24 December 2020
Jahanshah Palizban died at home in Valley Center, California shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve, amidst children and grandchildren. Born in Kermanshah, Iran on August 5th, 1928, he was 92 years old. After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, at the age of 51, he immigrated to the United States, ultimately settling in California with his wife and five children. In 1994, at the age of 66, he became an American citizen. Growing up in a feudal agrarian society, rapidly modernizing in the post-war world, he came from a lineage both humble and proud. The son of lords from Lorestan and Kermanshah, he traced his lineage back at least nine generations: Jahanshah, son of Ghamar Khadivi and Habibollah Palizban, son of Nasser Khan, son of Bagher Khan, son of Kaka Jan II, son of Adineh, son of Yaghoub Khan, son of Kaka Jan I, son of Dolatmand, son of Khodaie...The brother of Azizollah Palizban, Lt. General, Chief of Combined Intelligence and Counterintelligence of Iran, Deputy Prime Minister of Iran, Governor of Kermanshahan, and Senator of Kermanshahan, Kurdistan and Elam. Of Farahangiz Imani, Lt. Governor of Khorasan, and Governor of Mashhad. Of Mehrangiz Broumand. And of Chehrzad Hooshmand. Although so much history was lost with the old country, and the details of this ancestry are being forgotten, its pride is not and it lived on in its latest scion... A name well-given is an oracle, difficult to interpret until after death. Now we can break the seal. His compound name — "Jahan" (world) and "Shah" (king) — means "King Of The World." Taken literally, a name of preposterous ambition, not appropriate to describe this man. This man was a farmer. He planted seeds, tilled and watered the earth, husbanded animals and reaped the harvest in its season of full ripeness... But in another sense, he was The Khan that took this family from its rural and ancient roots and introduced us to the modern world.
Kermanshah in 1928 was still stuck in time... not just in the 19th century, but in the 5th century. Jahanshah understood, in his own way, the upheavals and the transformations that would remake the world in the 20th century, and through those storms, he piloted the ship of the Palizban family safely into the 21st century... If some Persians flatter themselves as The Shahs Of Sunset, "The Shahs Of Kermanshah" can be likened to "The Shahs Of Rural Alabama." Most people have never heard of Kermanshah. From a distance, to the uninitiated, it seems a small and insignificant place in the world, like Alabama. But in that faraway place, in its secret history, is our origin. In the proud tradition of one of its leading families, Jahanshah was the adventurer who broke out and saw the world, then came back. When revolution struck, and the time came for a real Exodus, he left again, but this time, he brought his family with him. Out of persecution in Iran into The Promised Land in America... He was our Moses; not proud, but a god-fearing man — and for that, we honor him.
At the age of 5, diagnosed with Tuberculosis and given a slim chance of survival, his mother took him to a small village in the Zagros Mountains where doctors suggested he might heal. He spent a year there, endeared himself to the villagers and survived. After returning home, as a child exploring his father's office, he discovered the memoirs of his grandfather, Nasser Khan, which impressed the family's legacy upon him. As an adolescent, he climbed Mount Behistun to see with his own eyes, and touch with his own hands, the statues and the inscriptions set there in stone, the great Rosetta Stone of the Persian Empire, commissioned by Darius The Great in the 5th century BC... which recites the King’s own lineage, and then reads thus: “That is why we are Achaemenids; from antiquity we have been noble; from antiquity our dynasty has been royal. King Darius says: Eight of my dynasty were kings before me; I am the ninth. Nine in succession we have been kings. ... King Darius says: By the grace of Ahuramazda am I King; God has granted me the kingdom.” This lands on deaf ears in the modern era, but this was an invocation of what the Romans called the Mos Maiorum, the Greeks called Thumos, and the Americans called The Founders’ Intent: the unwritten moral code, the ancestral customs, “the way of the ancestors” which gives a nation — its people its and leaders — its “spiritedness,” its inner reserves of physical and spiritual strength.
At the age of 22, he graduated from The University Of Tehran at Karaj in 1950, with a degree from the College Of Agriculture And Natural Resources. While at college, he competed in Heavyweight Weightlifting, and won tournaments in Boxing and Wrestling. Shortly after college, his left hamstring was shot in a hunting accident. Doctors prescribed morphine in his convalescence, and he developed a terrible addiction, but in an act of sheer willpower, he confronted and overcame that demon, so he could go on and fulfill his destiny. President Truman's Point Four Program awarded Jahanshah one of only two scholarships which went to Iran in 1954, after a competitive application and interview process. This opened the next chapter of his life, his early adulthood in Germany and The United States. He finally got the surgery he needed. New friends like Bill Staley and Chuck Herndon helped him get into The University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a Master's program in agriculture, where he studied for another year and a half. Outside of class, he was applying what he learned on a real mechanized farm. Not only did he ground out his theory in practice, he sought wide-ranging experience: among his adventures in those years was a cattle drive from Montana to Texas, in which he earned the cowboy belt and ties he wore ever-afterwards... He also discovered American classics like Napoleon Hill's Think And Grow Rich and Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People, which he wasted no time in putting into practice... Upon returning to Iran at the age of 30, he sought the hand of the lovely Mehrdokht Boroumand, who became his dear wife, Pari Palizban and bore him his five beloved children: Jelveh, Jamile, Nasser, Jananeh and Reza — all of whom survive him, together with their husbands, wives, grandchildren and in-laws. In those early years of his fatherhood, he was also busy managing over 60 employees and 8000 acres of farms and ranches, so he was always on the road, and he took his little children with him, wide-eyed, to explore the villages, towns and countryside through which he journeyed. He grew alfalfa, barley and wheat, raised sheep, and was a pioneer of water and soil management, as well as husbandry techniques.
