By Paul Grondahl

Albany Times Union
Aug 29 2012

Parade's mainstay was driving force behind popular, patriotic event

COHOES - John Kacharian, a fiercely patriotic man who helped coordinate
Troy's first Flag Day Parade, died Monday after a long illness. He
was 88.

"John helped make the parade what it is today and he never quit giving
to it," said Ed Manny, president of the Flag Day Parade committee and
a Rensselaer County legislator. "As long as we continue the parade,
John's name will be associated with it."

The parade, which draws hundreds of marchers and thousands of viewers
along its two-mile Fourth Street route, is considered the largest
of its kind in the country. It is held annually on the Sunday before
Flag Day, June 14. It began in 1967 to counteract the counterculture
movement's burning of flags at Vietnam War demonstrations.

Nobody knew the history or nuances of how properly to display the stars
and stripes the way Kacharian did, and few possessed his reverence
for its symbolism.

"John knew the flag code backward and forward, and if we ever had a
question we checked with him," said Jerry Weaver, an emeritus Flag
Day Parade committee member. "He was meticulous as our flag adviser."

"He was a mainstay of the parade and if he saw something wrong with
the way the flag was being displayed, he was quick to point it out,"
said Frank Merola, Rensselaer County clerk and a former parade
committee member.

Kacharian led the Flag Day Parade in 2004 and was named Uncle Sam
Citizen of the Year.

The Troy native's parents had fled the Armenian genocide. He said
he was passionate about freedom after the religious persecution and
torture his parents and relatives faced at the hands of the Turks
in Armenia.

The family lived above a small mom-and-pop store they ran next to
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After graduating from Troy High
School, Kacharian earned an engineering degree at RPI. He worked for
more than 30 years at the Watervliet Arsenal as facilities manager
and director of grounds.

The history buff became the Arsenal's unofficial historian. When
surplus cannons, ammunition and other military equipment was being
disposed, Kacharian salvaged the historical items and stored them in
an empty building.

"He was thinking ahead and if it wasn't for John, we wouldn't have
a museum today," said Bob Pfeil, curator of the Watervliet Arsenal
Museum, which Kacharian helped found in the early 1970s. It opened to
the public in the late 1980s and includes about 2,000 items. "John
collected roughly half of everything that we have," Pfeil said. "He
got the ball rolling."

Kacharian also published a pictorial history book on the Watervliet

He and his wife, Halina, who died in 2005, lived in West Sand Lake
for many years. His health deteriorated and he moved to a nursing
facility, Eddy Village Green in Cohoes, where he died. The couple
had no children.

Kacharian was an active and longtime member of St. Peter Armenian
Apostolic Church in Watervliet. "He was our unofficial church
engineer. He taught me everything he knew about the heating and air
conditioning system and how the building works," said Lori Payette,
the office manager.

"John was a steward of the church in the truest sense," said the
pastor, the Rev. Peter Stepanos Doudoukjian. "He felt an obligation
and a sense of loyalty to our congregation. He was very dedicated."

Along with his church, his connection to his alma mater ran deep. When
the pastor visited him in the nursing home recently, Kacharian wore
an RPI cap.

Calling hours will be Thursday at 9:30 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m.

funeral service at St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church, 100
Troy-Schenectady Road, Watervliet.