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Suren . . . it means strong

Vahan, Suren & Dora Varjabedian c.1940

My father passed away recently though his memory still seems present in my everyday life. I find myself sometimes pondering great moments we shared on trips from Alaska to Alberta, from South Dakota to Saskatchewan, and the life lessons I learned while being his son. I learned the value of hard work while working alongside him in a factory in Detroit and I learned the value of treating people well by the example he set. He was a good man.


If our goal as parents is to provide a life for our children that is better than ours, then my father certainly measured up. He was the only child of a man who owned a diner all his life and to whom financial security was often elusive. My Dad worked hard in high school and instead of choosing a path to some quick money working in an automobile plant, he heeded the advice from some now long forgotten teacher at W.D. Lowe Technical School, in Windsor, and drove a cab on weekends to pay his way though engineering school at the University of Michigan. I view all of this now through the lens of someone who lives in an enchanted land far away from the clamor of making of automobiles in Windsor and Detroit where my father worked and hope that I did as well as my father did as my own daughter gets ready to leave for college and then goes out into the world to make her mark. Of some note, my daughter carries forward an important piece of my father’s legacy. Seventeen years ago, upon her birth, we named her Rebekkah Suren; “Suren” meaning “strong” was also my father’s very appropriate first name.


So I write this missive about my father because I do not know how else to express my profound appreciation for all he did for me. If it had not been for his deep understanding and his confidence, and his belief in what lay unknown and unexpressed in me, I would have never been able to develop in the way I have. It is my sincere wish that in whatever I have been able to contribute through my work with a camera that I have somehow found a way to honor my father and all he taught me. I want to believe that I can hear him saying right now, “that’s fine son . . . now keep working.”

Thanks Dad.

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CRAIG VARJABEDIAN is an award-winning photographer who explores the back roads of the American West, making pictures of the unique and quintessential. He shares awe-inspiring stories of the land and the people who live on it . . . one photograph at a time.


  1. Unfortunally, I have never met your father, but I know that he was a very good man! I know it very well because I know you, Craig, and you are Son of your Father!
    I am with you in that sad and hard time.


  2. I’ve always enjoyed hearing you talk about your father. The admiration and love you had for him made the stories come to life.

  3. I feel like I knew your father from the many stories about his desire and ability to keep on contributing in his field that he mastered so well. And he did give you the freedom to pursue your dreams. Rebekkah I am sure is very glad she had a chance to know her papa and namesake. Our thoughts an prayers are with you and your family at this time. Peace, Ellen and Howard Lowery

  4. My condolences, Craig.
    It appears your father had a full life, and left much love behind.

  5. Craig – I’m sorry to hear of your father’s passing and your story about him and his life was so nice. I know that you were with him a lot these past few months and I’m glad that you were able to do that.

    I hope that the rest of your family is well and that we can see each other soon.



  6. Dad passed away almost 40 years and he is still a light-filled presence in my life. Remembering brings me joy and I’m so glad it is the same for you. Much love…

    Barbara Bullock-Wilson

  7. Craig – Have always appreciated your talking about your Father. My dad remains an inigma to me. He is often the topic of conversation with my brother. Perhaps he will remain that way because Dad was often silent and we believe a mystic. His memory will continue with you showing up unexpectedly. It is times like this that we grow the most. Have been thinking of you as get nearer to meeting again.
    God’s best to you and your family.

  8. Dear Craig, I read your heartfelt tribute to your Dad and recalled the conversations you shared about him and his impact on you. How wonderful that he let you know how proud he was of you as a person and a distinguished and accomplished. photographer. Your admiration and love for him always rang true. Please accept my sincerest condolences for your loss. Diane

  9. Sorry to hear of your father’s passing. He is with you
    always just looking over your shoulder as you aim that camera.
    He is in you and you in him forever. Seie and I send profound
    condolences. Now strike up the band.
    Be well, Brian

  10. Craig- I can actually hear him saying your comment- “thats fine son- now keep working”. To me, Dad was the best dressed, most dedicated, loyal and MOST INTELLIGENT man I will probably ever meet. Dad gave us all the need to work towards acheiving great things in life. As a female, dad instilled in me the need to never be dependant on anyone and to make my own path…he kept me motivated to work hard in college and make it through even when times were challanging to me. My last memory of Dad was him sitting on the floor with my son and playing playdough with him…I will never forget the love and interest he had in little JT even on a day he wasnt feeling the greatest. Dad will forever live in my heart and in my daily life as I continue to grow and “make my own path”. Thanks for sharing this story, you gave me more stories that I didnt know and I can hold dear to the memory of a loyal, and wonderful man!!! ..My dad…Suren…

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