Jirair S. Hovnanian, founder of New Jersey home builder J.S. Hovnanian & Sons, has died at 80 at his home in Mt. Laurel, N.J., according to the Associated Press.
Hovnanian started the business in 1964, following a split with a company he started with his three brothers. Kevork Hovnanian, one of Jirair’s brothers, eventually founded Hovnanian Enterprises, a national home builder with no formal business relationship with J.S. Hovnanian & Sons.
Just last week, Hovnanian had watched his company build a house for the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Astatement issued by his family said the late home builder “gave his life to nurturing his loved ones, expanding opportunities for future generations and pursuing the American dream. We take comfort in knowing that his legacy lives on in the people he touched so deeply with his generosity, his love and his passion for life."
Hovnanian was an immigrant from Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1948, where his father, an Armenian refugee named Stepan K. Hovnanian, was a builder, according to the AP. Last year, Hovnanian received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for contributions to America by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
J.S. Hovnanian & Sons has built more than 6,000 homes in New Jersey.