Annette Kouchakdjian and her mother were the only survivors of a family of 13, that was forced by the Turkish government to walk through the Syrian desert during the Armenian Genocide that began in the early years of the 20th century. In fact, Annette, who was 10 at the time, watched her father and 10 siblings starve to death. But she and her mother began life again in Paris, France, where the girl who was so good with a needle and thread began a career that would span decades and help her family survive in times of need.
In Paris she met her husband, Caloust, and gave birth to two boys, Jacques and George. Annette's husband, a member of the French Army during World War II, was captured and taken prisoner of war by the Germans. In Nazi-occupied Paris Annette was alone with two small children. But she hadn't survived so much without learning a thing or two. Annette ate piping-hot bread just out of the oven and followed it with ice-cold water. She did this again and again until she became very ill. So ill, that the Germans allowed her husband to be released to care for the children until she recovered. But as soon as he came home, Annette had already arranged for her husband to escape to a relative in the French countryside. He hid there for two years until the family could move to New York City. There - Annette took up her seamstress work again, landing employment in some of the finest design houses in the city. Her husband worked in hotels and the couple gave birth to their third child - daughter Anita.
Eventually after a lifetime of hard work and raising children, Annette and her husband moved to New Hampshire with her daughter and son-in-law to retire. Caloust died in 1991, and Annette, suffering from emphysema and other ailments, moved to The Courville, a nursing home at Nashua.
George Kouchakdjian, Annette Kouchakdjian's son, credits any resilience he has to his mother. "She's a survivor in every sense of the word. She is remarkable." George himself had hard life, his wife Karen died in 2002 , they'd been married for 37 years. And the couple's eldest son, Chris, was also gone - dead in 1991 from a sudden heart attack that struck when he was only 20 years old. But in 2005 George Kouchakdjian, 59, married Julie Natchioni 54 years old and a widow. They got married at nursing home, because George's mother, 91-year-old Annette Kouchakdjian, was too infirmed to travel. But she wanted very much to see her son married and make sure he was happy. Annette needed a walker and a wheelchair to get to the room at the Courville that was transformed by the staff into a miniature Armenian chapel, but she made the dress she wore to the wedding by herself. The ceremony was officiated by a priest from the Armenian Church in Watertown, Massachusetts., who was able to get a dispensation from the bishop to perform the marriage ceremony in a place other than a church. At the wedding, George's 30-year-old son, Alex, served as his best man, while Annette's best friend stood up for her. And George's sister, Anita, pretty much put the whole lovely day together. Also in attendance, among the bride's and groom's siblings and loved ones, were George's late-wife's family, who said they couldn't be happier for him.
`She wanted this so much, so we decided to do it. She is a very, very strong woman,' said Julie. `She has a will about her that's incredible. She's extremely loving and giving as tough as nails and funny as anything. Every week she gets her hair done and if someone compliments her - `Hey Annette you're hair looks pretty.' She'll say, `So do you have a boyfriend for me?' ' `If she had said to me she was waiting to see George married again so that she could finally die, we would have put the wedding off forever,' said the bride.
- Love & survival, By Stacy Milbouer. Nashua Telegraph, NH, January 10, 2005