Mariam Kirakosian Megrdichian
(May 29, 1929-January 7, 2018)
Mariam Mary Megrdichian was born on May 10, 1929, to Gregor and Bengsat Kirakosian in Vladikavkaz North Ossetia-Alania, Russia. A few years after her birth, the Kirakosian family moved to a collective farming village, kolkhoz, in Novorosisk, Russia on the Black Sea coast, where many Armenian families from the Terjan district of Erzeroum province of historic Armenia had re-settled af- ter the Armenian Genocide. As did many other families, the Kirakosians maintained and spoke the dis- tinct dialect of Terjan and still speak it to this day.
When Mariam was five years old, she traveled to Armenia with her aunt to visit her cousins. The short time while she was there, she attended kindergarten, but upon returning to Russia, she was a student at the local Armenian school in her village in Novorosisk. Mariam loved to read and some of her favorite books were historic novels written by Raffi and the poetry of Hovanes Toumanian. As an adult, she was an avid reader of the Asbarez daily newspaper that was founded in Fresno, CA, and enjoyed discussing history and politics, especially with her son-in-law, Bryan Bedrosian.
In 1943, during World War II, the Nazi forces captured the coastal town of Novorosisk and forced their family along with countless others to leave Russia at a moment’s notice. They relocated them by primitive trains to the forced labor camps in Heilbronn, Germany. Mariam’s mother gave birth to her youngest brother Levon in the train car on that treacherous journey to the unknown territory. Mariam was one of the youngest members of the labor force and was assigned to work in the Knorr food processing plant during the day, which is currently still in business. Upon returning to the Camp in the evenings, she helped her mother take care of her younger siblings.
After the war ended and Nazi Germany surrendered to the allied forces, Mariam became one of the 5000 plus Armenians who lived in the Displaced Persons Camp in Fungerkazerne, Stuttgart, Germany. Regretfully, many of Mariam’s siblings lost their lives during that period before their libe- ration. She was one of the four who survived along with her parents, brother Galust, sister Rose, and youngest brother Levon. The “D.P.” camp was a safe haven for nearly five years for all surviving Armenians and developed into a “Little Armenia”. It had its own governing system, church, social and athletic clubs, and school. Life as they say, had turned to the new normal.
In the late 1940’s post war years, the “D.P.” Camp was miraculously discovered by George Mardikian on one of his trips abroad as the food consultant to the Quartermaster General of the United States Army. While in Germany visiting the troops that were stationed there, he learned that there was a post war camp, housing some 5000 displaced Armenians. With the help of Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian and the Armenian National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians, better known as ANCHA, the majority of the families from the camp were able to immigrate to America and other parts of the world.
The Kirakosian family left Germany in 1949, and sailed to America reaching Ellis Island in late September. After locating relatives on the east coast, they eventually traveled to Michigan and settled in the Highland Park district of Detroit. At that time, there were many successful Armenian businessmen that lived in greater Detroit, whose families had fled to America after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Alec Manougian was one of those immigrants that through hard work and perse- verance, had built the MASCO factory which was the developer of the modern day Delta Faucets and plumbing products. Mariam secured a job at MASCO on the assembly line to help support her family as they began their new life in the United States of America.
Life in America was a chance for a new beginning for Mariam and her family. She attended the St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church, sang in the choir, and joined the Armenian Relief Society. One eve- ning while attending a family party with her relatives, Mariam ran into her childhood friend from the “DP” Camp in Germany, Hovhannes Megrdichian, who had moved to Detroit to work at Fisher Body. Or maybe it was Hovhannes who spotted the beautiful Mariam with the “Ava Gardner” looks that caught his eye! Coincidently, Hovhannes’s father and Mariam’s father became acquainted with each other from back in Terjan, Erzeroum, Armenia, while serving together in General Dro’s battalion of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Tashnagtsutiun, during the Armenian Genocide. And as life progressed, their friendship blossomed into a lasting relationship and the glamorous couple was mar- ried in 1953.
Mariam and Hovhannes were blessed with the birth of their one and only child, Rosie Vartouhi, who was the first grandchild to be born into the Kirakosian and Megrdichian families. Mariam and her young family moved to Fresno, CA in the mid-1950s, to be near her in-laws. She became an active member of the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church and member of the Trinity Guild. She had joined the Armenian Relief Society, Detroit Sybil Chapter in 1949, and later became an active member of the Fresno Sophia Chapter, serving on many committees and held the office of recording secretary many times. She was a member of the Armenian Relief Society for over 68 years. Mariam and Hovhannes also belonged to the Armenian Caucasus Club in Fresno. They helped in planning and or- ganizing with their close friends the Khanzadians, Abrahamians, Zakarians, Kevorkians, Avakians, Tamamians, and countless others, the most wonderful summer picnics and annual New Years Eve parties that would be a sell out each and every new year.
When her daughter Rosie started attending school, Mariam re-entered the work force. She worked in various fresh fruit and raisin packing houses, Laura Scudder’s Potato Chip processing plant, and the Victor Knitting Mills. In her spare time, she crocheted beautiful blankets, doilies, and sweaters. She was a gourmet cook and baked the most delicious Erzeroumtzi Gatah with Khoriz that would melt in your mouth. She was a very generous person and would share her baked goods and recipes with all of her friends and relatives.
In 1984, her daughter Rosie married Bryan Bedrosian, and in 1987, they were blessed with the birth of her grandson, Armen Hovhannes Bedrosian, who was the greatest joy in her life. Armen would find any excuse possible to stay with his “Mamoog” during his childhood years and she loved to take care of him more than life itself. She called him “Mamoogine Tsakooguh” and he would reply with “Tsakoogine Mamooguh”!
Mariam Kirakosian Megrdichian passed away peacefully with her family by her side on Sunday, January 7, 2018, into the arms of our Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven. Life will never be the same without her beautiful smile and her loving heart for her family and friends.
Mariam was preceded in death by her parents, Gregor and Bengsat Kirakosian; brother, Galust Kirakosian; and her beloved husband, Hovhannes Megrdichian.
She leaves behind her daughter, Rosie Bedrosian and her husband Bryan; her grandson, Dr. Armen Bedrosian and his wife Stephanie; and her two great-granddaughters, Lillian Sonya and Vivian Rose Bedrosian. She is also survived by her sister, Rose Hovanesian, and her children, Manushag, and Gregor and his wife Garine, and their children, Lena, Paul, Levonig, Nicole, Ashot, and Anuta; her brother, Levon Kirakosian and his wife Silva, and their children, Dvin and Kristina, Leo, Aram, Gregor and Sevan, Garen and Juno; as well as many cousins.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to The Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church – Orphan Fund, 2226 Ventura St., Fresno, CA 93721; The Armenian Relief Society – Akhourian Mother and Child Birthing Hospital, P.O. Box 327, Fresno, CA 93708; or the Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, 108 N. Villa, Clovis, CA 93612.