Verdugo Views: Distinguished alum has Armenian heritage

January 29, 2014|By Katherine Yamada
  • Paul Ignatius as Student Body President at Hoover High School, 1938 and as a Naval officer during World War II.
Paul Ignatius as Student Body President at Hoover High… (Courtesy of the…)

Glendale native Paul Ignatius, retired Secretary of the Navy, will be honored at this year’s Glendale Educational Foundation event as a distinguished Hoover High alumnus.

Born in 1920, Ignatius grew up on Columbus Avenue in a Spanish-style house with a red tile roof and five apricot trees in the backyard; a reminder of a time when the entire area was covered in orchards, he wrote in his memoirs, published in 2000.

He started school at Field Elementary — a long walk, he recalled. Then Keppel opened in 1928 and he walked there with neighborhood friends. Not only did Ignatius attend Eleanor J. Toll Junior High, the woman for whom the school was named lived across the street on Columbus Avenue.

Growing up, he gave little thought to his Armenian heritage.

“There were no Armenian kids in our school except us,” he said of himself and his siblings. Nor could he speak the language. It wasn’t until much later that he focused on his family’s history and learned that both parents, Elisa Jamgochian and Hovsep Ignatius, were born in Armenia.


His maternal grandfather, Avedis Jamgochian, brought his family, including Elisa, to England in 1893 and they prospered there, but had to leave for health reasons.

They came to California in 1911. Jamgochian built a large house in Tropico and eventually invested in a soap factory, along with other business ventures. Elisa befriended a young photographer, Edward Weston, and gave him one of his first exhibits, “a small affair for family and neighbors.”

Ignatius’ father was 19 when he came to the United States in 1904, directly from “the old country,” with his three brothers. They settled in Pittsburgh, where they dropped the patronymic “ian” from their names.

When H.B. Ignatius, as he was later known, attended a Shriners’ Convention in Los Angeles in 1912, he looked up Jamgochian, well known for writing letters and poems in Armenian newspapers published in the United States. He was introduced to Elisa, decided to move to Glendale and they married a few years later.

During the aftermath of the massacres of 1915, H.B. Ignatius was asked to join the Near East Relief Committee, “the only Armenian in this distinguished group,” his son wrote. “Of all his many fundraising activities, this one gave him the most satisfaction.”

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