Union of Marash Armenians in Watertown Awards Man of the Year

Watertown Chapter
P.O.Box 172 Belmont Ma 02478

On Saturday Jan 14, 2006, The Union of Marash Armenians, Watertown
Chapter, celebrated Armenian Christmas and presented the Man of the
Year Award.
Organized by the Chairperson Nevart Kouyoumjian and the Master of
Ceremonies Anahis Mekenajian, the event was a testimony to the ongoing
energy, vitality and enthusiasm of the Armenians from Marash living in
the Boston area.

The enthusiastic voices of the Marashzis in the audience joined in the
singing of the traditional Marash hymn (in Armenian), the blessings
of Rev. Father Rafael Andonian and Rev. Barkev Orchanian were offered,
and the Youth Committee served the evening meal: traditional Marashzi
barley pilaf, Keshkeg Gabaklu (Squash stew), and fresh Kheyma.

Supper was followed by Ara Arakelian’s reading of “The Thoughts of King
Zaramanazan” followed by Yelena Hagopian’s piano rendition of several
Armenian pieces.

Rev. Barkev Orchanian gave the Christma message and a short
Christmas Pageant prepared by Anais Mekenajian was presented by the
grandchildren of the Marashtsis present.

Last but not least, Anais Mekenajian presented the biography (which
follows) of the `Marash Man of the Year” , Peter Bilezikian:

Today we honor Peter Bilezikian, who at 93 and a half years old, lives
a full and active life, sharing his stories and philosophy with those
around him, a philosophy based on a lifetime of courage, hard work,
dreams, and faith.

Peter (Bedros) Bilezikian, strong, vibrant and independent at 93, was
born an American citizen in Marash, Western Armenia, Ottoman Empire, on
August 7, 1912, the youngest child of Movses Bilezikian and Yepros
Kurtguzian Bilezikian.

In 1914, Peter’s father Movses returned to the United States with
plans to have his family join him, but World War One broke out making
communication between Movses and his family literally impossible;
Yepros was left alone to support and care for their four children and
her younger sister Mary.

The war years were difficult. Rather than attend school, Peter would
run to the mountains where he and his Armenian friends carried on their
own slingshot war against the Turkish boys – he still has a scar where
a stone from the Turkish boys hit his forehead.

Peter can never forget walking over dead people in the streets of
Marash where he used to play, seeing children with stomachs bloated
from hunger, witnessing the carts clearing the streets of dead bodies.
He often relates his close call with death when a bullet singed his
cowlick. He remembers fleeing with his family from one house to another
to another on a moment’s notice in an effort to avoid being sent to Der
Zor (the death camps) . . . Young Peter, however, saw all this as
simply a part of life . . . and continued fearless through the streets
of Marash.

Unable to return to his family in Turkey because of the war, and not
knowing whether or not they were still living, Movses, in the U.S. in
1921, finally learned that his wife and children were indeed alive and
well. With the help of Brewer Eddy, Executive Secretary of the Board of
Foreign Missions, Movses sent money to his family in Marash for their
safe passage to the United States. In 1922, Yepros, all alone with only
her children, left Marash on foot to walk to Aleppo, with the two
younger children (Peter and Rosie) in saddlebags on the sides of a

The family arrived in New York City where Peter’s father Movses, and
Uncle Manoog Bilezikjian (who lived in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY)
met them at the boat. Movses and his family departed on a train for
Boston the very next day. Peter’s family first lived in Newtonville
but soon moved to the more affordable `four castles’ on Lincoln Street
in Brighton (a third floor cold water flat with shared bathroom).

From the age of ten, Peter worked every day after school and well into
the night, contributing all of his earnings to the family. In 1928, the
family moved to Arsenal Street in Watertown. When Peter graduated from
Watertown High School (the first in his family to graduate from
secondary school), he was given the opportunity to study for four years
at M.I.T., all expenses paid, but had to decline in order to go to work
and help support his family during the Great Depression. (He had always
wanted to become a teacher, and though he never attained this goal, he
made sure that his three children did, despite the fact that many old
timers would advise him not to waste money educating daughters!)

In 1933, Peter and his brother Paul established Newtonville Electrical
Company, Inc. (sales, service and electrical contracting throughout all
of New England). The two brothers were Master Electricians, and
Peter’s specialty was heating, refrigeration, and air conditioning.
Their business flourished in Newtonville, Massachusetts, for 50 years.
[Peter rarely takes credit for being the instrumental and driving force
in the many successful ventures and accomplishments of his life.]

Peter and his family purchased and moved to his current home in
Newtonville, Massachusetts, in 1935. In 1940, Peter married Lucille Mae
(Jennie) Vartanian, the love of his life. They had three children,
Bethel Charkoudian, Martha McCool, and James Bilezikian. Peter has 11
grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.

Peter’s favorite pastimes are reading and discussing philosophy,
history, religion, and the comics! He’s a master at crossword puzzles
and tavlu (backgammon); he used to build furniture, and now loves to
restore antique furniture; in fact, while in high school, he was
recognized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for building an exact
replica of an ornate 18th Century coach for which he won first prize in
a statewide competition.

His lifelong passion for gardening resulted in award-winning tomatoes
which he grew from seed . . . the biggest tomatoes ever to be eaten
this side of Marash!

Peter has been a long-time staunch supporter of the Union of Marash
Armenians in the Boston area. Although Peter never held any office
within the Union, he personally helped many Marashti needy families, he
sponsored Marashtsi students abroad for years to help them get their
education and he did all this without fanfare. Anytime a compatriot
needed his services but could not pay him, he did the work cheerfully
without pay.

He is proud to be a Marashtzi, as are his children and grandchildren!

Congratulations, Peter, on being selected the Marashtzi of the year.

Peter was then awarded a plaque commemorating this honor.

In her closing remarks, Anais Mekenajian thanked the St. Stephen’s
Sunday School PTO for lending the costumes for the pageant., thanked
the capacity audience of Marashzis who every year encourage the
functions with their moral and financial support, and the members who
prepared the traditional Marash dinner for this event.

The proceeds from this event were distributed to the two Armenian day
schools in the Boston area — St Stephen Armenian Elementary School and
the Armenian Sisters Academy, money to be used for Marashti students
scholarship. Each school received 500 dollars.