It was nearly 3 years ago that our community was stunned by the tragic news of the young Armenian family and the event that befell them at Big Lagoon Beach in Humboldt County. Howard Kuljian, patriarch of the Kuljian family, along with wife Mary and son Gregory were swept out by ocean currents as they tried to save their beloved family dog. Olivia was the only member of her family to survive that infamous event.
With sympathy St. John Armenian Church reached out to members of the extended family and offered their prayers and condolences. We also offered to provide support if it was needed and on Christmas Day 2013, the parish took up a collection, and added our modest contribution to those of others in a fund established to support Olivia’s college education.
The following is a reflection by Joyce Abdulian, Olivia’s aunt, on the support that Olivia has received and her plans for the future. St. John prays for success and peace in all her endeavors.
by Joyce Abdulian
It will be three years this Thanksgiving since three members of my family drowned in the powerful surf near their Arcata home in Humboldt County The sole survivor was my niece, 18 year old Olivia Kuljian.
Through our sorrow, Olivia’s welfare became the primary focus of our hearts and minds.
The idea of a scholarship fund was born from the question: “What can we do to help?”
News of this tragedy and the scholarship fund traveled far. Condolence cards arrived with donations from total strangers. Friends and family were also so kind and generous. The outpouring of love for Olivia was overwhelming.
Olivia continues to demonstrate great courage and grace as she faces life without her dear parents and her younger brother. She lives with the local family who welcomed her into their home and hearts from the first day of the accident, and treat her like their daughter.
Like her parents and brother, Olivia is an amazing artist. This photograph of her standing next to a self-portrait, portrays her beautifully.
Olivia begins her junior year at Humboldt State University; she is a top student—hardworking both at school and work.
When I recently sent Olivia the scholarship check, she was overjoyed and expressed her thanks. Her personal note of thanks follows:
“I can’t thank everyone enough who’s helped me and prayed for me. You’ve given me the opportunity and stability to pursue my true passion of study: psychology. I’ve wanted to attain a master’s degree in psychology since early high school, and now it seems within reach! Thank you again, to all of you who have helped me, thought of me, and prayed for me.” - Olivia Kuljian