Hollis mourns Vahrij Manoukian
Pharmacist, selectman remembered after courageous battle with cancer
HOLLIS – “You say the name Vahrij in New Hampshire – there’s only one face that comes to mind, and so many people know him,” said Andrew Gyorda, a pharmacist at Hollis Pharmacy and General Store.
Pharmacist, selectman, political insider and friend, Vahrij Manoukian died Thursday after a two-year battle with brain cancer.
According to those familiar with the situation, Manoukian moved to Hollis in 1985 after growing up as the son of Armenians in Lebanon. His store, Hollis Pharmacy and General Store, became a fixture on the campaign trail for many Republican politicians. The walls of the pharmacy pay tribute to that, being decorated with autographed pictures of him with many politicians, including former presidential candidates John McCain, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina.
“His memory will live on,” Gyorda said.
He said Manoukian had been vigorously fighting cancer for 24 months. Although Gyorda said he knew his friend was seriously ill, he was not ready to wake up Thursday to the news.
“It has been an honor for me to know him,” Gyorda said. “He was a man of integrity, and a great sense of humor, and a heck of a personality. He had this energy about him. It’s magnetic and contagious. It energized everyone within his vicinity.”
Manoukian often gave fun and friendly nicknames to customers. One came into the pharmacy in tears Thursday afternoon after hearing the news and realizing her longtime friend wouldn’t be greeting her again when she goes to fill her prescription. Amy Kelly has known Manoukian for 16 years and said as soon as you got out of your car and hit the door, he had your prescription ready. She wonders how he was able to remember all those
“You didn’t have to come up here and give your name. He was just amazing,” Kelly said. “He knew everybody, absolutely everybody, where they lived, what political party they were supporting…he was just a great guy.”
Manoukian gave her the nickname “Partner” and was close friends with Kelly and her husband, James Kelly. Manoukian called her husband “General” because he is a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard. During one of her husband’s deployments, she became ill and called the pharmacy, sounding terrible on the phone. Manoukian answered, and upon hearing how sick she was in her tone of voice, immediately asked what the matter was.
Kelly replied that she was really sick and needed to have someone pick up her prescription for her. She said that’s when Manoukian said he would deliver it to her at her home.
“He showed up at my house with my prescription, and didn’t take payment for it, brought in my mail and my paper and gave me his cell phone number,” Kelly said.
Manoukian didn’t accept payment for her prescription, and instead, told her they would settle someday.
Nonetheless, the two became close friends and would enjoy going shooting together at Granite State Range in Hudson every Saturday until her husband returned from his deployment.
“We had a blast, no pun intended,” Kelly said.
Manoukian attended Northeastern University School of Pharmacy with longtime friend Chris Stone, graduating in 1982. The two have known each other for 40 years. At one time, Stone owned a pharmacy in Nashua, which led to them spending a lot of time talking on the phone. He remembers some days in which they would talk on the phone 10 separate times.
“We became brothers,” Stone said. “I’m closer to him than I was my own brothers.”
For more than 15 years, Manoukian was a selectmen for the town of Hollis, along with his participation in numerous other activities.
His other involvement includes being a member of the Hollis Brookline Rotary Club, a member and president of the state of New Hampshire Board of Pharmacy, and a board member of the Child Advocacy Center. Additionally, he was the chairman of the Republican Party of Hillsborough County, and received the Town of Hollis 2015 Citizen of the Year award.
Stone said in the last 20 years, nearly every Republican presidential candidate campaigning in the New Hampshire primary went through the pharmacy.
Beyond politics, another of his accomplishments was implementing the New Hampshire Controlled Drug Prescription Health and Safety Program.
“We didn’t have one in New Hampshire and he worked hard, and it took years to get together the resources necessary to create a website, which all prescribers and all dispensers of controlled substances can and must access before prescribing a controlled substance,” Gyorda said.
Echoing his thoughts, Stone said Manoukian was instrumental in getting the legislation passed.
“For the state of New Hampshire, without his advocacy, we may be one of the few states that didn’t have a prescription drug monitoring system,” Gyorda said.
All three agree: Manoukian will be missed. Details regarding his funeral were unavailable late Thursday.
“He was the town of Hollis’s father,” Stone said. “If you were to list what was important to him, it would be God, family, his business, and the town of Hollis. He loved the town of Hollis.”
“Some people say, God bless him, but I think that God blessed us with him,” Stone added.
Adam Urquhart can be reached at 594-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.