BY TAMAR KARKAZIAN
Special to Asbarez
In the early 1900’s the Armenian-American diaspora began to really grow as Armenians left the villages of their ancestors in search of a better life. Many made their way to California because of the richness of the land and the similarities to home. The Parnagian family, founders of Fowler Packing, were among those families who settled in the San Joaquin Valley.
“This Valley was, and still remains, a paradise for those who want that life of working the land. Armenians seem to have an innate love for the soil and the food it can produce,” stated Fowler Packing President Dennis Parnagian.
The late Sam Parnagian started Fowler Packing because of this love for the soil, establishing one of the top fresh fruit packinghouses in California. Today Sam’s four sons Dennis, Randy, Ken, and Philip strive to ensure that they continue their father’s legacy by “doing the ‘right thing’ for growers, employees, customers, and the community.”
As active members in the Armenian community, they have “done the right thing” on numerous occasions, helping the Armenian community in a variety of philanthropic activities. “As long as we keep our Church and our faith, there will always be an Armenian community that has meaning and keeps the flame of our heritage alive,” said Dennis Parnagian.
That is why the Parnagian family, along with various other members of the Fresno Armenian community have worked extremely hard to bring influential religious figures such as Catholicos Aram I and his predecessor Karekin II to the San Joaquin Valley.
“When religious leaders visit the Valley it is always exciting and inspiring. We know there are ‘flocks’ of Armenians scattered throughout the world but we remain very connected with one another because of our religion and our spiritual leaders, ” explained Mr. Parnagian. “When they personally visit, it reinvigorates us and strengthens the feelings we have as Armenians. ” He then added, “We are fortunate to have religious leaders and seminaries to keep the traditions or our faith strong and sustainable.”
“The Parnagian family has been a beloved presence in the San Joaquin Valley and faithful members of Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian-American community for decades. They are a hard-working and altruistic family who have utilized the resources they have earned through the sweat of their brow, through their hard and righteous labor, to make a difference in the lives of their fellow man and community. The Parnagian brothers, Dennis, Randy, Ken, and Philip, and now the new generation of the Parnagian family, are continuing in the faithful footsteps of their late father and grandfather Sam, and carrying on his legacy by contributing to the advancement of their local community and the greater Armenian-American community through their generosity and support. Their boundless love and devotion to our faith and nation, and their unwavering allegiance to the Holy See of Cilicia and our Prelacy has played a significant role in the realization of our endeavors and mission. We are privileged to have them as our dearest friends,” stated Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
The Parnagians have also helped bring political figures to the San Joaquin Valley, such as Armenia’s Secretary of Agriculture, Armenia’s Consul General for the United States and Raffi Hovanissian (member of the Parliament of Armenia and a Fresno native). Parnagian emphasized the importance of these visits saying, “The interaction and exchange of information is helpful to us and to them as we work together to find ways for improving and developing opportunities in Armenia. Simply getting to know one another and building relationships is often the most important step for ongoing and lasting relationships that benefit Armenians here and in Armenia.”
It is this sense of pride and dedication, that families like the Parnagians have, which has seen the Armenians in the San Joaquin Valley succeed.