Wednesday , May 29 2024

A History Lesson at Ararat Cemetery

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<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; April 24th marks the 100th commemoration of the Armenian&nbsp;Genocide, when 1 1/2 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks.&nbsp;It’s important in the central valley because thousands of Armenians immigrated to Fresno in the years before and after the genocide.&nbsp; Several generations of Armenians now call the valley home and their history can be traced in one unique place in south-west Fresno:&nbsp; the Ararat Armenian Cemetery– the&nbsp;only&nbsp;Armenian&nbsp;cemetery in&nbsp;America.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Ararat Cemetery is 130 years old and many of the thousands interred here reflect that.&nbsp;&nbsp; Cemetery tour guides Frank Balekian and Meher Checkerdemian&nbsp;walked the&nbsp;plots and looked at names with us.&nbsp; Each special to a local family and some important to the community and the world.&nbsp; Like the Seropian brothers, the very first Armenians to come to Fresno in 1881.&nbsp;&nbsp; According to Balekian,&nbsp; &quot;So, J<font size="2">acob came first and then his brothers Garabed and Simon also arrived.&quot;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Also interred is pilot Joe Sahakian who flew the &quot;Sacred Cow,&quot; the presidential aircraft for President Harry Truman in World&nbsp;II, and Pulitzer prize winning author and playwright William Saroyan.&nbsp;&nbsp; According to Balekian, &quot;H</font><font size="2">e was cremated and half were interred here in Fresno and the other half went to Yerevan, Armenia.&quot;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There are also remembrances of Armenia’s tragic past.&nbsp; There’s a monument erected in 1968 by the Manoogian family for those who died in the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago.&nbsp; Balekian says, &quot;S</font><font size="2">o here is buried the remains of unknown Armenians martyred by the Turks in 1915 to 1918.&quot;&nbsp; It is the only place in the western world where actual remains are contained.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp; This 10 acre plot of history is a stop for school tours and history buffs.&nbsp;&nbsp; According to Executive Director Sheri Manning-Cartwright, one stone cross gets a lot of attention.&nbsp; It’s a memorial to Visalia born Monte Melkonian.&nbsp; According to Manning-Cartwright, &quot;H</font><font size="2">e was your average American boy who got interested in his Armenian heritage and joined the secret army for the liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh.&quot;&nbsp; Melkonian died on the battlefield in 1993 and was buried in Armenia.&nbsp; But he is not forgotten here.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp; Nor was another war hero, Soghomon Tehlirian.&nbsp; He survived the genocide and got vengeance by&nbsp;assassinating one of the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s top leaders, Talaat Pasha in 1921.&nbsp;&nbsp;Tehlirian was tried for the killing and acquitted.&nbsp; According to Chekerdemian,&nbsp; &quot;T</font><font size="2">his reminds you of that.&nbsp; It reminds you of the million and a half that were massacred.&nbsp; It was genocide, everybody knows that and this reminds you of the one that really avenged those people.&quot;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There are 13 decades of history at the Ararat Cemetery on more than 10 acres of land.&nbsp; Documenting a culture that came here, made an impact here, and now rests here for eternity.<br /></font></div>

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