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Saturday, February 19, 2011

RIP John Sarkesian 1932-2011

My oldest friend's dad passed away this morning. It was expected, as he was in hospice care for cancer. My own father died when I was 14, after a five-year battle with the same type of cancer. I met Michelle that same year when we started high school. In our adult life, John became my "other dad."  He was always jovial, always kind, and always proud of his three daughters.

When we were in high school, John was at every performance of every concert and play we were in with his 8mm camera, recording it all for posterity. When our show choir had something to celebrate--a birthday, a cast party, or even just Christmas caroling on a cold Midwestern evening--it was Michelle's house where we all ended up. Her parents opened their home to everyone, and they had a great finished basement for our shenanigans.

Many years later, after not seeing Michelle for about 15 years, I ran into her mom and sisters at a reunion. She  told me that Michelle was actually living in California only about an hour away from me! The next 15 years we spent lots of time together, with our daughters and her son growing up together like cousins. We would meet at the zoo, Sea World, or at one of our homes for birthdays and holidays. Every year her parents were there for a few weeks to celebrate holidays and birthdays in December & January. Going over there at Christmastime and visiting with John and Iris was a treat! We had no extended family of our own, so they became it. When Katie was little she actually called him "Grandpa John."

About 10 years ago we took a road trip to the Midwest to see family. We stayed a few days with John and Iris in their home in Buffalo Grove during that trip. We slept in Michelle's old room. They treated us like family, even welcoming our puppy that was traveling with us. John proudly showed off his P38 model collection to my husband, and Iris, Katie and I chatted happily at the kitchen table. Their hallway was lined with photos of their family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren--their faces covered the walls so that one could barely make out the color of the paint beneath. These people valued family, and had wonderful family values. Their daughters, now grown up with children of their own, still had their own rooms to come home to when they visited. When you spoke with these two people, they listened, blocking out all distraction so that you were the most important person in the room at that moment.

Michelle moved away to Colorado a couple of years ago. Not only have I missed having her close-by, but I've missed seeing her family. Whenever her mom & dad or her sister and her family came to visit we drove over to see them. It was a very comfortable place to be. Michelle remains one of the best friends I've ever had, a thoughtful and generous soul, which I'm sure, is in part due to her parents' wonderful example.

My heart is heavy this morning, thinking of the big gaping hole that is left in Iris' life without John, and the great sadness that his daughters and their husbands and children must be feeling. It's comforting to know that they all were prepared for this day, that John is no longer suffering, and that they all have their faith to help them through this, but John will be sorely missed, and that hurts.

At the WAP 1997

John was a HUGE Bears fan. Here he is with "Sweetness" Walter Payton


  1. So sorry for your loss! Please accept my condolences for you and your extended family!

  2. Sometimes knowing a person is a gift, and what a wonderful gift he must have been to his family and to you. God bless and keep you in this difficult time.