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John A. Barsamian

September 9, 2003

John A. Barsamian, 99

Troy John A. Barsamian, 99, long a leader in the Armenian Community and its church, and formerly of North Lake Avenue, Troy, died Tuesday at St. Mary's Hospital Troy.

Born September 25, 1904 in Turkish Armenia, he was quick to say that his life really began when he immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1923 at the age of eighteen. With a great passion for the United States, he insisted upon celebrating his birthday on the fourth of July.

John often recalled his awe and wonderment when, from his passenger ship, he saw fireworks over the Statue of Liberty upon arriving in New York harbor. His memory of that spectacular sight never left him and his annual attendance upon July 4th celebration was both a nostalgic reminder of his arrival and a renewal of his love for the United States. He had little tolerance for those who criticized the United States or desecrated its flag.

When Moslem Turks under the Ottoman Empire began to persecute Christian Armenians, he fled with his parents to Russia in 1913 escaping the genocide of 1 ½ million Armenians the following year. The only child of Garabed (Charles) and Helen Barsamian, he attended Russian Cossack military schools in Batum and Novrosisky. When the Bolsheviks rose against the Czar, for whom John's father had served as an interpreter while in Russia, the family fled the revolution to Constantinople in 1918. There, John continued his education until 1923 when, fleeing continuing Turkish oppression of the Armenian minority, he left on a Russian passport to the United States, leaving his parents behind.

As he had no relatives or friends in the United States to vouch for him upon his arrival, immigration authorities required him to remain on Ellis Island for four days as a refugee. Not able to speak English, but fluent in Greek, Russian, French, Turkish and Armenian, he was able to persuade authorities to allow him to leave for Troy where he recalled a friend of his mother lived. Discovering that his mother's friend was an impoverished widow and an aged invalid, he supported her and himself by working as a produce clerk for LoPresti Brothers Fruit and Vegetable Market on Troy's Fourth Street. Working days for LoPresti, he attended night classes at Troy High School and later assisted many Armenians who immigrated to Troy.

Becoming an American citizen in 1929, John was able to bring his parents to the United States in 1930. In 1933, he married the former Virginia Tashjian of Marseilles, France, who had immigrated to the United States to attend the Julliard School of Music in New York City, from which she graduated as an accomplished pianist. Virginia also studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. Virginia died in 1991 after 58 years of marriage.

For many years a butcher and meat clerk at the Troy Cash Market, John became a member of the Business Administration Unit of the New York State Department of Transportation in 1963 until his retirement in 1974. He received a CSEA Award for Meritorious Service to the State of New York.

During World War II, John worked nights in the war industry at Behr-Manning in Watervliet and was frequently called upon during the day to translate documents and interpret for federal and state law enforcement agencies engaged in the war effort. He served in those capacities for the Federal Office of Price Administration in the rationing of meat and also served as a Captain in the Civil Defense Corps.

Devoted to the Armenian Church since early childhood as an alter boy, his aspirations to the clergy were dashed by the several political disruptions and flights in his earlier years. For 20 years, he served St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church of Troy, now of Watervliet, as Chairman of its Board of Trustees. For several years, he served in similar capacities for the Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Troy upon its founding. He was also active in the founding of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City. The recipient of numerous church awards for meritorious service, he was honored at the age of 90 by the Knights of Vartan as its Man of the Year. John is first cousin of His Eminence, The Most Reverend Khajag Barsamian, Archbishop and Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. John's father and the Archbishop's grandfather were brothers.

John was also active for many years in the Apollo Lodge #13 F&AM for which he served as Tiler and as an officer of Apollo Chapter RAM. Also very active in the Republican Party for many years.

John is survived by a son, J. Albert Barsamian and his wife Alice of Albany; a daughter, Mary Kalteux and her husband James of Niskayuna. He is also survived by two grandchildren Bonnie Barsamian of New York City and Tamara Cimalore and her husband Steven of Wilmington, Delaware and a great-granddaughter Allegra Cimalore.

Funeral service will be held Friday at 10:30am from St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church 100 Troy-Schenectady Road in Watervliet with Rev. Stepanos Doudoukjian, Pastor, officiating. Relatives and friends may call at the Bryce Funeral Home Inc. corner of Pawling at Maple Avenues in Troy on Thursday from 4-7pm. Interment Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands.

The family wishes to thank the wonderful staff at the Van Rensselaer Manor and St. Mary's Hospital 5th floor north for their care of John. Contributions may be made in memory of John Barsamian to St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church 100 Troy Schenectady Road Watervliet, NY 12189.

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