NEW YORK — Peter Gabrielian passed away in July 2009 but when he established an endowment in 1996, always proud of his donations to the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), he probably did not know at that time how much it would ultimately grow.
The Peter G. Gabrielian Endowment entrusted to the AGBU is $500,000.
He always wanted to support two main areas of the organization – Senior Dining Centers in Yerevan and education. Like the way he practiced his entire life, Gabrielian wanted his contribution to be significant to the recipient. Today, his name is on a plaque at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan for his contributions to education and AGBU.
When Paruir Gabrielian was born in 1926 in the small town of Yazd, Iran, his father was one of the pioneering telegraph operators of the time. Tehran was always considered his hometown, where he spent most of his childhood near his grandparents and many other relatives. Later, Paruir spent time in Beirut until 1948, when he traveled to New York with the Marine Corps, joining a former teacher and close friend on a 21-day journey at sea. Not much of a seaman, he was sick for most of the trip, but his spirits stayed high and his heart filled withe excitement. The two befriended another man along the way, who had just two dollars in his pocket; when they pulled into New York Harbor, Paruir gave this new acquaintance $20 of the $40 he had to get started in America.
“Dad always imparted that story with pride, as it was important for him to share with others,” remembered his son, Craig. “It clearly defined the length that my father would go to in order to help others.”
Because of the difficult pronunciation of his first and last name in America, Paruir became known as Mr.B, Mr. P and later, while working in a restaurant, someone began calling him Peter, and somehow Peter B. Gabrielian eventually sounded right and stuck.
From Electronics to Real Estate
Settling in Maryland, Garbrielian opened a television sales and repair shop after studying electronics. By 1960, he turned his career to real estate, focusing on commercial property management, and decided that “Mr. Gabriel” was a name all clients could pronounce. For several decades he had two great business partners, who were equally devoted to the company’s success.
At the end of the day, his office operated on, this cardinal rule: there’s a right way, a wrong way, the government’s way, and a Peter Gabrielian way.
“While my dad was very proud of his career and accomplishments, his greatest fulfillment came in his benevolence to others,” said his son. “He was always anonymously generous – enjoying from afar the satisfaction of helping others.”
He was extremely private about his assistance, preferring a behind-the-scenes approach versus the spotlight. Growing up, his children remember him helping several different families throughout the years, who were far less fortunate than themselves, but no one ever knew it. This was a pattern that continued throughout Gabrielian’s life-from locals in the Blue Ridge Mountains of America to Armenia.
In Armenia, he assisted one family by contributing to the education of their two children from high school through college. Another family had an ill son, whom Gabrielian brought to the United States fro treatment.
Gabrielian was patriotic and generous to his ethnic roots, with the Armenian Church and AGBU remaining close to his heart. He kept a small Armenian flag on top of his refrigerator and although the family never spoke about it, it was always there as a subtle reminder of their country’s history. Today, the same sits in the same place on Craig’s refrigerator.
He was always close with his son. Even later in life, Craig and Peter would speak daily on the commute to work, enjoyed spontaneous, casual dinners and traveled together for memorable family time. “Dad always made me feel as if out time together was as special to him as it was for me,” Craig said.
“It was always important to my dad that his legacy live on with tradition of giving,” said Craig. “Whatever my father did, or believed in, he did it wholeheartedly. If it was loving someone, caring for something, rebuilding, whatever…he did it fully and with all his energy.”
“Always leave things in better condition than you found them,” was a motto he lived by, and the Peter B. Gabrielian Endowment will continue to foster this goal in the future.