Inspirational Vergin Mazmanian, 103, Dies

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ARLINGTON, Mass. — Vergin (Virginia) Mazmanian, 103, a Genocide survivor who never shied away from telling her tale even when well past her century mark, died on June 14, at the Lexington Health Care Center after a lengthy illness.

Her daughter, Grace K. David, suggested that the very inner strength that allowed her mother to survive her horrific childhood during the Armenian Genocide was the one that allowed her to live to such a ripe age.

“Survivors are very strong, determined people,” David said. “What keeps these people alive? The love of the preservation of our culture, heritage and Christianity.”

Her mother, she said, died without the realization of her greatest hope: acknowledgement or an apology from Turkey.

David took care of her mother in their two-family house, until she became too ill to be at home. She said she has not been able to go to her mother’s apartment since her death, as the memories are simply too painful and overwhelming.

Vergin Simsarian was born in Amasia, historical Armenia, in 1908. She had taken refuge during the Genocide and hidden in a large pit in Deir Zor. However, Turkish soldiers had started a fire in the pit, killing some of the children and forcing the others to run out. She was rescued and brought to the Khrimian Hairig Orphanage. She found her only sister, Gladys Yerchanging Simsarian, by chance at the orphange. The two were eventually sponsored by the extended Simsarian family and brought over to the US.

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She was a pillar of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) for more than 70 years. She and her husband, Gregory Mazmanian, dedicated themselves to Armenian causes. They were the main donors and the  Godparents of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Montreal and the headquarters of the Diocese of Canada there, the latter realized with the efforts of Dr. Arshavir Gundjian.

Mazmanian was an active member of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge and its Women’s Guild. She was affectionately known there as “Master of Pilaf” and attended church every Sunday, except a few times that she was sick.

In 1996 Mazmanian received a proclamation on the Armenian Genocide at the State House from then-Gov. Paul Cellucci. Shortly thereafter, Mazmanian started received threatening phone calls from the Turkish Embassy in Washington, asking if she really remembered the Genocide.

The ADL District Committee honored Mazamanian during its annual convention in Boston, on April 4, 2009.

In addition to her daughter, Grace K. David of Arlington, she leaves her grandchildren John A. David and his wife Carol of Woburn and Karen Monson and her husband Peter of Andover and great-grandchildren Christopher David and Nina, Samantha and Derek Monson.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, Harry Kezarjian, and her second husband, Gregory Mazmanian; her parents, Garabed Simsarian and Karan Arcenian, as well as her sister, Gladys Yerchanig Simsarian.

Services were held at Holy Trinity Armenian Church, Cambridge, on Friday, June 17. Interment was in Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett.

David was touched by the large outpouring of support and love at Holy Trinity Armenian Church and the strong representation of the ADL at her mother’s funeral. “She would have loved how beautiful it all was. It is what she would have wanted,” David said.

Expressions of sympathy may be made in her memory to Holy Trinity Armenian Church or the ADL District Committee, 755 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02472.

“She had a drive to keep the young generation interested. The sheer, stubborn determination to keep pushing and the love of the church compelled her,” David said. “She was set in her ways and determined.”

 

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