The Kavookjian Legacy

With a regionalization informational session set for 7p.m tonight at the Highlands Community Center, it brought back many happy memories and stories about great people who made Henry Hudson Regional a fait accomplis in the first place.

Were it not for Kathleen Mendes, a former president of the Hudson Board of Ed, and her dad, Haik Kavookjian, one of the very generous and spiritually minded Armenians I've ever met, there might never be a Henry Hudson Regional District to be the topic of such discussion now.

So I got a great piece from another journalist, Kathleen and Vince Mendes' son, Vinnie, that he said I could share, showing the side of his mom that we wouldn't know. Like most women, Kathleen was a mother first, and how she raised her children might well be different from how hard she works to get the best for all students in the bayshore. Enjoy VInnie's "Legacy."


My grandfather, Haik Kavookjian, fled the Turks in the 1880’s and wound up on a ship bound for New York. He arrived penniless, and went to work as a photo engraver, which was tantamount to getting into computers in the 1950’s. When he died at age 102 in the 1970’s he left each of his children $25,000, each of his grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren $5,000. He also left $21,000,000 to the Armenian church. Now this was the 1970’s when $21,000,000 was real money!

My mother and all her brothers and sisters wanted to contest the will, and I asked her, “Mom, how much money you got? Well, the Armenian Church has $21,000,000 to hire the best Jewish lawyers in New York before they break even, and you’re going to fight that? “

Papa knew exactly what he was doing, and if my mother had gotten $5,000,000, she would have spent it within a year at Walmart!

What Papa gave us in our genes, not in a bank account, and the sooner we realize that the better off we’ll be.

Now the O/L (Old Lady, aka my mother) was a tyrannical despot, or despotic tyrant. She ruled the roost no matter what. I just said “yes, Mom” and did whatever I pleased. She was always adamant that she treated us all equally, and when she was gone, she wanted us to stick together.

Meanwhile she made up her will so that Haik got the marina, Paul got the house on the hill, Tom, who had squatted in the house for ten years and assumed that he owned it, took her to court and was awarded $170,000 by the jury. She said that she was going to leave me the condo in Miami, (I think on purpose because she knew I hated Miami), so I told her ”No, Mom, leave it directly to Vinnie and Mikey”.

Well, she died, Haik got the Marina, Paul got the house on the hill, Tom had his $170,000, and OOPS! She had sold the condo in Miami, so my kids got nothing. But as I said when Papa died, what we have is in our genes, not in a bank account. We’re insolent and arrogant and can make it anywhere in the world just on our own good looks and our lovable personalities!

Subsequently, Paul, Tom and Haik have all died and I’m still here.

Paul was the last to go and when he died, Vinnie wrote a poem:

The four toughest guys I ever knew,

Were Paul, and Tom, and Haik and you.

Try tho I might, I can’t get my brain,

Round the fact that only you remain!

Thanks for those genes, Mom!


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