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Aida Dimejian

Episode 098

Recognition of Armenian History & Education

A native of Beirut, Lebanon, Aida Dimejian immigrated to the U.S. in 1976 and settled in Pasadena with her family. Aida is a former Huntington Hospital Registered Nurse who found her niche and her passion in the field of Real Estate, joining her husband Hovig, who founded Century 21 Golden Realty in 1987, which is not Berkshire Hathaway Home Service Golden Properties.

Aida oversees the management of their 3 businesses: Real Estate, Mortgage, and Escrow. She was the president of the Pasadena Foothills Association of Realtors in 2002 and currently serves the organization with various committees and task forces.

Aida has been a director for the California Association of Realtors for 9 years and has held various leadership posts, and she has just been appointed as a trustee for the organization’s PAC. Aida has been active in the Armenian community, particularly with the Armenian National Committee. She has participated in a wide variety of community organizations to effectively connect the Armenian community with the community as a whole.

She chaired the Armenian National Committee of America Pasadena chapter for many years and was chair of the organization’s Western region in 2010. Her other volunteer affiliations include the Pasadena Police Foundation board, Housing Affordability Task Force, Human Services Commission, and Pasadena Armenian People’s Advisory Committee. She is currently a board member of the Armenian Cultural Foundation’s Western region, a CREPAC trustee for the California Association of Realtors, a National Board member for the Armenian National Committee, and a board member of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Aida is married to her husband of 31 years, and they have two children.

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Aida Dimejian Quotes

  • “I remember a time when I was sleeping in my bedroom, and I had gone to the bathroom, and when I came back, a bullet had gone through my mattress.”
  • “We all got on the bus to go to the Beirut Airport, and we were passing some areas that had snipers. At some points, the driver would tell us to get on the floor so we didn’t get hit by snipers.”
  • “You’re not free, basically. Part of you is just chained and not set free.”
  • Aida was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and after two years of being in the civil war, she immigrated to Pasadena. 
  • She fulfilled her dream of becoming a nurse and worked in labor and delivery. 
  • After the hospital began cutting nurses’ hours, she got her real estate license at the suggestion of her husband.
  • Aida and her husband have since opened two offices, Pasadena, and Sierra Madre, employing almost 100 agents.
  • Aida also started her own Escrow company, Contempo Escrow, and still runs the mortgage company with her husband. 

What is your connection to the San Gabriel Valley?

I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon. After two years of being in the civil war, we immigrated to the United States, specifically to Pasadena. I was twelve years old at that time.

We’ve lived in the SGV since then.


What were two years in the war like?

As a young girl, I saw bullets flying, bombs falling, and dead bodies on the streets.

I remember a time when I was sleeping in my bedroom, and I had gone to the bathroom, and when I came back, a bullet had gone through my mattress.

The insecurity of living in those conditions must have been astounding.

Yeah. I don’t think about it anymore. I’ve suppressed that memory, but as a little girl growing up, I didn’t see the worst of the war. After we left in 1976, it got horrific.

Do you remember what life was like before the war?

I have lots of happy memories. My father gave us a lot of good memories. We used to do a lot of weekend outings. I remember walking to school, but after the two years of the war and coming here, I’ve left that all behind.

Were you able to adapt to America when you came over?

It was tough in the beginning. Teenagers aren’t very nice to each other. I had a lot of issues in school.

I did have a friend, though. My parents had friends who had a daughter, and her mom assigned her to me as my mentor and shadow to help me.

It was challenging because I didn’t know the language well, and I had an accent, so I had a tough time starting out.

What high school did you go to?

I went to Pasadena High School.

What were the demographics like at Pasadena High School?

There weren’t a lot of foreigners at the time.

When did people stop viewing you as an outsider?

It didn’t take very long for me to get into some advanced classes and master my English.

Once I got into college is when it started changing for me.

Did your whole family come together?

Yes. There were about three or four families on my mother’s side of the family.

We all got on the bus to go to the Beirut Airport, and we were passing some areas that had snipers.

At some points, the driver would tell us to get on the floor so we didn’t get hit by snipers.

That was my family, aunt, uncle, and grandparents.

Have you adopted American culture or retained your Armenian culture?

From an early age, my parents ensured I retained my Armenian culture. I belonged to the Armenian Youth Organization and was active in the Armenian community.

When I was 18, I became involved with the Armenian National Committee, the largest Armenian political organization that advocates for the communities here and in Armenia.

