Cecelia J. Dadian (1916-2006)
Cecelia Johanna Qually was born in 1916 in Menomonie, Wisconsin, but grew up in Racine. Both her father and a stepfather died while Cele was a young woman, so Cele, the oldest of four, helped raise her younger siblings while their mother struggled to find work and keep the family together.
Cele graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in English and education. After a year of teaching elementary school, she returned to Racine, where she worked at Western Printing for several years as an editor.
Cele married Arnie Dadian in 1946, and she went with him to occupied Tokyo to live for several years while he worked for the occupation government. In Tokyo, they had two sons; the first died while still an infant. They returned to the states with son Christopher to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1949, where Arnie finished his undergraduate degree, then moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, so he could pursue a master's degree in East Asian history at Harvard. Daughter Margaret (Cricket) was born in Cambridge. While raising two young children and copyediting and typing her husband's thesis, Cele found time to write travel guidebooks, a babysitting manual, and other potboilers to supplement their student income.
The family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1953, where son Aram (Chip) was born. Cele became active at John Eaton School, where she helped create the first library and art program. She also worked to preserve trees and green space in Cleveland Park, and organized community support for home rule in Washington.
In 1972, with her nest emptied, Cele restarted her editorial career at the age of 55, and found a much-loved home at the AHA. She retired in January 2003.
—Margaret (Cricket) Dadian
In 1956, Cecilia Dadian wrote A Guide to Baby Sitting. She was kind enough to give me a copy when my daughter began babysitting. She wrote that sitters are best when they are "Affectionate, Alert, and Available." With those words, Cele described herself. Her concern for members of the staff went well beyond the standard, "How are you?" She really cared about the people with whom she worked. Cele's alertness to editorial errors ensured the quality of the AHA publications that she proofed and she maintained a high standard of professionalism for the AHA. Never late and always early, Cele was always available to the AHA even on snowy days when the rest of Washington, D.C., was too cowardly to venture forth. She would always make time to read a colleague's work and make worthwhile suggestions. She will be missed.
Assistant Director, American Historical Association
I met Cele Dadian when I started working at the AHA in 1993. Right away, I liked her; she reminded me of my beloved grandmother. Most days until I left the AHA in 1997, I would stop by Cele's office when I arrived in the morning. We would talk about what had been on National Public Radio that morning, what was going on in the office, what had gone on in the office during Cele's early years (it was definitely a different world then!), or whatever came to mind. Cele told me about her history—her early years in Wisconsin, her life in Japan following World War II, her many decades in Washington, and her much-loved family. She also listened to my stories, and although she never gave advice, her way of listening helped point me in the right direction more than once. She was wise and also funny.
Besides being a good friend, Cele was an excellent and careful editor. She was a mentor to me when I was an assistant editor, just as she had helped many other editors before me. By gently but firmly conveying her appreciation for high standards to junior editors, she ensured the quality of AHA publications for many years. She was a wonderful mentor and an even more wonderful person, and I will always remember her fondly.
American Association of University Professors
During the 20 years that I had the privilege of working at the AHA headquarters, I got to know Cele Dadian well and had the opportunity to observe her dedication to her work and her intellectual abilities. A wise person with a wealth of knowledge, Cele loved books and words and was in her element when surrounded by manuscripts that awaited her eagle eye. The tasks of tracking down sources and finding just the right word intrigued her. I felt blessed to have Cele proof my articles for Perspectives for she always caught the discrepancies—whether of grammar or content—and saved me from embarrassment.
But Cele was much more that an able worker, she was the mother hen who cared for her younger colleagues and shared their joys and sorrows. Cele treasured the small pleasures of life like the wonderful fragrance of basil leaves that she placed to dry on the reading lamp in her office. I fondly remember Cele for her devotion to extended family; love of music, art, and literature; her faithfulness to her work; and for being a special friend.
—Page Putnam Miller
University of South Carolina
AHA members rarely get an opportunity to know those people at the AHA office who work behind the scenes and in their work create, for us thousands of dispersed historians, a professional community. I was fortunate, however, to work in the AHA offices in 1976 while still a graduate student. It was an opportunity not only to get a broader sense of the issues that historians faced, but a more personal opportunity for me to learn about possible professional employments outside the academy, had an academic position not opened up for me. Cele Dadian was my instructor, mentor, and—at a crucial moment in my personal growth—what we women term an "other mother" who encouraged my ambitions, understood my frustrations, and professionally and personally served as a role model. I believe she played that role for many over the years of her work for the AHA. She was appreciated for her exceptional editorial skills and capacity to see that even the most complicated projects were completed expeditiously and as near to perfectly as could ever be hoped. She was unflappable when others would panic. Her energy was amazing; she could never imagine retirement, and I could never imagine the AHA without her. I eventually did obtain an academic position—one that happily brought me to AHA annual meetings year after year where I could always count on finding Cele at the AHA booth in the book exhibit space, ready with a smile and wise counsel. She was a remarkable woman; I was fortunate to have been able to come to know her.
—Claire G. Moses
University of Maryland
How can one distill 89 years of a long and rich life into a paragraph? Or even the reminiscences from a few years of auld acquaintance? But Cele would have known how. Deftly and surely wielding her blue pencil, she would have cut though the cluttered prose of even the most prolix memorialist, to find the key sentences. Unfailingly polite and courteous she was, but she tolerated no linguistic nonsense, giving no quarter to the misplaced comma, the hanging participle, or the forgotten hyphen. She was an inimitable ideal, but in her quiet, understated way she set an example we could aspire to follow, even if we did not always succeed in doing so.
I met Cele Dadian in 1982, when I was hired as her editorial assistant at the AHA. We were fast friends. She was my mentor, but also we were soul mates. Cele was one of my dearest friends and favorite people. I learned richly from her, and we had the most wonderful time together. How funny and playful she was! I learned from Cele professionally on the levels of orientation and practice. Some of the little editorial things I learned from Cele are how to use the word "comprise" correctly (I think of her every time I hear that word or edit for its correct use) and what a bibliohoax is.
Cele's professional knowledge and precision permanently influenced those around her. Her obvious love of her work brought dimension to daily life in the office. And everyone was touched knowing of her rich family life, especially her extraordinary and legendary relationship with the love of her life, her husband, Arnie. Cele became close with many people who came through the association, including the young people. She didn't have to cast a net to bring people to her. We couldn't resist her—just because she was Cele.
Cele and I worked together until 1987, when I left the Association, but I stayed connected with her for the rest of her life. I will continue to feel close to her for the rest of mine. I borrow the words she wrote to me in a card shortly after I had left the Association—O how I miss you!
Success for All Foundation
Cele Dadian was a good friend and a remarkable woman. She was kind-hearted, knew so much about so many things, was modest and yet always available with exactly the right information at exactly the right time. You could park in her office, as most of us did, and talk about books, about history, and about life. She was the best friend you could have. She was a gentle guide and advisor, a loving presence. Ever dependable, that's Cele, and unstoppable. She was an angel. We love her and miss her, and are grateful to have this chance of sharing our affection with others.
AHA deputy director (1982–86)
AHA editorial assistant (1982–84)
Tags: In Memoriam
Please read our commenting and letters policy before submitting.