By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson/Marlborough – Decades before social media began, Hudson CYO Royal Jades Band members had celebrated their competition championships and mourned loss of its leaders by painting the rock on Route 85 at the Marlborough-Hudson border. On Nov. 17, a group of Royal Jades alumni painted the rock to memorialize their beloved drum major Leona Mukjian. She passed away Oct. 26 at age 65.
Painted in the band’s green-and-white colors, Mukjian’s image on the rock captured her signature vibrancy while conducting the Royal Jades. A printed message simply stated, “Leona 1952 – 2017.”
Before residing in Marlborough in recent years, Mukjian was a longtime Hudson resident. She passionately participated with the Royal Jades from the mid-1960s to mid-‘70s, first playing trumpet, and then marching in its winter color guard as well as leading them to championships as drum major.
Her obituary noted, “Even as she struggled through 50-plus years of diabetes and the complications that ravaged her body, she managed to keep us entertained.”
The recent rock painting was organized by band alumni Dave Caissie and Bob Morel. A past rock painting of theirs commemorated the Royal Jades winning the Eastern Massachusetts Division and CYO championships, culminating Mukjian’s final year as drum major in 1974.
Morel noted, “She exemplified leadership to young people still trying to learn for themselves what that concept means. She commanded respect from us. Many have remembered her our entire lives for that lesson.”
Affectionately known as Nonie, Mukjian is also being remembered at the Facebook group “Hudson CYO Band Alumni.” Robin Ledoux-Forte was the color guard captain and Mukjian’s close friend since childhood. On FB, she recounted a competition when her manual of arms commands were distracted by repeated clapping of a girl from a competing color guard.
“After the program, Leona sought out that poor girl and let her have it!” Ledoux-Forte recalled. “Thanks for looking out for me, Nonie.”
Another FB recollection of Mukjian is from band alum Susan McConnell, who was among the recent rock painters.
“I can still hear her belting out orders with that fabulous deep voice, and remember how she projected her energy out, willing us to respond,” McConnell commented. “We all have fond memories, especially of watching her step forward to receive our many trophies!”
Former students and their parents are remembering Mukjian as a dedicated second-grade teacher at Forest Avenue Elementary School in Hudson with a 35-year career in education. A 1970 Hudson Catholic High graduate, Mukjian is also evoking heartfelt memories at the FB group “HCH Alumni,” including a reflection from her cousin Roz McHugh whose son was taught by her while a second-grader.
“My cousin Leona was such a loving person,” McHugh stated. “She could always make you laugh. My son John was in a reading group with her and absolutely loved it. He was so proud that they were related. We all were.”
Memories continued the following day during a service at Tighe Hamilton Regional Funeral Home.