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Zabelle Melkonian

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Zabelle Melkonian Obituary
Zabelle Melkonian (1920-2012) Zabelle Melkonian died peacefully Dec. 9, at the L.A. home of her daughter, Marcia Melkonian. The only girl of four children, she was born Zabelle Kiramidjian to parents Misak and Jemima on August 16, 1920, on a 40-acre farm in Caruthers. By fourth grade, she was driving the Model T her father used as a tractor on the "ranch," bringing in the crop and taking water out to field workers. She was a farm girl, but little Zabelle wanted to become an archaeologist, a field that would have brought together her three lifelong interests: science, art, and travel. During the Depression, Zabelle attended Roeding Grammar School, then Fresno High School. The first person in her family to attend college, she received a B.A. and Teaching Credential from Fresno State College in 1942, and then immediately began teaching multiple grades in a crowded classroom at Fairmead Elementary in Chowchilla. After that, she taught at Roosevelt Elementary School in Kingsburg, before teaching on a sugar cane plantation in Paauilo, in what was then the Territory of Hawaii. Her love for Hawaii stayed with her for the rest of her life. To this day, former 4th and 5th grade students, now grandparents, fondly remember learning the hula from Mrs. Melkonian. In the summer of 1952, she toured 24 countries in Europe and North Africa for three months. After that, she and her friend "Markie" Markarian, two women on their own, spent months traveling throughout Mexico and Central America. Zabelle married Charles Melkonian on June 27, 1954, in the First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno. Their four children, Maile, Mark, Monte and Marcia, were born in rapid succession. She was the vigilant guardian of family history, proud that her great-uncle, Jacob Seropian, was the first Armenian to settle permanently in Fresno, in 1879. Her curiosity and love of travel led her on a 10-day rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, and to Florida to witness one of the early Apollo space launches. She visited more than 100 countries. With a voyage to Antarctica in 2001, she completed going every continent on Earth. Community groups were an important part of Zabelle's life. She was president of the Visalia-Sequoia Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a Town Hall area representative, and an active member of the Sequoia Garden Club, the Floral Artists Guild, the Visalia Art League, the Tulare County Historical Society, and the Tulare County Symphony League. Early on, she was instrumental in bringing Community Concerts to Visalia, which stimulated interest in the formation of the Tulare County Symphony. Zabelle was an avid bridge player, gardener, reader, and music lover. She and her husband enjoyed friends and family, and dancing to big band music. When it came to civic projects, they were always there to lend a hand, at home and abroad. They helped to equip schools in Mexico through the Lion's Club, and to foster international exchange through the Visalia-Miki City sister city project, and they actively supported the Nature Conservancy, and arranged to ship medical supplies to hospitals and clinics in the region of Mountainous Karabagh. Zabelle is preceded in death by husband Charlie, son Monte, and her brothers Armen and Ludwig Kiramidjian, as well as other family members, including most recently her dear nephew Armen "Jojo" Kiramidjian. She is survived by brother Vahram Kiramidjian of Fresno and sister in-law Maritza Kiramidjian of San Francisco, as well as daughter Maile of Visalia, son Markar and wife Suzy of Chatsworth, daughter Marcia and husband Bedros Bedros of Woodland Hills, six grandchildren, and many beloved nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held in Visalia at the Salser and Dillard Funeral Chapel, 127 East Caldwell, Sunday, Dec. 16, at 3:00. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Armenian Tree Project,; or the AAUW Educational Opportunities Fund, P.O. Box 6, Visalia, CA, 93279. Condolences may be e-mailed to [email protected]

Published in Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Adv-Register on Dec. 14, 2012
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