Armine Dedekian

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Boston Globe, MA
April 22 2006

Armine Dedekian, 93; survivor of 1915 Armenian genocide helped others realize American dream
By Gloria Negri, Globe Staff | April 22, 2006

Armine (Kailian) Dedekian, who survived the 1915 Armenian genocide as an infant, came to this country on a seven-day voyage from Greece in 1929. When she arrived at Ellis Island, a sick and bewildered teenager, there was no one to meet her because of a mix-up over her arrival time.

I waited at Ellis Island for one week," she told a Globe reporter on the 90th anniversary of the genocide last year. Finally one day my name came up and I went to the office."

And she met her mother for the first time since she was a baby.

Every time the door opened and a woman came in, I wondered if it was my mother because I didn't know her. That's how I met her."

Mrs. Dedekian, one of a handful of Boston-area survivors of the Armenian genocide, died April 19 at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge following a massive stroke at her Watertown home. She was 93.

Her story is one of survival and hope. After she achieved her own American dream, she spent much of her life helping other immigrants realize theirs.

She was an immigrant who helped other immigrants and needy people throughout her life," said a niece, Michele Simourian of Dover.

Mrs. Dedekian was a newborn when the Turks came to her parents' home in Bandirma, Turkey, and took away her father, Onnig Kailian.

They came in and took all the young men," Mrs. Dedekian's daughter, Sona Aslanian, of Belmont, said yesterday. They took them into the desert and killed them."

Armine's mother, Kerakoun, then about 16, took her child and fled with her parents and in-laws.

Everyone had to keep going," Mrs. Dedekian told the Globe. We were walking towards the desert . . . to Syria. My mother got a job in a hospital there. Then, this young man, he also was Armenian, was working there, too."

The young man, Levon Tufankjian, married Kerakoun. Somehow, the family got separated.

Mrs. Dedekian told the Globe: The Turks chased us three times; we had to abandon everything. We didn't know where my mother was. We didn't know who had died and who hadn't. We found a way of finding each other by writing to the Armenian papers."

They placed an ad seeking her mother.

My mother's cousin saw the ad and he knew my mother was in America," she said.

Mrs. Dedekian was 15 and living in Greece with her extended family when she embarked alone on her journey to the United States. She was on the ship seven days, feeling ill, on her mission to find her mother and stepfather who had settled in the Boston area.

With no knowledge of English, the teenaged Armine was placed in a kindergarten class, her daughter said, but she quickly learned the language and was advanced, eventually graduating at the top of her class at Roxbury Memorial High School in the 1930s.

Armine and Sarkis Dedekian met while both were singing in the choir of the Armenian National Church. They were married in 1936.

Mr. Dedekian, who died in 1991, was an artist who made his living as a house painter.

Mrs. Dedekian had an excellent business mind and was a dynamo," her daughter said. In addition to all her community work, her daughter said, Mrs. Dedekian ran an electrolysis business for many years in her home.

My grandmother was the most remarkable woman I've known," said Aram Aslanian of Watertown. She lived in a traditional Armenian household where women were expected to stay at home. She was ahead of her time in terms of what she did with her life."

Astor Guzelian of Dedham, a family friend, recalled how Mrs. Dedekian found a motel she liked on the Cape, decided to buy it, and then told her husband." The motel, the Gaslight Resort Motel in Dennis Port, was successful and is still owned by the Dedekian family.

Mrs. Dedekian was just as much a dynamo in her volunteer work, both in Watertown and in Manomet, where the family spent summers.

She and her mother were both charter members of the Armenian Relief Society, and she was a member of the Armenian Renaissance Association, which also assisted immigrants in settling here.

Sona Aslanian remembers many late-night calls that sent her mother to the airport or bus terminals to meet new arrivals and her efforts to find them homes and jobs.

Mrs. Dedekian was also involved in her church, sewing vestments for priests and cooking Armenian delicacies for special events.

She remained active until recently, her grandson said, insisting on living on her own as long as she could. She had a 93-year-old body, but a 25-year-old mind," he said.

Had she been here yesterday, he said, she would have made it to the State House to attend the annual Armenian Martyrs Day ceremony in honor of the victims of the genocide.

Though she had only been a baby at the time, she had suffered for years afterward.

Last year, in a Globe interview, Mrs. Dedekian's memory of her childhood was still vivid. I remember coming back to Turkey when I was 6 or 7," she said. We were in a village and if we found a piece of bread we would put some salt on it and eat it. That's how we survived for a few years. By 1920, we decided we had to leave Turkey forever so we boarded a boat and went to Greece."

In addition to her daughter and grandson Aram Aslanian, she leaves a son, Ara of Newton; four additional grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Stephen's Armenian Church in Watertown. Burial will be in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

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Noyan Tapan Armenians Today Apr 25 2006

WATERTOWN, MA, APRIL 25, NOYAN TAPAN - ARMENIANS TODAY. As Armenians everywhere mark the 91st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian Assembly of America was saddened to learn that Armine Dedekian, a survivor of those horrific crimes, passed away April 19 in her Watertown, Massachusetts home. Dedekian was 93 years old. "The Armenian Assembly mourns the loss of Armine Dedekian and wishes to express its sincere condolences to her family members and loved ones," said Assembly Board of Trustees Counselor and Vice Chair Robert A. Kaloosdian. "In her memory, we reaffirm our commitment to educate the world about the Armenian Genocide and help create a better future for all humanity." Armine Dedekian, nee Kailian, was born in Banderma, in the province of Bursa, Western Turkey. That same year, her father was murdered and Dedekian and her young mother fled to Tekirdagh, near Constantinople. Unfortunately, the family was not safe there as the Turks soon forced them from their homes and onto an arduous journey through the Syrian Desert. Dedekian and her mother reached Sham, Syria but were separated soon after and Dedekian was raised by family members. In 1929, Dedekian, at the age of 14, reunited with her mother in Ellis Island and later settled with her in Massachusetts. She married Sarkis Dedekian and together they raised two children. During her lifetime, Dedekian helped raise awareness of the attempted annihilation of the Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish government. She discussed her family's tragic experiences with the national media, including the Boston Globe, in an effort to draw national attention to the crimes. She was also actively involved with the Armenian Relief Society, the Armenian Renaissance Association and Saint Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church. Recently Dedekian became an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") along with the Armenian Assembly of America and seven other individuals in the case of Griswold, et al., vs. Driscoll et. al., filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. She participated in the amicus curiae brief for she felt that the case was a denialist tactic by the plaintiffs which included the Assembly of Turkish American Association and others who referred to the Armenian Genocide as controversial in their Complaint. Kaloosdian says that Dedekian was among the last remaining genocide survivors in the greater Boston community. He recalled her excitement to take part in the federal case and added that her passing, at this time, has created renewed focus on her extraordinary life and memory.

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