Aris Sevag (right) with two of the dozen plus literary, historical and other works he has published, translated and edited. The books pictured are "Armenian Golgotha" by Peter Balakian and "The Life and Work of Dirkan Tchouhadjian" by Nikoghos K. Tahmizian, both were translated and edited by Aris Sevag.

Ararat Editor Aris Sevag Passes Away

by | May 3rd, 2012 | 34 comments
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On Saturday, April 28 at 8am EST, Ararat editor Aris Sevag passed away at his home in Jackson Heights, Queens after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

Born June 6, 1946, Sevag grew up in the tight-knit Armenian community of Philadelphia. His parents, Dr. and Mrs. Manasseh Sevag, recognized their sons intellectual curiosity from an early age and encouraged him to succeed while retaining a connection to his Armenian heritage. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania he traveled around the country working in various Armenian communities from coast to coast.

While Sevag was an accomplished educator, editor, and translator, many people did not know that Sevag was also an autodidact. During the 1980s, when he was teaching English at the Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian school in Los Angeles, Sevag taught himself Armenian and embarked on a journey to become one of the world’s foremost Armenian translators. His passion for the Armenian language knew no bounds and he was also an avid collector of books. His personal collection of books, journals, and periodicals numbers in the thousands.

In the last two decades of his life, Sevag was best known to the Armenian community as a well-respected editor. He served as the managing editor of the Armenian Reporter weekly for 15 years until he stepped down in 2006 to join the Armenian General Benevolent Union. At AGBU, Sevag served as assistant editor of the biannual AGBU News magazine and as the editor of Ararat magazine.

Sevag has published more than a dozen literary, historical and other works, the most recent being Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian, which he published with leading Armenian American poet and author Peter Balakian.“Aris Sevag’s death is a great loss to the Armenian community,” Balakian says. “He was a great translator of Armenian literature into English. Aris lived inside of the language and he knew his writers in a deep and lived-in ways. And, he brought to every text a serious intellectual understanding of the writer and of the time and place and historical context. He made a rich contribution to Armenian culture, and he had a zest and passion for what he did, and his soulful love of  literature will be missed by all his friends and colleagues. “

Professor George Bournoutian, senior professor of Middle Eastern and East European History at Iona College, worked with Sevag on numerous projects. Sevag edited seven of Bournoutian’s 20 books, including the forthcoming sixth edition of The Concise History of the Armenian People. The Armenian translation of the book, which was just completed in Yerevan, Armenia, will be dedicated to the memory of Aris Sevag. “Aris Sevag’s knowledge of the Armenian and English language surpassed many academics,” Bournoutian says. “He never said a bad word against anyone, helped all, and forgave those whom took advantage of him. He will be sorely missed.”

During his lifetime, Sevag published hundreds of articles in journals and newspapers around the world. Among Sevag’s unpublished translations are accounts of several Armenian Genocide survivors, a study on the orphans from the Armenian Genocide, histories of prominent Armenian families and works of literature. One of these literary works, Bedros Keljik’s Armenian-American Sketches was being serialized in the pages of Ararat since 2010 and before his death Sevag was able to publish seven of the 21 short stories in the collection.

During his memorial service last Monday at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Little Neck, Queens, his son Armen spoke about his father’s spirit and love of life. He concluded with the words, “As long as there are books to read and people to read them, his smile and spirit will live on forever.”

Sevag is survived by his wife Asdghig, his children, Aida, Alice, Ani and Armen, and his brother Paul.


  1. Alexandra Avakian says:

    So sorry to hear of Aris’ passing. He was an excellent human being and editor.
    Alexandra Avakian

  2. Mari Hazarvart D'Agostino says:

    A truly sad loss to our Armenian Heritage and community. I extend my deepest sympathy & heartfelt prayers for our Savior’s peace to his family.

  3. Sylva Boghossian says:

    I worked alongside Aris at The Armenian Reporter for close to 20 years, and he was one of the most outstanding, kind, intelligent, knowledgable and kind-hearted people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was my friend, mentor, and loyal co-worker. This a a great loss to our community and to all those who loved him. My sincere condolences to to his wife, children and extended family.You will never be forgotten Aris!

