Fresno’s ARS Mayr Chapter Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Early photo of members of the ARS Mayr Chapter, at the time called the Fresno Red Cross of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. (Photo taken from the 10th anniversary issue of Asbarez in 1918).


FRESNO—Amid the personal and collective tragedies caused by the Armenian Genocide, the year 1915 did bring one shining and enduring development to the Fresno community—namely, the founding of the local division of the Armenian Red Cross or what is known today as the Mayr Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society.  On Sunday, September 13, over 200 community members gathered at the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church to celebrate the chapter’s founding and its contributions to the Central Valley.

Chairperson Pat Sevoian welcomed the audience, expressing her appreciation for their support.  After national anthems sung by Hygo Ohannessian and the invocation by Fr. Vahan Gosdanian, Pastor of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church, she turned the podium to the afternoon’s emcee, Hon. Houry Sanderson, Justice of the Fresno County Superior Court.  In her remarks, Sanderson recalled that one of the Mayr Chapter’s first endeavors occurred in November 1915 when 61 Armenian and 28 American women wearing the Red Cross emblem collected over $1,200 (nearly $28,000 by current valuation) to assist survivors of the Genocide.  She thanked the group’s 100th anniversary banquet committee for making the event possible.

Rosie Bedrossian of the ARS Central Executive Board and Fresno’s Sophia Chapter highlighted the history and achievements of the organization in general, including its most recent efforts to aid refugees of the Syrian crisis. Bedrossian was certain that the Mayr Chapter “will always be receptive to the calls of the growing changes and diversity of the vital needs of the Fresno Armenian community”.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to commend you all on your survival and permanence as a strong Armenian Diaspora community,” said Rebecca Berberian, Chairperson of the ARS Western Regional Executive. She added, “As the name of your chapter translates, the ungeruhis of the Mayr Chapter, will forever be the matriarchs of Fresno’s Armenian community. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mayr Chapter’s founding, we commend and remember the integral role the Mayr Chapter has played in maintaining and strengthening Fresno’s community.”

Berberian was accompanied by Vicky Kataroyan of the Sophia Chapter, to present a commemorative plaque to the Mayr Chapter on its milestone.

The program included stirring dance numbers by the Hamazkayin Nairi Dance Group and a poem recitation and musical performance by harpist Sossy Kerkonian. The gathering was also treated to a 100 year photo journey, arranged by local photographer Alain Ekmalian.  Afterwards, the entire audience joined with ARS members in the traditional candle lighting ceremony and the singing of the ARS anthem, led by Angele Ohanessian.

Berj K. Apkarian, Fresno’s Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia, presented a proclamation on behalf of the republic to mark the group’s centennial. Chairwoman Serpouhie Messerlian of the Hamazkayin Taniel Varoujan Chapter offered her congratulatory remarks, as did Edward Megerdichian of the ARF Soghomon Tehlirian Gomideh and Fr. Gosdanian, who read a letter from Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  Proclamations were also received from Congressman Jim Costa, California Senator Tom Berryhill, and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Notable guests attending the banquet included Hon. Chuck Poochigian, Associate Justice of the 5th Court of Appeals, Debbie Poochigian of the Fresno Board of Supervisors, and Debbie Adishian-Astone, the Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Operations at CSU Fresno, who was representing university President Dr. Joseph Castro.  Fr. Vahan Gosdanian and the Honorary Consul were accompanied by their wives Yeretzgin Sossy Gosdanian and Arpi Apkarian, respectively.


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One Comment;

  1. Becky Shiner said:

    Dear women of the Armenian Relief Society of Fresno,
    Congratulations on your 100 years of service, not just in the Fresno area, but around the world. So many have been blessed by your uncountable hours of service and funds rendered so unselfishly.
    On this special occasion of your celebration, I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to a group of special Armenian women who helped by great-grandmother, Verona, many years ago. Though I know only little of the events of the story, I wish to share it with you all. My great-grandmother, Verona, and her two sons resided in southern California. Sometime around 1910-1917, she received news that a family member had died in Mesa, Arizona. She immediately made her way to Mesa to learn of the circumstances regarding the death and funeral arrangements. Verona was destitute at the time and there were no other family members she could ask to pay for the burial. She was beside herself at what to do. A group of Armenian women, who I believe were traveling through Arizona at the time, learned of her plight and with their great compassion, paid all the expenses of the burial. She was ever grateful. I I believe that these women eventually settled in the Fresno area. I have tried to find the descendants of these women, to thank them personally, in behalf of Verona and her descendants. Perhaps someone who reads this account will recognize the story and come to know of the great appreciation and respect we have for these women, who I believe, were, or later became, members of the Armenian Relief Society.

    With my deepest regards,
    Becky Shiner,
    Clovis, CA