Kevork Arslanian

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Congressional Record: October 6, 2005 (Extensions)
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access

of ohio
in the house of representatives

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor and recognition of Mr. Kevork ``George Arslanian, loving family man, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and dear friend to many, as his friends and loved ones gather in honor and celebration of his 100th birthday.

Mr. Arslanian's life reflects a brilliant spectrum of survival, courage, tenacity, triumph, devotion to family and service to others. As a young child, Mr. Arslanian and his two brothers became orphans. During WWI, 40 members of the Arslanian family, including their father and mother, were killed in the horrific Armenian massacre by the Turkish military. The Armenian genocide resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians. A Turkish neighbor hid the three boys in her home, saving their lives. Soon after, they were sent to a Red Cross orphanage in Syria, where they barely survived among 60,000 other orphans.

Throughout their years of struggle, Mr. Arslanian and his brothers remained focused on the promise of a new life in America. They left the Syrian orphanage and journeyed to Cuba, from where they had heard that entry into the U.S. would be easier. They soon discovered this was not the truth. The children spent 5 years in Cuba, surviving with nothing more than their own determination, courage and the promise of reaching the shores of America. In 1927, the boys, who had by now become young men, made the escape out of Cuba as stowaways on a ship that delivered them to a life of freedom, hope and possibility in America.

The Arslanian brothers settled with relatives in Cleveland. Mr. Arslanian attended Miller Barber College in Cleveland, where he initially honed the art of his trade without pay. He then earned twenty dollars a week for 25 cent hair cuts. He soon became a licensed barber--the 11th in the State of Ohio, and in 1932, opened up his own shop in Garfield Heights. Six days a week for seventy-five years, Mr. Arslanian worked in the shop with his brother, and continued giving hair cuts until just a couple of years ago. Together, Mr. Arslanian and his beloved, late wife, Virginia, raised three sons. George and Virginia Arslanian were married for 67 years. Mr. Arslanian, one hundred years young, continues to be the foundation, center and light of his family--a family that includes his three sons, seven grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren.

His life-long devotion to his family and to his shop extends throughout the community, and is evidenced within his strong faith and his dedication to preserving the history, faith and culture of Armenia. Mr. Arslanian continues to be deeply involved with the Armenian Orthodox Church, and led the effort to establish St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church. His unwavering support for immigrant families and for the preservation of Armenian culture is reflected in his long-time involvement with the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Tekeyan Cultural Society.

Mr. Speaker and Colleagues, please join me in honor and recognition of Mr. Kevork ``George Arslanian, whose brave heart, warm smile and fascinating life continues to educate and inspire those who know and love him well, especially his family and friends. Mr. Arslanian's life, outlined by hard work, integrity and family, personifies the phrase `American citizen.'

The remarkable story of the young Arslanian brothers, their courageous journey and creation of new lives in America, is the story of the American immigrant, retold in a thousand languages, connecting all of humanity by the will to survive and the promise of freedom and peace. The incredible journey of citizens such as Kevork ``George Arslanian is the strength and foundation of our country. In honor of Mr. Arslanian's 100th birthday, we offer him an abundance of peace, health and happiness, and offer our gratitude to him for enriching our community and our nation. His great love for his family, community and for his beloved Armenia, transcends time and distance, serving as a bridge of goodwill, forever connecting America to Armenia.

Richard M. Peery
Plain Dealer Reporter

Cleveland Plain Dealer, OH
March 30 2006

Garfield Heights- Kevork "George" Arslanian, 100, a survivor of the slaughter of Armenians in Turkey during World War I and a Cleveland barber since 1928, died Monday at Marymount Hospital.

Arslanian was living in Malatia, Turkey, when he and two siblings were rescued by an uncle who had converted to Islam and a Muslim woman.

Their parents and other family members died in the massacre that took an estimated 1.5 million Christian Armenians' lives.

Although 24 nations have labeled it an act of genocide, the Turkish government denies responsibility for the deaths.

The children were placed in a Red Cross orphanage in Syria.

Another uncle in Cleveland tried to send for them but was blocked by immigration quotas. The uncle provided passage to Cuba, where the children shined shoes and did odd jobs for several years. In 1927, prohibition-era rum runners smuggled them into the United States.

Arslanian never attended school beyond kindergarten, but he taught himself to read using a dictionary and newspapers. He enrolled in Miller Barber College and was awarded the 11th license issued in Ohio. In 1932 he opened a barbershop with his brother.

Four years later, a friend wrote Arslanian to tell him about a young woman in another city. She was Vergin "Virginia" Sarkisian, who had also lived through the massacre and fled to Syria as a child.

He married her and brought her to Cleveland in 1936. They lived in Garfield Heights for many years.

In 1955, Arslanian and his brother moved their shop to the former Milo Theater at East 100th Street and Miles Avenue. His sons began a rug-cleaning business in the back of the building in 1959 that grew into one of the industry's leaders under the Arslanian Brothers name.

Although two years ago Arslanian stopped driving to the barbershop to cut hair each Friday, he continued to help repair rugs one or two days a week.

Arslanian was a founding member of St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church. The congregation built the area's first Armenian Orthodox church in Richmond Heights in the 1960s. He remained one of its leaders throughout his life.

He was often asked to speak at weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and funerals. He was also active in the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Tekeyan Cultural Association.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4807

Kevork Arslanian

1905 - 2006

Survivors: Ted of Aurora, Henry of Solon and Armen of Independence; nine grandchildren; and 22 great-grandchildren.

Services: 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church, 678 Richmond Road, Richmond Heights 44143.

Contributions: St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church; Tekeyan Cultural Association, Armenian Benevolent Union; all same address as the church.

Arrangements: Johnson-Romito of Bedford.

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