Fresno Community Honors George Mardikian and ANCHA Volunteers

Armenian community members at the grave site of ANCHA founder George Mardikian


Plans announced for memorial monument

FRESNO, Calif.—Mother Nature did not dampen the dedication of a group of people who gathered in Fresno, California recently to remember and pay tribute to humanitarians who changed the lives of thousands of Armenians around the world.

George Mardikian, founder of the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA), and Suren Saroyan, a San Francisco attorney, together with Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian, were the driving force behind the success of bringing some 25,000 Armenians from Europe, the Middle East and even China to the United States from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. Hundreds of other volunteers worked relentlessly to perform the necessary groundwork and execute the logistics to relocate families from war ravaged countries to the United States and offer them a new life of freedom, security and opportunity.

On February 22, the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church held requiem services (hokehankist) for Mardikian, Saroyan, Shekerjian, ANCHA volunteers, and some Fresno area ANCHA sponsors. Following the services, the Reverend Vahan Gosdanian shared his memories of the ANCHA presence in Lebanon, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Varoujan Der Simonian, highlighting the importance that ANCHA has played in lives of Armenians and the development of the local communities, announced plans to build and dedicate a fountain in the newly renovated church courtyard to these individuals. Mardikian also served as Chairman of Holy Trinity’s Board of Trustees and Saroyan served as Chairman of the Board of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco.

After church, parishioners were invited to the reception hall for refreshments, where attendees were treated to a visual history – a display of photographs of Armenian families in a displaced persons camp in Germany. This was the first group of immigrants relocated by ANCHA.

Undeterred by the rain and cold weather, a large group continued on to the Ararat Armenian Cemetery for hokehankist prayers conducted by Reverend Gosdanian at the gravesites of the Mardikian and Saroyan families. Attendees included several displaced persons and their children, Armenian Relief Society members and other community supporters, some of whom had traveled from Visalia, Bakersfield, and Los Angeles. All placed flowers at the tombstones of their beloved countrymen.

There, Sophie Mekhitarian announced plans to erect a monument honoring Mardikian and his compatriots in the neighboring Masis Ararat Armenian Cemetery, near the Soghomon Tehlirian memorial monument. Mekhitarian also described a project to record the history of the displaced persons’ experience in a collaborative effort with the participation of the displaced persons community. More information about this endeavor will be released later.

It is our hope that the Holy Trinity courtyard fountain and Masis Cemetery memorial monument will not only give due recognition to our Armenian heroes but also inspire others into greater service of humanity. Those interested in participating in these projects may contact Sophie Mekhitarian at (559) 435-5136 or sophiem2125@gmail.com. Financial contributions may be sent to Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, Attention: Mardikian/Saroyan Memorial Fund, 437 M Street, Fresno, California, 93721.

Interested persons may also read further about the history of ANCHA in “Our Brothers Keepers,” by Hratch Zadoian (2012), which may be purchased at abrilbooks.com or stvartanbookstore.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Vanessa Kachadurian said:

    George Mardikian was also a famous restaurant owner of Omar Kahyams. George was a friend of my late father’s cousin’s husband Grocery Store chain owner Avedis Karagozian. Together they sat on many boards within the San Francisco community are responsible for the building of St. Gregory’s Armenian Apostolic Church as well as the first donors to the Armenian community of San Francisco’s purchase of the famous Mt. Davidson Cross.
    Great article but it should have expanded on his famous restaurant which I remember as a child.

  2. Krikor Sarkissian said:

    WOW ! I’ve been to his restaurant (Omar Khayyam) in San Francisco in early 70s.You walked downstairs to the restaurant. Good ol’ days ! RIP !

  3. Vanessa Kachadurian said:

    Yes Krikor it was below the street in San Francisco and you could hear the rumbling of cable cars. I remember my dad’s relatives always being seated by Mr. Mardikian. I am proud of him and his hard work in migrating Armenians to the USA. God Bless him. I hope you all visit our Historical Armenian Cemetaries in Fresno, it’s a lesson in history and survival.

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