes Arnold as "one of the old-time brokers, yet forward thinking." They were also golf partners and co-founded the International Invitational Golf Tournament (also known as The Big I ) which enjoyed a raucous 30-year run. Arnold was also a member of the Grower Shipper Vegetable Association, the Western Growers Association and the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.

Friends and neighbors knew Arnold and his family well. His house had the largest television screen on the block, and a backyard lawn the size of a football field (most often, it was the football field). His garage was filled with toys galore. He was known to welcome all the neighborhood kids into his home, and to always have a moment to ask, "What's doin'?" And he would listen. He was also known to look out for them as well.

Arnold Papazian was a man with the courage of his convictions. His direct approach, sharp mind and surprising candor always made a clear and lasting impression. His imposing stature and booming voice helped. However, among his family and friends, it is his warmth, humor, generosity, strength and loyalty that will always make him larger than life.

Arnold is survived by wife of 51 years, Kathryn Papazian; children, Aaron (Erin) Papazian of Salinas, April Papazian of San Francisco, Lee (LeAnne) Papazian of Salinas, Tony (Debbie) Papazian of Salinas, Tiffany Papazian (Richard) Bufkin of Salinas, Adam Papazian of Carmel; brother, Gilbert Papazian of Hillsborough, sister, Jacqueline Kazarian of Newport Beach, and 13 grandchildren, ranging from 2 to 22.

A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, June 15, 2012 from 3 to 7 p.m., at the Swiss Rifle Club in Gonzales.

Donations can be made to Dorothy's Kitchen, 30 Soledad St., Salinas, CA 93901 or , 945 S. Main St. No. 201, Salinas, CA 93901.

Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home. Online condolences to


Funeral Home
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis Salinas, CA 93901
(831) 424-0311
Published in The Salinas Californian from June 13 to June 15, 2012
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