Johnny Angel

The day after my friend John Markarian died I called another friend, Don Cassetori, to thank him for introducing us.
That was at the Kingston Indoor Tennis Club where Don served as club pro. As my longtime tennis partner Mike Caputo and I waited for our court time, Don pointed to court number one where four old gentlemen were playing doubles. “A guy will be coming off that court that you have to meet,” Don said. And he introduced me to a person who would influence my life like no other.
That was 14 years ago. John Markarian was four months away from his 90th birthday. He continued playing tennis and golf until he was close to 100.
He asked me if I would consider editing a book he was working on and that was the start of a deep friendship. I soon learned John was an ordained Presbyterian minister, graduating from Princeton Divinity School, had a PhD in Theology and had been the founding president of Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon. He was brilliant and worldly and downright humble.
We once spent an entire summer’s day working on his book. With his wife, Inge, visiting her mother in Germany, John insisted on making us dinner. “I have my own version of spaghetti and meatballs, and it’s pretty good,” he said.
We talked as he worked and during the conversation he said, “You know, they never should have stopped teaching Latin. Latin does wonders for your English vocabulary. But as far as my Greek goes, well I never use that. Unless, of course, I want to read some of the old testament when I’m preparing a sermon. Then I’ll read the original Greek.”
“And this man is cooking me a meal,” I thought. “What should be happening here, is I should be kneeling at his feet.”
I wrote about John in my column in Pittston Progress a few weeks ago on the occasion of his 104th birthday. I mentioned that he wanted to be called not “Reverend” nor “Doctor,” but rather “Johnny Boy.” If that makes him sound lovable, it’s because he was.
Johnny Boy died Tuesday morning. I now think of him as “Johnny Angel.”

Ed Ackerman