Obituary: Hovhannes ‘John’ Megrdichian

Hovhannes Megrdichian (right) and his wife Mariam Megrdichian
Hovhannes Megrdichian (right) and his wife Mariam Megrdichian

Hovhannes Megrdichian (right) and his wife Mariam Megrdichian

Hovhannes “John” Megrdichian was born in the early winter of 1925 to Gregor and Mariam Gabrielian in the Petrovsky District of Stavropol Krai, Russia. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Slaviansky in Krasnodar Krai, and finally settled in Novorossisk, Russia on the Black Sea Coast. Hovhannes was the eldest son of seven children.

Hovhannes’ family was part of the large Armenian Community that settled in Novorossisk after the Armenian Genocide. Prior to the Genocide, the family had lived in the Province of Erzeroum in the Terjan district, of Historic Armenia. They were proud Terjantzis and still speak the district dialect to this day. He attended the Armenian school in Novorossisk up until the onset of WWII when the Nazi forces bombed and overtook the city. He was always a very modest person and never bragged about his achievements in school. Not until we had a visit in the 1980’s from a relative from Russia, Shoghig Kirakosian, who was his Principal’s daughter, did we ever know that his picture was placed at the top of the honor wall as the student with the highest achievement honors.

In 1943, the Nazi Army forced the family to leave the life that they created in Russia, and relocated them, by train, to the forced labor camps in Heilbronn Germany. His parents and siblings were separated from each other and Hovhannes was chosen by a German farmer to work on his farm doing any chores that were given to him to complete. Little did he know that the farmer who had three daughters had his eye on him for a future son-in-law. After the war ended, Hovhannes chose to be re-united with his family in Stuttgart, Germany where close to 5,000 Armenians lived in the Displaced Person’s Camp in Fungerkazerne. The “D.P.” Camp was a refuge for nearly five years for all the Armenians that had survived the war and it developed into a “Little Armenia”. It had its own governing system, church, social and athletic clubs and school. Life had turned to a new normal. In the late 1940’s post war years, the “D.P.” Camp was miraculously discovered by George Mardikian on one of his trips abroad as a food consultant to the Quartermaster General of the United States Army. While in Germany, he learned that there was a camp housing some 5,000 displaced Armenians. One thing led to another, and with the help of Brigadier General Haig Shekerjian and the Armenian National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians, better known as ANCHA, many of the families from the Camp were able to immigrate to America.

The Gabrielian family was one of the many who came to the United States, but Hovhannes stayed behind for 2 years in order to help his elderly aunt and uncle find a way to the New World. He even went as far as changing his last name to their name “Megrdichian”, and registered himself as their son. Unfortunately, the couple was rejected for minor health issues by General Shekerjian and his committee and were regretfully sent to Chtora, Lebanon to live out the rest of their lives away from the family. Hovhannes, with great disappointment, found his way to America in 1951 and settled in Fresno with his family on a farm near Fowler.

In 1952, his god-parents who were now living in Detroit, Michigan, invited him to go and live with them and find work that was more suited to his talents. He secured a great job at Fisher Body that began his profession as a welder. There were also many families, at that time, that had settled in Michigan who had once lived in the “DP” Camp in Germany. His father’s friend and compatriot, Gregor Kirakosian, along with his family, had settled in Detroit as well as many of the Gabrielian cousins. On one occasion, Hovhannes ran into his childhood friend from the “DP” Camp, Mariam Kirakosian. It didn’t take long for the two of them to become closer and as the fairy tale progressed they were married in 1953.

They were blessed with the birth of their only child, Vartouhi Rosie, who was the apple of her father’s eye, but by now, Hovhannes missed his family that was living in Fresno, so the three of them moved to California to begin a new life together on the west coast.

Life in Fresno was quite different than their life in Detroit. As a child, he had heard many stories about the old country and his father’s and father-in-laws stories about their involvement with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Tashnagtsutiun. Both of them had fought as Fedayeen soldiers alongside each other with General Dro. This made a lasting impression on him and he joined the ranks of the “ARF”, Dro Gomideh in Detroit and then transferred to the Dinuba Hamazasp Gomideh. He served as secretary treasurer for many years until the disbandment of the Gomideh in the early 1980’s.

He continued his occupation as a welder and worked for Vendolator “Vendo” making aerospace parts, and then later, vending machines. While living in the heart of Fresno, he happened to meet artist/sculptor, Varaz Samuelian who had just completed the statue of “David of Sassoun”, built with cement and stone. The city of Fresno had agreed to display this monument statue in courthouse park on one condition, it had to be constructed in metal. Hovhannes heard about this so offered to teach Varaz how to forge and weld bronze in order for him to complete the project. Being the modest person that he was, he never took any credit for the favor he did for Varaz. Hovhannes was a very talented person who could bring any project to completion. He could fix anything and build anything. As they say in Armenian “Amen Pan Dzerken Gookar”

In 1984, his daughter Rosie married Bryan Bedrosian and in 1987, they were blessed with the birth of his grandson Armen Hovhannes Bedrosian, who gave him more pleasure than life itself.

Hovhannes was a very kind and caring person who loved his family, friends and khenamies. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need without any regrets. Everybody loved him back. He made it to the rich age of 92 and will truly be missed by all.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Gregor and Mariam Gabrielian; brother, Harout Gabrielian; and sister, Anna Manukyan.

He leaves behind his loving wife, Mariam Megrdichian; his daughter, Rosie Bedrosian and her husband Bryan; his grandson, Armen Hovhannes Bedrosian and his wife, Stephanie; and his two great granddaughters, Lillian Sonya and Vivian Rose Bedrosian. He is also survived by his brother, Sarkis Gabrielian & wife Tamara; nephews, David and Peter, Michael Gabrielian and wife Charlotte; nieces, Lyne, Kara and Mara; sisters, Sima Liege and niece, Stella and nephew, Jack; and sister, Vicky Gabrielian-Bansal and husband, Opender; sister-in-law, Rose Hovanesian and children, Manushag and Gregor and wife, Garine and their families, Paul, Lena, and Levonig; brother in law, Levon Kirakosian and wife, Silva and children Dvin, Aram, Gregor, Garen and Juno.

Visitation will be held at Yost & Webb Funeral Home, 1002 T Street, Fresno, California 93721 on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, from 5 to 8 p.m., with a Home Service at 7 p.m.

Funeral Services will take place at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, 2226 Ventura St., Fresno, California 93721 on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 11 a.m.

Interment immediately after Funeral Service at Masis Ararat Cemetery 250 N. Hughes Ave., Fresno, California 93706

Hokejash (Memorial Dinner) after interment, at the church social hall.

Remembrances may be made to Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, 2226 Ventura St., Fresno, California 93721; Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, 108 N. Villa Ave., Clovis, California 93612; and the Armenian Relief Society – Sophia Chapter, P.O. Box 327, Fresno, California 93708.

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