Another mighty oak has fallen. Our beloved friend and brother, Evangelist Dibar Krikor Apartian, has gone to a well-earned rest. Mr. Apartian lived to 94 years of age—24 years beyond King David who died “old and full of days” at age 70. The Eternal God used Mr. Apartian to raise up the Work of God in the French language and to oversee and guide that Work for many decades. Through his ministry in the French language, through his sermons and articles in English, and through his well-known personal love and graciousness, Mr. Apartian had a wonderful impact on the lives of many thousands of people around the world.
I first met Mr. Apartian in August 1955. Richard David Armstrong had just hired him as the professor of French at Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. A short time earlier, Mr. Apartian had answered an advertisement for a “French Instructor” in an educational journal. Before he was offered the position, he was interviewed by the college president, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Apartian often recalled that he was powerfully impressed with the understanding and sincerity he saw in Mr. Armstrong. He told me a number of times, “Rod, all I was doing was applying for a position on the college faculty to teach French. But Mr. Armstrong seemed to want me to understand what the college and the Work were really all about. So, he spent two-and-one-half hours telling me about the whole purpose of human existence! At the time, I didn’t fully understand any of this [he was not yet converted], though I was mightily impressed and was glad to become part of an institution headed by such an understanding man as Herbert W. Armstrong.”
Through the following decades, Mr. Apartian and his wife, Shirley, became good friends of both Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong. For they both reflected a degree of culture and grace that Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong appreciated. As a couple, they hosted scores of elegant dinners for many members of the faculty and friends in the Church. A few times, Mr. Apartian traveled with Mr. Armstrong to see various dignitaries, and was always a kind and interesting companion to any of us who interacted with him. God blessed him with a wonderful wife, two sons, and, finally, one grandson who is deeply loved.
Dibar Apartian lived a most unusual and eventful life. He was born of Armenian parents in Turkey just as a series of the infamous “Armenian genocide” massacres began. Friends of his parents warned them of what was coming, and they were able to send him overseas on a ship to save his life. As a young boy of only four to six years old, he was sent by way of Marseille, in southern France, to stay with relatives in Switzerland. They eventually put him in an orphanage where he spent the next several years of his life and received much of his education. Later, he was able to get a very good education in Switzerland, and he excelled in many studies. During World War II, he ended up working for the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland. Because of his intelligence, his diplomacy and his graciousness, he became the highest-ranking non-Swiss employee of the United States Embassy in Bern.
Mr. Apartian found favor in the sight of a leading American diplomat who visited the Embassy and helped him—right after World War II—to immigrate to the United States. At first, he worked in New York as a French language tutor. After leaving New York for Los Angeles, with the hope of tutoring Hollywood “stars” in the French language, he eventually decided to apply for a position as a college instructor in French. This is how he met Richard David Armstrong and came to Ambassador College. At that point, he became my friend and ended up being my oldest and longest personal friend for the next 55 years!
Dibar Apartian, Richard David Armstrong, Benjamin Rea (formerly head of the Spanish Department and Dean of Ambassador College at Bricket Wood) and I were—for a few years—the “four bachelors” on the Ambassador College faculty. We shared many meals, mountain hikes and interesting trips together. Though Mr. Apartian was the oldest, he outlived all except me, the youngest of the four. He traveled all over the Western Hemisphere, throughout much of Europe and elsewhere—especially in the service of God. His dedication to teaching and practicing the way of God became a hallmark of his life.
His warmth, his loving personality and his enthusiasm for building the French Work—and for serving all of God’s people—will be greatly missed. I will personally miss the advice and the encouragement of one of my best friends on this earth.
Yes, a “mighty oak” has fallen. But although we will greatly miss him, we truly should rejoice that God gave his servant, Dibar Apartian, 94 years of eventful and productive life. And we can rejoice that it was such an interesting life in the service of the great God. We look forward with enthusiasm to seeing our friend, Dibar, in the soon-coming resurrection. We have every assurance that he will be there and greet us, once again, with his warm smile. God speed that day!
– Roderick C. Meredith