  4. Monique Svazlian says:

    Hrag, thanks for paying tribute with this article. I know he was a dear friend and colleague of yours. A big loss for the Armenian community, but his legacy and work will live on forever. Our condolences go out to his whole family.

  5. Edgar Danielyan says:

    Rest in peace dear Aris; you were a worthy son of your nation and will be missed by many. +

  6. ara baliozian says:

    how sad! he was a truly dedicated, selfless Armenian; he was an honest man. he was a good man.
    he will be missed by everyone who met him or knew him.

  7. Houri Geudelekian says:

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute. I will miss his sweet e-mails requesting or reminding me to read whatever short stories he sent my way. He was truly a gently and kind man.

  8. Zaven Laleyan says:

    Sad to hear of the untimely passing of this great Armenian man, he has rendered his gentle soul, as he rendered great services to the Armenian nation, with love and dedication, Vartsket gadar sireli Aris Sevag, houysov te ourichner ter bidi charnagen tser garevor kordze.

  9. Marc Mamigonian says:

    This is a terrible loss. Aris was both a wonderful guy and an invaluable–irreplaceable, actually–part of the Armenian-American community. It is hard to put into words how much he’ll be missed as a colleague and as a really good human being.

    • Sebouh D. Aslanian says:

      I agree. I did not have the honor to know him, but knew of his work and appreciated the dedication he brought to Armenian scholarship and culture. May the earth rest gently and lightly on him.

  10. Ellen Chesnut says:

    It is with deep appreciation and sadness that I write this. Western Armenian is a dying dialect and Aris Sevag kept it alive with his work. I am putting it out there to all young Armenians throughout the world the only way you can do honor to him and to our heritage is to keep the language alive…keep writing in western Armenian: Poetry, Essays, Novels, whatever. That’s the least we can do for this great man. My father from Keramet village knew eight languages with no education whatsoever but his absolute favorite was his sweet western Armenian.

  11. Harry Keyishian says:

    He worked until the end. I was in correspondence with him without knowing of his plight: he was just doing his job…all the way. A great example.

  12. Jack Danielian says:

    I knew Aris through his work as editor of Ararat. In this era of bright lights Aris stood out as a model of humility midst his great accomplishments.Farewell fellow Armenian.

  13. Fr. Levon Zekiyan says:

    Even if I had met him only a few times, I had admired his learning, politeness, his tasteful Armenian and his deep humanity.
    My condoleance to his family and also to the large families of “The Armenian reproter”, of “Ararat” and of the Society of Armenian studies.
    Hayr Levon Zekiyan

    • Fr. Levon Zekiyan says:

      Even if I had met him only a few times, I had admired his learning, politeness, his tasteful Armenian and his deep humanity.
      My condoleance to his family and also to the large families of “The Armenian Reporter”, of “Ararat” and of the Society of Armenian studies.
      H. Levon Zekiyan

  14. Avedis Kevorkian says:

    Words are inadequate to describe the loss to all things Armenian. He was a worthy son to two remarkable parents, and the void he leaves will not be filled.

  15. Edward Alexander says:

    In a world, especially of our own ethnic cosmos, wherein objectivity is often fleeting if not totally absent, Aris Sevag was a powerful and illuminating source of truth. His writing, whether original or translations of others, was a model of richness and eloquence, capturing meaning and nuance. He delivered his intellect and immense talent entirely into the service of the Armenian people and has left behind a legacy our nation shall always treasure.

  16. Aris Sevag called us to suggest he translate to English the Armenian biography of Grikor Mirzaian Suni by his student published in 1943 in Philadelphia. Aris’ mother had sung in the Philadelphia Suni Chorus. My mother had sung in the Boston Suni chorus. Recently we started this translation project together, with Aris sending chapters for our checking. His kindness + diligence together have always been impressive + special. Glad we’ve had his presence in so much Armenian writings + publications + know we already miss him + can’t believe he is suddenly gone. His influence + writings will stay with us all.
    Thank you Aris. Warm thoughts to his family.

