Memorial for Beloved Docent Chuck Tellalian

On July 27, 2019, there was a lovely memorial service held at the Virginia Robinson Gardens for our beloved docent Chuck Tellalian.  The service was very well attended. The guests viewed the following announcement for Chuck’s celebration of life:

Words cannot express our gratitude for the endless support and acts of kindness shown by all of you.  Thank you.  Chuck did not like funerals, and thus requested no sad ceremony or religious service upon his death, but instead a party.  We are here today to celebrate his life.  He experienced life to the fullest, stopping to smell (or plant) the flowers, fruits and vegetables along the way.  Above all he cherished family, friends, food, travel and art, and he lived his life in pursuit of these passions. Today we honor him by sharing our memories, stories, and reflections on his life and how he impacted our lives.  His was a life well lived.  If you are inspired, we invite you to share your favorite Chuck story amongst each other, as this group of persons meant so much to him. Thank you for sharing this afternoon with us.

Our wonderful Superintendent Timothy Lindsay gave a moving speech:

Chuck acted as a volunteer docent at VRG for many years. Looking back, it seems he was always a part of the close-knit docent team of about 20 docents. The docents at VRG provide the visitors with the historical narrative, during a 90-minute walking tour that brings the Robinson story alive and is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

As the Superintendent, I conduct the docent training sessions, and Chuck was a “quick study” and couldn’t wait to lead his first tour and every tour after that. He was a dependable and enthusiastic docent. Always up for the task of leading a tour and enjoying the company of complete strangers as he entertained them, giving them a glimpse into a bygone area of gentility and legendary hospitality. Chuck too was a gracious host. Other docents admired his engaging delivery style and quick wit. Watching Chuck work, you could see the visitors were engaged and felt right at home when he led them on the tour of this 6.5-acre garden and house museum.

One of the distinctive contributions that Chuck made to VRG as a docent, that we all will always remember, was the implementation of his idea of offering a “Behind the Scenes Tour.” This brainchild of Chuck’s was to become a premium ticket event. Guests would tour interior spaces of the Pool Pavilion and the House Museum that were not normally accessible on the daily tours. Chuck, of course, decided the tour should conclude with wine and cheese, which it did. Chuck repeated this specialized tour several times, and he helped raise needed funds for the restoration of the estate.

In his capacity as a volunteer docent, Chuck was a compassionate and strong leader. He freely offered friendship to all lucky enough to know him. We will always remember him and his genuine friendship. Chuck provided us with a lifetime of memories, a true humanitarian with a perpetual smile. Chuck is with us and continues to inspire us.

In October, there will be a tree dedication ceremony honoring him. Tim added, “We chose a native oak tree to plant in Chuck’s memory because we felt the tree exhibits a lot of the personal attributes that Chuck exhibited – namely, strength, perseverance and determination.”

After the ceremony, the group enjoyed refreshments in the Pool Pavilion, and reminisced about their fond memories of Chuck.

In December 2017, Chuck was featured in a Spotlight article:

This month, we spotlight Charles Tellalian, a well-seasoned docent of the Virginia Robinson Gardens. Charles has initiated a unique tour experience, where guests will be offered an in-depth tour of not only the beautifully themed gardens of VRG, but also a tour within the home of the estate. We asked Charles some questions to give you the reader, insight into what has inspired him:

  1. How did you first learn about VRG and what inspired you to become involved?

I was introduced to VRG by a couple of ladies whom I knew from our joint experiences as docents at the Getty Center.  VRG is reasonably close to my home, and it seemed like a natural fit as I had walked and driven by the estate on many occasions.  Well, the grounds were so lovely and the personnel so helpful that I have been around for quite a few years now.

  1. What’s your role – How do you contribute to VRG?

During my entire tenure at VRG, I have been a Docent.  Originally, and to this day, I lead tours for our visitors.  For a period, I assisted in doing tours for the school groups that visit the gardens.  Another task that I participate in is doing the tours for the handicapped.  This involves driving disabled persons around the gardens in the golf cart. I have always considered my efforts as part of “giving back” to the community in which I live….and it is such a lovely environment in which to do it.  I also attempted to accomplish a research project regarding the history of the acreage and tract history of the grounds.

  1. Would you share a favorite VRG memory with us?

It is difficult to say that any particular event stands out in my mind during my years at VRG, but I have always enjoyed being able to see those areas of the property that are generally closed to the public.  That is particularly true of the kitchen and kitchen garden…this is because of my interest in culinary issues.  I have always wanted to cook on the twelve burner stove….specifically, my Homemade Biscotti.  I felt that their aroma would entice the visitors.  This gave rise to the idea of offering a special tour which would incorporate these two concepts; viewing the non-public areas while enjoying a glimpse of tastes of years past.  Thus the birth of a new offering: Behind the Scenes at Virginia Robinson Gardens.

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