Obituary: The Rev. John O. Najarian, Jr.

Great-grandfather, pastor, volunteer

John O. Najarian, Jr., 35-year Claremont resident and former pastor of Claremont Presbyterian Church, died April 11. John, 90, was a resident at Pilgrim Place.

He was born July 8, 1932 in Fresno, California, the oldest of four children born to an Armenian immigrant father and New England yankee mother. From childhood through college, he worked in his father’s hardware store and was active in the First Armenian Presbyterian Church while soccer and track fueled his competitive spirit.

But it was at church where he met his wife of 48 years, Daisy Vartabedian. Daisy, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, was the church organist and a classmate of his at Roosevelt High School. The church and the community of Armenians in Fresno were always with him and Daisy wherever they served.

After graduating from Fresno State with a degree in journalism, the couple married and were off to San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, California. Graduating in 1957 and with their first child, Susan, they moved to rural Oregon where he served two congregations. He discovered his love of the mountains while in Oregon, which he shared with his congregations by leading tireless high school backpacking trips of five and six days and weekend trips with adults.

The couple had two more children, Beth and John, while he served at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Salem.

In 1969, they moved back to their seminary town of San Anselmo, where he remained a pastor until 1981. While he led the congregation and served the larger church on national committees, his wife actively served the church and community, welcoming visitors, and volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Their ministry was a true partnership.

He left the parish to join a good friend at K/P Graphics, a commercial printer based in Berkeley, California. He became president of the company in 1982 while he continued as an active layman in the church. The couple liked the idea of doing something new, but decided that he would like to retire as a pastor, which brought them to Claremont.

He joined Claremont Presbyterian Church in 1989, where he served until his “retirement” in 1998. In 1999, he took a six month position as interim pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena. At the time, he also was on the board of trustees of Westminster Gardens, a retirement community for clergy, missionaries, and church workers. When the director left, he was asked to step in as interim executive director of the 165-resident community until he retired once again in 2001.

The Claremont community was a special place for him, whether it was enjoying coffee and pastry with friends at Some Crust, or as a police chaplain. After his wife died of cancer in 2002, he cherished the support of his friends from Claremont Presbyterian Church, Pilgrim Place, and the community. He couldn’t walk a block downtown without hearing, “Hi John,” from a passing friend.

“The family would like to thank Dawn and the other CNAs at Pilgrim Place who treated our father with such care,” his family shared.

He is survived by his daughters and sons-in-law, Susan and Wayne Davis of Sacramento and Beth Najarian-Gileo and Jeff Gileo of Fresno; son and daughter-in-law John and Janet Najarian of Vancouver, Washington; brother, Elbert Najarian of Sebastopol, California; grandchildren Lauren Davis of Monterey, California, Annie Davis Mitchell (Brian Mitchell) of San Francisco, Matthew Najarian of Vancouver, Jenny Najarian of Chicago, Andrew Gileo of Fresno, and great-granddaughter Eloise Mitchell.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Daisy, and sisters Alice Hardee and Joan Moore.

“John preached and lived by the belief that faith is reflected in both our spirit and deeds,” his family said. “In lieu of flowers, John would love it if we all quietly but intentionally took a simple action in our community that reflects our faith, whatever faith that may be.”

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 1 at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont 91711.


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