Through prudent stewardship and technological innovation, his lands prospered and everyone involved benefited - there were long and happy years. Years in which Jahanshah had time to breed a stable of one hundred Arabian horses, raise flocks of pigeons and cultivate hives of honeybees, which he used to pollinate his crops. He raised all of his children on horseback, and those that were old enough competed in long-distance riding through treacherous mountain passes... These were also years in which Jahanshah gave back: he was Mayor of Kermanshah in 1971 and 1972, and from 1975 to 1977, the Department of Agriculture's appointee for promoting agricultural best-practices nationwide. When The Revolution came, Jahanshah left everything behind to start a new life for his family in The United States. Instead of drowning in the treason, trauma and tragedy of those dark days, the farmer's indomitable spirit turned rain into life: he bought a farm. There, half a world away from the land of his birth, in the hills of California, he planted Avocados, Oranges, Cumquats and eventually flowers, Protea and Wax. His flower company, Golden Land Protea, ultimately became one of the top growers of these crops in San Diego. Whatever profits he earned, he reinvested in his operations and, after earning his Real Estate License, into buying more land. Although he started over at the age of 51 with almost no capital, and although English was a second language, he amassed a remarkable 125 acres. This was accomplished with the merely $10,000 in seed capital that he was able to escape Iran with — a testament of fortitude and leadership. Although his second career in America was also blessed, it, too, was not without sacrifice, hardships and new lessons. For example, after a breach of trust in a business partnership, he spent four years in court, but ultimately the court saw that justice was done, and he prevailed. On his ranch in Valley Center, he built his final home and resting place. It was there that he would rise early to feed his fishes, sing to his birds, tend to his bees, work in his farm and swim in his pool. And there, that he passed down the family's lore to a new generation of grandchildren. There, that he sat in front of the television to watch the events of history unfold, and wait, with patience and hope, for the coming day of justice and freedom in Iran. There, that he reminded us of the blessings of America, a land of Law and of Liberty, in which the future was open to the honest and hardworking.
A patriarch, but also a meritocrat, he wanted not only his sons and grandsons, but also his daughters and granddaughters to compete, and to win - even in the world of men. And they did, and still are: in sports, in business and in the arts... His parenting and grandparenting was like his farming: he was always planting seeds, watering, praying for sunshine and the hundredfold harvest... In his later years, he become a competitive backgammon and poker player. But he could never bring himself to retire. Retirement was not his way. Even after a stroke in 2009 impaired his mobility and other faculties, after which he depended on Pari's faithful and tireless caretaking, he kept playing backgammon with skill. In those later years of his senescence, he never stopped speaking and dreaming of returning to his farms, and returning to Iran to set things right there. He was a man of visions and plans and ambitions, and unto the last, resisted the slow onset of death. With daily exercise and as much effort as his once-mighty body allowed him, he never gave an inch - life was to be lived, and strived for "by the sweat of the brow", as long as God gives us breath. Jahanshah had two other names. His family called him "Baba," which means Daddy, Papa, Father and Grandfather, but also "sir" and "wise old man." Baba, like a big grizzly bear protecting his cubs. Baba, like a teddy bear to hug for reassurance. Baba was far from a saint, he was a sinner, like the rest of us - and we knew his faults. But the essential heroism for which we honor him, was his faithful pursuit of his Duty — the vision of The Good and The Beautiful, which he felt God had given him to carry out — and overcoming the adversity inevitable in that pursuit. This was not just a physical, but a spiritual act, an act of courage, of daily sacrifice and of worship. As Solzhenitsyn warned when he came to America in 1978, shortly before Baba himself did, "a decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days." Unfortunately, in the half century since, the decline of American courage and the Mos Maiorum has continued. Against the backdrop of that decline, Baba was a man's man, "an image of the splendor" of the men of old. In his Funeral Oration, Pericles proclaimed that "Heroes have the whole earth for their tomb! In lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten: with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart." So here lies our Baba, not in the ground, but in our Obituary & Eulogy - Jahanshah Palizban 6 hearts: and through us, Jahan-Shah finally has the whole earth for his kingdom and his tomb, and with us, he continues to go about his daily work — our deeds are his harvest, and will continue to give his life its full meaning... His everyday American name was John. But this too, was an oracle, with a hidden meaning: the name invokes John the Baptist, who prepared the way. And John the Apostle, who had the vision of things to come, so that we might be ready. So here lies John of Valley Center, who prepared the way for us, had a vision for things to come, and whose wish for us was that we might be ready.
Here lies John Palizban of Kermanshah, who brought us out of Iran, to seek our destiny in America, and in the wide world... The Patriarch Who Took Us Out Of Iran And Into The World... Our Jahan-Shah. Here lies the noble farmer from a proud lineage but a humble place — the adventurer, dreamer and patriot — the loving husband, father and god-fearing man...
Here lies a Jahanshah like the original "Jahanshah," Adam, in The Garden Of Eden — an Imago Dei, that is, faithful to the divine spark and calling within — ruling "over the fish of the sea, and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground," fulfilling the first commandment from The Book Of Genesis: “Be fruitful and multiply.”
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