What do they do?

We are a political organization, so we advocate for our elected officials for the recognition in America of the Armenian genocide that happened a few years ago.

We advocate for our communities here and abroad.

There is a high school in Pasadena called AGBU. That’s an Armenian school, right?

It is, but unfortunately, it just closed. There are Armenian schools in Montebello, Hollywood, a couple in the valley, and one in La Crescenta.

What do you think is the purpose of a cultural high school?

The purpose is because of the genocide. Armenians were driven out of our homeland in 1915, and the retention of our culture was important. That’s why we have high schools and communities to keep our culture.

What does it mean for you to be Armenian?

Even though we were born and raised in different countries, our Armenian identity remains the same. It all stems from our history of what we’ve gone through.

Being Armenian to me means staying true to my roots, my culture, and my language. We speak Armenian at home and send our kids to Armenian schools.

Where did your path go after high school?

I wanted to be a nurse at a very young age. I got my bachelor’s degree in nursing and my RN license. Then I started working at Huntington Hospital in labor and delivery.

Did you enjoy that?

I did, but the night shift was difficult, and I had two children then.

When did you diverge from nursing?

In 1985, after three years of the night shift, my husband, the founder of our Real Estate Organization, got his business degree and broker’s license.

Armenians are very entrepreneurial and like to be our own bosses. He wanted to open his own real estate business. In 1987 he started with Mortgage and Real Estate.

In 1992, when hospitals started cutting hours, my husband suggested that I get my real estate license.

I got my license then and have never looked back.

Where did you meet your husband?

I met him at the Pasadena Armenian Center when I was 18. I took him to my high school prom.

Did you enjoy real estate right away?

I cried a lot in the beginning. I wasn’t good with rejection, but I’m a people person, which helped me succeed in real estate.

How big is your organization now?

We have two offices. One is in Pasadena, where we have 65 agents; the other is in Sierra Madre, where we have about 35 agents.

I also have an Escrow Company, Contempo Escrow, in Arcadia, and we still have our Mortgage company.

Right now, I am training brand-new agents, and I love it.

What fast food restaurant has the best French fries?

I don’t eat fast food very often, but I would have to say McDonald’s french fries.

Have you ever been arrested?

Haha. No, I’ve never been arrested.

What else are you doing with your business?

It’s been difficult over the past few years because of the interest rates. The market is returning to our buyer’s level right now.

What’s it been like training new agents during this time?

It’s been difficult because this isn’t how the market usually is. At the peak, everyone was outbidding each other, and sellers were getting three to four hundred thousand over the asking price. So they didn’t have to do a lot of the salesman work.

Now they’re starting to have to do that more.

Why is the Armenian genocide a passion of yours, and what do you want people to know about it?

My family has been very involved in the Armenian cause. My family and my grandparents started their activism at a very young age, and it’s been passed on to me.

I used to listen to my dad sing Armenian songs and cry, and that resonated with me.

But I’m not just active in the Armenian National Committee and trying to get recognition of my people’s genocide. I’m also involved in our local politics.

Can you tell people about the Armenian genocide?

The Ottoman Empire started a systematic ethnic cleansing of the Armenian people because we were Christians, and because we lived in the same area, they saw us as a threat.

A million and a half Armenians were slaughtered, and about the same amount were marched through the desert, and they ended up in Syria.

Before this, the word genocide didn’t exist. It was until the Ottoman Empire started to wipe out my people that it came into our language.

My grandmother’s story about surviving the march was that a family member noticed she wasn’t on her brother’s shoulders anymore. He had left her by a tree because he got tired. If it weren’t for the family member returning to get her, I wouldn’t be here.

Why is there controversy about it?

The Turkish Government has never acknowledged that they have done this act against the Armenians.

To this day, they don’t acknowledge that this ever happened.

How easy is it for you to live with this every day?

My very being and every daily decision some part of it has to do with the fact that we have the situation in Armenia.

You’re not free, basically. Part of you is just chained and not set free.

If people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

The best way for people to get a hold of me is through my email,

Picture of Aida Dimejian

Aida Dimejian

Zephyr: It’s a newer Mediterranean restaurant on Colorado and Sierra Madre. It’s like having a home-cooked meal.

Sarki’s Pastry: Our friends own this bakery, and it’s great.

Mission Wine And Spirits: This is another one of our friends. They have five locations, and they have done really well.