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    AGBU Impact_Sartorial Splendor_Ralph Shabazian

Sartorial Splendor

Ralph Shabazian’s life was dressed for success 

Ralph lived very simply, and never sought the spotlight. He once told me, ‘Money is to be respected and used wisely,’ which was a tenet he embraced so that he could enrich the lives of others one day.

Talia Jebejian Bouldoukian

The town of Turlock, California, nestled between Fresno and Sacramento, is known as “The Heart of the Valley” for its agricultural production. But for Ralph Shabazian, his hometown helped him flourish in fashion. He began selling men’s clothing at the Turlock Toggery as a high school senior, continued while he graduated from Modesto Junior College around 1952, and all the way until the store closed in 1988. He then took his talents to Rossini’s Menswear in Modesto until his retirement a decade later.

With a sartorial flair admired by all, Shabazian had hundreds of customers that included congressmen, doctors, farmers, lawyers, and many others. He remembered their names and clothing sizes, and always knew what would look best on them. He even modeled clothing for the store’s advertisements in the local newspaper.

Fashion was not the only genre within the arts that interested Shabazian—he could be described as a Renaissance man. He was an avid reader, and enjoyed music from the 1940s, as well as classical music and opera. Travel was another great passion, and he embarked on several educational trips with California State University, Stanislaus. His more competitive side won him numerous tennis trophies, and he once took a 310-mile, eight-day pontoon trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The Turlock Daily Journal published his account of the journey, and he delighted in taking family and friends down the rapids of the Stanislaus River in his own raft.

The fourth of six children, Shabazian was born in 1932 to Aram and Mary (née Khatoonian). Though Aram was born in Pazmashen (near Hadrut), he was a decorated U.S. soldier, having earned the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for capturing 11 German soldiers in World War I.

Mary was barely a year old upon arriving at Ellis Island in 1905 from Chomakhlu (northwestern Turkey). After she and Aram married, they decided to make Turlock their home. Aram farmed cantaloupes and later became a foreman for a melon shipping company.

Shabazian’s sister, Rosemary Selland, remembers, “While we enjoyed Armenian meals together with designated seats around the family dining table, our parents wanted us to assimilate. We never learned more than a few words of Armenian, but we always had a conscious awareness of being different. As we became young adults, we developed a keen pride in our heritage. Since Ralph loved music, he especially followed the careers of Armenian musical artists.”

Shabazian learned of AGBU from a young age—his father remained a member for 30 years. He donated to relief funds in times past, but above all, Shabazian was a devoted reader of AGBU News Magazine, even until his last days.

He left this world in January 2022, living almost his entire life in the family home, which remained exactly as it was, right down to the dining table. The “AGBU Ralph Shabazian Memorial for the Performing Arts” was established soon after.

Rosemary says fondly, “Ralph lived very simply, and never sought the spotlight. He once told me, ‘Money is to be respected and used wisely,’ which was a tenet he embraced so that he could enrich the lives of others one day. We are so pleased that AGBU will be able to award scholarships to Armenians pursuing undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in either the vocal or instrumental performing arts.”

This article was featured in the 2023 release of AGBU Impact Magazine. For more information on the AGBU Global Relief Fund, click here.

novembre 15, 2023