WAACNewsletter
Volume 12, Number 1, Jan. 1990, p.24

In Memoriam: Sarkis D. Derelian (1903 - 31 October 1989)

by James Greaves

Sarkis D. Derelian, Armenian, was born in Turkey in 1903. When his father fled Turkish persecution, Sarkis was expelled to a childhood of subsistence living in the desert of northern Syria. His father made his way to the United States, eventually traced Sarkis and smuggled him into the States. In San Francisco, Sarkis' father founded Derelian & Company, a large firm which imported rugs into the U.S. and did cleaning and repairs. Sarkis learned enough of the trade that when he was forced to travel the rails of the U.S. to stay one step ahead of the Immigration Service, he survived by doing itinerant carpet repair. Finally one winter he was jailed as an illegal immigrant in Minnesota. There he worked a deal to do carpet repair in his cell until Immigration, finally realizing he was an Armenian and could not be sent back to Turkey, let him stay.

Sarkis founded a successful carpet firm in San Mateo, CA which he was subsequently forced to sell because of personal illness. Upon recovering he moved to Santa Cruz, CA where he established S.D. Derelian & Son and began specializing in fine carpet and tapestry repairs, making an effort to seek out museum collections. Under his direction the firm did major work for institutions across the country, a tradition continued by the firm under the direction of his son Stanley Derelian.

Those of us who personally knew Sarkis Derelian will remember a wiry, uncompromising, sometimes stubborn man who excelled at his craft and maintained the highest standards and personal integrity. He was a generous man to friends, strangers, and to the profession--an example being his partial underwriting of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's textile conservators, Pat Reeves and Fernande Jones, travel to Peru where they established a textile conservation and storage facility in Lima. He freely gave of his knowledge and helped many museum textile professionals, including conservators, learn essential bits of information not covered by more formal training approaches. Sarkis Derelian showed that being "commercial" does not necessarily mean being any less a professional. Whether remembered as Sarkis or Dave or Mr. D, he will be missed.

James Greaves

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