Dorothy Donian Avedisian, aged 96, passed away peacefully surrounded by her family on September 4th. Born March 28, 1925, in Chicago to mother Jemile, who escaped the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1917 and father Samuel, who escaped the Armenian massacres of the 1890's, Dorothy grew up in Chicago, Evanston and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She married Armen G. Avedisian in 1952 and divorced in 1994. She was a long-time resident of Hinsdale and Lake Geneva. The youngest child by a significant margin in a family of four siblings, she boldly selected her own name of "Dorothy" at age three. Prior to that utterance, she was affectionately known as "Baby."
In her youth her mother advised, "Music and art will be your best bet, Dorothy." She embarked on life's journey with that clear directive. She was a proud graduate of New Trier High School and Northwestern University, with vivid recollections of their Waa-Mu Show. She passionately studied opera and became a lyric soprano, trained, and mentored by the prominent Chicago vocal teachers, Lola Fletcher and later, Eileen Deneen. Dorothy won first place in the Chicagoland Music Festival in 1954, thereby earning her subsequent performance at Soldier's Field. She performed in operas, concerts, and in her youth the occasional musical skit, throughout the Chicagoland area and internationally at the Altos de Chavón Amphitheater in the Dominican Republic. She maintained her voice lessons throughout her life and sang well into her 80's.
Dorothy was an active member of the Musicians Club of Women, the American Opera Society of Chicago, and Lyric Opera of Chicago's Lyric Guild. Her love for opera was the catalyst for her co-founding the Lake Geneva Opera Festival (LGOF) in 1977, whose Lake Geneva Floating Opera was an annual and often sold-out fund-raising event for 20 years. The Floating Opera was a delightful venue that featured opera arias performed by a soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor and baritone on The Lady of the Lake as it gently cruised Lake Geneva at twilight. Dorothy, also serving as Artistic Director, selected up and coming talent, some of whom later achieved international acclaim, including Richard Leech and Elizabeth Futral. LGOF supported local music education, including in-school opera performances and the purchasing of pianos for schools, as Dorothy strongly believed that everyone's life is enriched by opera, classical music and the arts.
A prolific painter with a bold yet impressionistic style using brush and palette knife, Dorothy often traveled with an organized group of painters to the American West and Europe. She exhibited and sold her paintings at shows and festivals around the Chicagoland Area. Dorothy was also a risk-taker who, fresh from college graduation, successfully auditioned to be an instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, with no formal dance training. Her passion and enthusiasm was contagious.
Dorothy was a loving mother and grandmother with a dramatic and eclectic sense of humor. She never took herself too seriously and had a light and uplifting spirit. Always curious, she wanted to know about you and your life. She was a crusader and advocate for opera, classical music, and painting, striving to expose all people, even total strangers, to the creative arts that had given her such joy.
She is preceded in death by her father Samuel Donian, mother Jemile Eghian Donian, sisters Adelene Donian and Verna Donian Bezazian, and brother Armand Donian. She is survived by son Guy Avedisian and daughter-in-law Margot Avedisian; son Vann Avedisian and daughter-in-law Heidi Avedisian; daughter Donna Avedisian and son-in-law Craig Chanti; and her beloved grandchildren (to whom she was known as Didi): Brooke, Luke, Avery Avedisian and Noah, Adeline and Clementine Chanti. She will be greatly missed but her voice carries on beautifully.
A memorial service will be held Friday, September 24th 1:00 pm at Christ Church Winnetka, 784 Sheridan Road, Winnetka, IL. Donations in Dorothy's honor may be made to: Lyric Opera of Chicago Center for American Artists, 20 N Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606 or Window to the World Communications, Inc. (WTTW) for the benefit of WFMT, 5400 North Saint Louis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625; or Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Public Library for the benefit of the Classical Music and Art Department, 918 W Main Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147.
or (847) 675-1990
Published by Chicago Tribune on Sep. 12, 2021.