Vergin Mazmanian Eulogized by Fr. Vasken Kouzouian

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The late Vergin Mazmanian was a weekly fixture at Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston. At her funeral, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian delivered a eulogy in which he recalled her dedication to the church, as well as many personal stories on his interactions with her. Below is an excerpt from that eulogy:

“Those who trust in the Lord, will find new strength. They will soar high on wings of eagles.”

These words of the Prophet Isaiah explain very beautifully what happens to a person who places his or her complete trust in God. Isaiah is saying that people of faith can rise higher than their troubles because they travel with God and they can soar to heights where their troubles can no longer reach them.

Deegin Vergin had this kind of faith. Without question. Without reservation, she believed in her Lord Jesus Christ, not only when it was convenient, but every day. In the good days, and certainly in the difficult days she faced.

“Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles.”

This is the Deegin Vergin I knew. And this is the Deegin Vergin our parish knew. She was a woman whose faith would soar high.

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Back in early December of 2008, I had the opportunity to accompany this dear lady to Wilmington High School, where she was invited to share her story with the students of a class called “Facing History, Facing Oursleves.”

The topic was the Armenian Genocide and she was their guest speaker. For nearly 90 minutes, Deegin Vergin spoke of her memories of the past and hopes for the future. And as she recounted of what she remembered about the Armenian Genocide, I noticed something amazing taking place within the classroom. I looked around the room and as she retold her stories I noticed that every single student was focused and hanging on to every word she spoke. It was as if their textbooks had come to life — that history was now addressing them directly. It was a powerful experience.

At the end of her talk, several students rose to ask questions of their guest — questions about her feelings, her fears, and her hopes.

One young man rose and asked a question of her: “Mrs. Mazmanian,” he started, “can you tell us if you believed in God during the Genocide, or did your faith start later in life?”

So, she began telling this young man about her faith as she understood it, and about how she felt God’s constant presence as she walked through the deserts of Anatolia during the aftermath of the deportations.

“God is all I had, and my faith is all I knew,” she began to share.

It was a fascinating couple of hours because two very different generations sat facing each other discussing: the Armenian Genocide and faith within a public school classroom.

And I kept thinking that here was a women, so tiny in stature, over 100 years old, sitting in a public school classroom and in her broken English — held the attention of 30 high school students — for over 90 minutes.

She was a remarkable woman. And she had a remarkable story to tell.

In 2004, I visited Deegin Vergin who was just getting over a bout with pneumonia. During that visit, she shared her story with me.

I kept the notes of her story until we celebrated her 100th birthday a few years later. . . and in this church sanctuary, I shared it.

Here’s what she told me:

“I was born in Amasia, on the Black Sea . . . my life was spared during the Genocide. I was very seriously hurt — my face, my arms and legs were all torn and bleeding from the dogs that the Turkish soldiers sent upon us. My face and lungs were greatly affected. The nerves on the side of my face were permanently affected — and my lungs were punctured severely.

I laid down on top of my dead loved ones, bleeding on top of dead relatives and friends, but when I got up off the ground, I wandered in the desert looking up into the clouds asking God to come closer to me and take me to Heaven.

But as I approached the clouds and horizon, it seemed that God continued moving away — as if He didn’t want to take me at that time.

He spared me for a greater purpose — to serve my Church and my people. — But what have I done for God — nothing — Voch inch! I’ve done nothing for Him. And now, having overcome pneumonia, He gives me a second chance; I can now serve Him again.”

And she did. She was one of the most active and caring parishioners Holy Trinity Armenian Church has ever seen.

After living in the wilderness for some time, Deegin Vergine was found by American Legionnaires searching for Armenian orphans. In 1922, at the age of 14, she came to the United States and became like a daughter to the Dickran Simsarian family of New Jersey.

Her long time commitment to Holy Trinity dates back to when our church was located on Shawmut Avenue in Boston. In 1936, she was the Women’s Guild Chairman and served other organizations.

Vergin was a lifetime member of the Senior Women’s Guild. She, along with so many other women, went door-to- door raising money to build this church of ours.

We have this beautiful church today because of people like her. The Armenian community owes a great deal to her for her services to our church and community.

At every banquet, church function, bazaar and picnic, Vergin was in charge of making her special pilaf. And as she approached 100 years old, she took it upon herself to teach the fine art of pilaf making to three men, whom we affectionately call “Deegin Vergin’s Disciples.”

She was also a faithful and devoted member of the ADL, the Tekeyan Cultural Organization, and the Baikar.

On numerous occasions, Vergin was recognized at the Annual April 24 Commemoration at the State House in Boston, where we remember, with other nations, the tragic Genocide of 1915.

I would look at her, as she entered into this Sanctuary, every single Sunday, kiss the floor of the Altar and I would see the spirit of our people reaching out to all of us as if saying: “Go as far as you can in this world. Become professionals in your fields; become successful; raise your families as you see fit. But don’t forget your past. What happened to me and my generation — is part of your history. Our story is a part of your story. Our blood is flowing through your bodies.

We have no doubt that God will accept her dedicated and energetic soul into His loving and caring hands in Heaven.

In our parish, we shall miss our Deegin

Vergin.

Amen.

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