Emma Estepanian was born on December 26, 1934 in Tabriz, Iran. She was one of ten children. Her parents, Gayaneh and Gourgen Estepanian fled Armenia in the period of World War I, the Russian Revolution and the Armenian Genocide. Six of her siblings died before the age of 5. Emma was quite close to her father who served as a high-ranking military official. He died of mysterious causes upon returning from a military mission outside of the country. She was not yet ten. Her mother raised the surviving 4 children, Astghik, Gaspar, Emma and Malcolm while running the large dairy farm business that served the city of Tabriz. Gayaneh taught her two daughters to be self-sufficient and alert to a changing world. Emma and her sister, Astghik both became registered nurses and subsequently midwives.

Emma met Gaigham Ghazarian, MD while at work. They married and moved to the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan to work for the NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company). They had two children, Anita and Sabina Ghazarian.

In the upheaval of the Iranian Revolution, Emma worried about the family’s status as an Armenian ethnic and religious minority in Iran. In 1979, she fled the country with her two young daughters. They lived in New York, London and then moved to Eastbourne in Sussex, before settling in Vancouver, Canada where her husband who had been unable to leave Iran as a physician was finally able to reunite with the family in 1986.

Emma had an eternal passion for imbuing everything she came across with love and life. This included showing her deep love to her own children and family, community and friends.  The same zeal applied to her professional life, delivering hundreds of babies as well as to her hobbies such as gardening, winning several competitions for growing the best roses and strawberries.

Emma was a selfless and fearless advocate for her children and their education and a true fighter – she honed a new language and was able to start working as a nurse in several long-term care facilities in West and North Vancouver.  Sabina, her youngest daughter, was her lifelong companion and protector who remained by her side throughout all of Emma’s remaining years. Anita moved to Los Angeles to attend university where she later married and settled.

On Feb 20, 1993 she was hit by a car while crossing the road. She sustained severe brain and internal injuries. After months in a coma, she was left with severe disabilities. Many would have thought her story would end at this point, but she was resilient. Thanks to the efforts and advocacy of her daughter, Sabina and the love she received from family, caregivers and community, she lived nearly 31 years, mostly at Luther Court and more recently at The Summit.

Her struggles and her suffering finally came to an end on February 14, 2024.  At her passing, her whole family were with her in person and virtually.

She was a beloved mother and an exemplar of true love, resilience and strength for all who knew her. She is much loved and will be missed. She is survived by her 2 daughters, her grandchildren Michael Armen and Oshin Ghazarian-Leeson, Alineh Anais and Aram Garbellini-Ghazarian as well as by her nieces and nephews in New York, Tehran, Toronto and California.

Condolences may be offered to the family below.

McCall Gardens


  • Genetta and Loretta Badkerhanian

    Dearest Sabina, Anita, and families,
    Please accept our deepest condolences on the passing of your dear mother and grandmother.
    I remember your sweet mother as a warm, vivacious, and generous person. She exuded joy and positive energy. Everyone who knew and loved her was sadly deprived of her joyful presence far too soon.
    Emma was blessed with her two beautiful and devoted daughters, as well as countless friends, near and far, who cheered her on in her courageous battle to live, and to thrive in a new reality.
    We shall remember her always, as we pray for healing for her loved ones.
    May she Rest In Peace.
    Genetta and Loretta Badkerhanian

  • Rachel Wever

    I had the honour of knowing Emma in the role of companion when she was in her late 70s. She was the most incredibly interesting person and I came to care for her deeply. My time with Emma, plus the support and encouragement from her daughter Sabina, was instrumental in my life and career path. Emma was such a delight to spend time with; I can still hear her laugh and see her mischievous smirk. I will forever cherish her memory. Love and condolences to friend and family.

  • Soheila Hamdad

    Dear Sabina and Anita, now that I learned about the great life story of your mom and her great character I admire her for her useful social activities and I admire you for your dedications as her daughters to keep her safe when she needed you.
    She will live in the good memories she left for you and you should be proud of yourselves as her daughters;
    Sincerely, Soheila

  • Tamara Badkerhanian-Ganev

    Dear Anita and Sabina,

    Your Mom always held a special place in my heart and I have only good memories of her.

    She will be missed but it seems that she did live a full and exciting life. She was blessed to have given birth to you … two wonderful daughters. She will be missed but I believe she is in a much better place. Please accept our deepest condolences.

    With much love,

    Tamara, Genko & Elena

  • Lisa J Hartwick

    Dear Sabina and her family. I am touched and moved by your mother’s story —which is your story— shared through generations of human bond, resilience, relation to places/land, beauty and sorrow. May you feel carried by deep love and your family legacy, forward and backward in time. With care and tenderness, Lisa

  • Melita

    Dearest Sabina, Anita and Family,

    All my memories of your beautiful mother are ones of her smiling and happy. She was always so kind and so warm and loving. I am so grateful to have known her. Please accept my deepest condolences and know that my heart is with all of you. With love. Melita.

  • Shakeh stepanian

    Dear cousins; Anita , Sabina, and family:
    I am so very sorry for our loss. Emma, your mother, my dear and best friend, always shared her dreams with me-and we spent a lot of time together. I was very close to her since my childhood and she always made me feel very special. I wish I could be there with you during this hard journey you are going through. May God bless her soul and give you guys strength and peace.
    Sometimes in our sadness, we remember a word, an image, or feeling from the past that holds us together for ever.
    Her memory lives in our heart forever and she will never be forgotten. God bless her soul and may she rest in peace.
    Praying for all family.

  • Narine Grigoryan

    Dear Sabina,

    Losing a loved one is the hardest thing ever; losing a courageous mother like yours must have saddened you deeply. She has raised strong and resilient daughters, and has been proud of them. Your commitment to your mom has always been notable, Sabina. Your continuous care for her has been admirable. Please accept my condolences for your loss.

  • Farideh, Ali & Abrahim

    My dear Sabina Joon, dear Michael Armen, Oshin Jaan and family; Please accept my and my family’s deepest sympathy and condolences for your loss. May God grant you all patient. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all in this difficult time. Sabina Joon, I am praying and wish that your mom rest in peace and spend her eternal life in heaven with your dad (RIP) and all in her family that left the life on earth before her. Your mom was a symbol of resilience and a real fighter to the end. You were a wonderful daughter to her scarifying everything in your personal life taking care of your mom always with your pleasant smiles and abundant love. You mom owes her final 31 years of her life to you without your dedication and caring of her she wouldn’t survive as long.
    May God bless your kind heart and protect you always.
    Love you my dear. ❤️

  • Anita Hyrapetian

    Dear Sabina, Anita and family,

    My sympathy regarding your mom’s passing. I know this is a very difficult time for you all and you are going through many emotions. My thoughts are with you. Emma went through a lot of suffering and struggle during her life she is at peace now. God Bless her soul.

  • Asta Hyrapetian

    Dear Sabina and Anita, & grandchildren

    Your mom and grandmother was a very good friend of mine and I loved her dearly. We became good friends when Emma immigrated to Vancouver. She was very family oriented, friendly, and hard working. She worked at two facilities. However unfortunately because of her accident her life took a drastic turn. I remember visiting her many hours at the hospital when she was in a coma and supporting Sabina during this difficult time and praying for her to open her eyes. When she finally gained consciousness she was happy when I visited her. I will always remember her in my life. God Bless her soul.

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