Knights Pay Tribute to Aurelian Mardiros as Man of the Year
By Alin K. Gregorian
BOSTON - Hundreds of Knights and Daughters of Vartan as well as friends and family gathered at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel on Friday, November 11, to pay tribute to Aurelian Mardiros as the Knights' Man of the Year.
Mardiros' family had prepared a brief documentary on their patriarch, charting his life from his birth in the centuries-old Armenian community in Moldova, Romania, to his arrival in the US in 1975 and to his ever-expanding business venture, A&A Industries, now based in Peabody. In fact, from a humble start in the US, armed only with the knowledge of machining, he has climbed the ladder of success one rung at a time, finally able to fabricate and donate the central monument and its base for the Armenian Heritage Park in Boston.
Mardiros spoke briefly and humbly upon receiving the award. He thanked his wife, Anahid, and sons, Gary, Antranig and Vartan, as well as the Knights. `I am impressed with what I've seen [of your work] in Karabagh and said he was `honored to be able to do that,' referring to the Armenian Heritage Park. `Thank you. I am very touched.'
Heather Krafian, last year's Community Leader Award winner, introduced this year's recipient, Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian. `She is a very special lady. She is a role model for Armenians and especially Armenian women.'
Kaprielian thanked the assembled, saying, `we are truly one family.' She said that having attended the AGBU school in Watertown and being from that city, it was only natural for her that whenever she was campaigning and hitting a particular roadblock in the community at large, she would come back to the community `as a safe harbor' and get rejuvenated.
She said she was particularly proud of the annual State House commemorations, as well as the Armenian Heritage Park. In keeping with the theme of giving, she said, `Greatness is service to others.'
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian presented Mardiros with the award. Before the presentation, he relayed several humorous stories on his visit to Nagorno Karabagh, where Armenia Fund conducts much work. He recalled the `white-knuckle' drive to Karabagh from Yerevan, during intense fog, `dodging sheep and shepherds.'
`Nigoghos [Atinizian] was very excited for me to meet Srpazan [Karabagh Primate Pargev Martirossian]. He has such intense eyes and presence and power.' Once they started conversing with the archbishop in English, Koutoujian said he asked the Primate how come he spoke English so well. To the delight of the audience, he recalled the archbishop's answer: `I listen to the Beatles.'
Koutoujian praised the Knights, saying they are the group that should be credited with breathing oxygen into the once-moribund Armenian Heritage Park project, by making the first big donation to that cause. `The Knights created the energy and momentum,' he said.
Martirossian, visiting the US ahead of the Armenia Fund Telethon, opened the program. He spoke about the long and heroic history of Karabagh. He then asked `the beautiful Rachel' to give him a driver's license while he was in town, causing the audience to roar with laughter.
On a serious note, he thanked the Knights, as well as Armenia Fund, for their efforts in Karabagh, especially the past two years during which time they have tried to bring water to homes. At this time, access to water is woefully insufficient in the republic, rendering even the most basic aspects of life difficult.
`In Stepanakert we have water twice a week for two hours,' whereas in the villages, residents have to walk a kilometer or two every day to get water for basic needs. `It is not normal for these people who have had a victory,' he said. `The Karabagh victory was like a miracle. Justice was on our side.'
Armen Mahserejian, commander of the Ararat Lodge, said that the organization is working hard to help the Armenian nation and that some of the greatest contributions to local organizations have been made by the Knights.
He noted that the group has helped for years with the annual State House commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, as well as both elementary schools in the Greater Boston area and the Armenian Heritage Park. In Armenia, he said, the group has facilitated the shipment of more than $3 million worth of goods and sponsored several schools there. He said through `Asbed brother' Jean-Jacques Hajjar, who is a member of the board of Armenia Fund USA, the group is donating a part of the proceeds of the evening to Armenia Fund.
He presented the Faithful Knight Award to John Peterson. Peterson has been a member of the Knights for many years and that of the Rotary even longer. While at the Billerica Club of Rotary International, he came up with the idea of the Aruba Scholarship Raffle for the Rotary, the success of which convinced him to implement it for the Knights too. He was also instrumental in providing $500,000 worth of supplies for the Yerevan Oncology Hospital through the Armenia Medical Project, which he initiated in partnership with Rotary International, International Medical Equipment Corp (IMEC) and the Knights. `It has become a role model for the Rotary,' he said.
Peterson, when picking up the award, said he was `humbled by this recognition.' He praised Nigoghos Atinizian for reviving the Ararat Lodge Chapter with young members and passing the torch to Nelson Stepanian.
He concluded by urging everyone to unite and stand by the Knights' credo of community: `Nobody stands as tall as when they bend down to help someone.'
Knights Commander Dennis Papazian closed the program.He urged unity and cooperation in all segments of the Armenian community. `Together we are stronger; separately we are week. If we don't take care of ourselves, no one will.'
Proceeds from the evening's program, in addition to helping Armenia Fund USA, went to the World Bank 9 to 1 Program. The World Bank program is helping the Adopt a School Project of the Knights, this year for School 26 in Gyumri. Under this program, if the Knights raise 10 percent of the cost, the World Bank will pay for the rest.
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