Aghdas Javid: Baha’i. Teacher. Grandmother. Immigrant. Born July 16, 1924, in Hamadan, Iran; died Sept. 28, 2018, in Hamilton, of complications after a fall; aged 94.
When Aghdas Javid arrived in Canada with her physician husband, Mirza, in 1966, there were few other Iranian immigrants around. She was determined to integrate her family and contribute to her new community. It wasn’t easy – her English was accented, her skin was darker, her Baha’i religion barely known in Canada. But almost immediately she started classes for children and young mothers, taught Persian cooking and was invited to speak to local organizations. She began inviting people to her home for a Baha’i fireside, a weekly tradition that continued uninterrupted for more than 50 years.
During her childhood, Aghdas was encouraged to study and learned English. Her father also instilled in her a lifelong love of gardening. In Canada, she tended her flowers while elegantly wearing an emerald green ring, often giving a rose to a departing visitor, so that no one would leave her home empty-handed. Her home was known for delicious Persian food embellished with her homegrown herbs.
In Iran, Aghdas had taught village women to read and she continued to lead creative ideas for the promotion of women and children’s education in her Canadian community. In 1990 she was awarded Hamilton’s World Citizenship Award for community service with the UN Association and for helping to establish the Children’s International Learning Centre. She took on every project with passion and an unwillingness to take no for an answer. Sometimes when she was leading a project, Aghdas would ask one person to take on a task and then ask two others to do the same thing to ensure it got done. She had little patience for mediocrity.
Aghdas was also hard to say no to when she invited you to her Baha’i fireside talks on subjects ranging from the nature of the soul to social justice and community development. She always insisted on having a good speaker who allowed for questions and conversation. If the speaker was not inspiring enough, the tea and sweets were brought out early. Every July she hosted a garden party for all who shared that birthday month and in late February there was an annual community tea party to celebrate the Baha’i holiday of hospitality and fellowship.
Aghdas knew she was fortunate to have left Iran before the 1979 revolution, which had led to the deaths of many of her friends. Her contacts with Canadian journalists and politicians were instrumental in the Canadian government’s resolutions to the continuing persecution of Baha’is in Iran. Aghdas said that being in Canada, she felt “freed from a cage.” In 2001, she was one of 19 Canadian representatives to travel to Haifa, Israel, for the opening of the Baha’i Garden Terraces on Mount Carmel.
Aghdas and Mirza raised three daughters, Sussan, Ladan and Jasmine, and she was widowed in 1999. As Aghdas developed physical frailties she would sometimes complain that “being old sucks!”, but her spirit was undiminished. She joined a local aqua-fit class, lived independently and insisted on driving her own car until her final illness. Mama Aghdas took joy in her five grandchildren and great-grandson and would give them wet kisses in the pool. A new great-granddaughter bears her name. Her legacy remains in the many lives she touched with her enthusiastic energy and indefatigable spirit.
Brian Cameron, Anne Pearson and Kim Ness are friends of Aghdas Javid.
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