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muriel j smith 120aNext time you’re tossing a ball or attending a game at Kavookjian Field on Route 36, think of Haik Kavookjian, the man who donated it to Highlands for a recreation area.

Although according to the tax rolls the Field is in Middletown, Kavookjian donated it to the borough he loved, the town where his daughter and son-in-law Vince and Kathleen Mendes, also lived and raised their children, the town he had also served as a councilman in 1925 and had been a benefactor of for many years in many ways.

As a councilman, Mr. Kavookjian served on the Highlands governing body only for one year, serving in 1925 with other names still revered in Highlands…John Ahern, William Ahern, Fred Bedle, Ben Neimark and C. Melvin Johnson, Jr.  When he stepped down, he was replaced by Harry A. Brown.

But the field he donated, and the legacy he left, including passing on the gift of community service to his daughter, Kathleen, is only one small part of the man who was born in Turkey and was an active and devoted member of the Armenian Church.

Haik had come to the United States without any funds, but believed in hard work, zeal and energy to rise to become Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bingham Photoengraving Company, a business he established in the 1920s.

Kavookjian not only advocated hard work, but gave numerous talks to youth group, stressing the fact that every enterprise had to have a goal, a reason for using the talents given to each. For himself, he would tell the story of his original goal., namely to establish his own store; once he accomplished that, he set his next goal to have six employees, and as his goal expanded so did his business.

With no Armenian Church in the country, Mr. Kavookjian had another goal; become a part of the Armenian Diocese in the United States to build a magnificent Cathedral in New York. It was 70 years after the Diocese was established and officially became the first Armenian Church in the nation.

st vartansPHOTO: St. Vartan's Cathedral

Haik Kavookjian became Chairman of the Cathedral Building Committee for what became St. Vartan’s Cathedral. He led the committee that raised the $3.5 million to make the cathedral possible.  Located at the corner of 34th St. and 2nd Avenue in New York, the Cathedral and its Cultural Center include an auditorium named the Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium honoring the successful business man’s dedication as director of the Cathedral Project.

The Kavookjian generosity to the public continued in daughter, Kathleen, who worked tirelessly on the Henry Hudson Regional School Board of Education and fought long and hard to have the school built on the hills of Highlands to guarantee the students would always have a peaceful ocean to view, seeing it as solace for teenagers, particularly in times of stress at school.  Her husband, Vince, also served Highlands, being elected to the no-partisan borough council in the late 1970s.

Mr. Kavookjian died at the age of 101 in April 1977.