Born in Rasht, Iran, in 1934, Youssef lost his parents at a very young age. He was adored and looked after by four older sisters. Youssef’s difficult beginnings did not deter his outgoing and industrious nature. As a child in Rasht, he carried watermelons for sale, balanced on either side of a stick. As an enterprising boy in Tehran, he guarded people’s bicycles while they were in the bank, even developing a bike-check system to handle growing demand.
As a young adult, Rounaghi trained and worked as a dot etcher in Germany. In his 30s, he returned to Iran and married Malakah Fotoohi, who soon gave birth to two sons. In 1973, he took his young family to America for a trip to Disneyland. Rounaghi didn’t speak or write English, but during this visit he resolved to make a home and a future for his family in the U.S. Instead of returning to Iran, he had the family’s belongings shipped to America and set out to make a life here. Shortly after they settled, Youssef and Malakah’s third son was born.
The Rounaghi family established a permanent home in Irvine in the mid-‘70s. Joseph, as he came to be known, was always generous with his jokes and his laughter. He treated people he’d just met as if he’d known them his whole life. Whether painting portraits at Laguna’s Hobbit shopping center or running a crepe shop in Laguna’s Village Faire, Rounaghi was drawn to the art, beauty and people of Laguna Beach. Always the entrepreneur, he purchased the family’s Laguna Beach home in 1976 and used the furniture to open Youssef Import Gallery in Village Faire. In 1983, Rounaghi again put his dot etching expertise to use, founding Laguna Graphic Arts, now a full-service print shop run by sons Ali and Arash.
Although Rounaghi enjoyed success without a college degree, he valued education and encouraged all three sons to go to college; one attended U.C. Irvine and two attended U.C.L.A. He enjoyed travel and drove the Rounaghi family all over America, to places most natives have never been. In the early ‘90s, he proudly received his U.S. citizenship and continued to remind everyone, often, that the United States is the best country in the world. Rounaghi began spending more of his time in the Palm Springs area, where his passion for oil painting was nourished by his experiences as a student, teacher, and gallery owner.
Rounaghi is survived by his wife, Malakah; his only living sister, Atieh; his half-brother Jalal; many adoring nephews and nieces; sons Ali, Amir and Arash; daughters-in-law Robin, Stephanie and Claudia; and six grandsons to carry on his humor, warmth, and zest for life, Alex, Charlie, Willie, Arthur, Oliver, and Henry.