  17. by his student Hagop Kouyoumjian
    (I forgot to put into the above)

  18. Harold Takooshian says:

    What a prince Aris Sevag was–a talented, energetic learned man with a heart for others, and justly proud of his family ancestry is from Everek. It is easy to miss Aris, Harold

  19. Deep condolences to Asdghig, their children and to Aris’s brother.
    What a terrible loss to the Armenian community, our litrature and what a sad time for all of us who knew him and the sweetness and generosity of his spirit. Diana Der-Hovanessian

  20. Robert Horen Ajamian says:

    Aris Sevag was close friends of my uncle Murat Acemoglu M.D. who passed way in july 2005 they worked together to advance Armenian Genocide recognition its our job to carry out their work.I have been inspired by their dedication for the Armenian cause of recognition of this genocide.Arthur Halvajian and many other dedicated armenians have died we must continue our work in their memory.Robert Horen Ajamian

  21. Linda Babikian says:

    Armenians have lost a great mind. I remember Aris and his brother, Paul, having written a history of Armenia which they presented to our Sunday School. Then, I had contact with him while working on The Whole Armenian Catalog–a wild and crazy effort.

    As time passed, one heard little bits about Aris’ evolution: a linguist, a translator, an editor.

    It was an honor to have known him… in peace, Aris.

  22. I met Aris because I wrote a story in 2005 about how I met Aznavour in 2004, and the Armenian Reporter published it. Then I had his and his wife’s companionship with me, when I went to Aznavour events. That’s all it took for him to find value in me. The man was a giant. At this moment I have a 5-inch stack of Aznavour clippings sent by Aris about weekly, starting in 2005, and stopping with the last envelope a couple of months ago. On Many days receiving the envelope from him changed my entire day. I will never, ever forget Aris. I have to do something with what he awakened in me with the example he set.

  23. Benon V. Sevan says:

    Aris Sevag was a unique personality with exceptional human qualities. The Armenian nation has lost one of its most talented sons who contributed so much to our culture and literature. May God Bless his Soul. May he rest in Peace. My most heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family members.
    Benon Sevan

  24. Aris Sevag is and was devoted man for his beloved family and the Armenian culture. We miss him. God Bless his gentle soul and patient for the family members.

  25. This unique character, we called Aris, was my best friend. Not only did he always have the answers to my questionss regarding Armenian history,but we would chat about this,that and the other thing. He never cut me off. He always had time for a chuckle or two, especially when I queried him about whether the period belongs outside the paranthesis or inside the parenthesis. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Anthropology/Armenian Museum at Queens College and edited all the text for our newsletter ? or Newsletter?. I am gifted to have had him as a friend. He was amazing. I shall not only miss him, but Aris is someone I shall never forget. I hope his family will soon remember him with a smile.

  26. Mike Nepi says:

    The Marple Newtown High School Class of 1963 will greatly miss our dear childhood friend, Aris. God bless and hold tight Aris Sevag!

  27. maxine sokol champion says:

    Having last names starting with S, Aris and I sat next to or near to each other from the 7th through the 12th grade. He was brilliant, curious, quirky and funny. I was drawn to him for all those reasons and because he had an infectious sparkle about him. My father, who had similar qualities, always asked about Aris, telling me he would be a star someday. Rest in peace, old friend.

  28. don britton says:

    this article describes aris as i remember him as a school mate. i was not close to him but i observed him from a distance. yet i remember him just as he is described in this aritcle and that is enthusiastic, intellectual and very friendly. i knew he was on the fast track to success and i am happy that his life was so fulfilling.

  29. Kathleen Keyser Kegel says:

    Having only moved to the Marple-Newtown school district in my sophomore year, I didn’t have the close connection with Aris as most of our class did. But he and his family were my across-the-street neighbors, so I did know him to be an intelligent, witty, kind person. Prayers have been lifted for his family and those who will miss him dearly. Wonderfully, Aris’ heritage continues…his first grandchild, a boy, was born last week to his son and daughter-in-law.

  30. Raffi Wartanian says:

    Aris kindly accepted some of my poetry for publication with Ararat and I will always be grateful to him for the opportunity and for his feedback. Keep shining, my friend!

  31. Lillie D. Merigian says:

    Aris and I were collegues at the first Armenian day school in the U.S., Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian School in Encino CA. He was loved by his students and respected by the principal and staff for his dedication and joyful nature. After he left California in his used Cadillac which he named the White Mariah, he sent me postcards during his drive to the east coast with interesting details of his trip.

    The worldwide Armenian community has lost a talented, genuine Armenian patriot.