94th Genocide Anniversary Commemorated on Beacon Hill


By Thomas C . Nash
Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — Armenian Americans and Massachusetts politicians filled the Great Hall of theMassachusetts StateHouse April 17 for a commemoration of the Armenian Genocide that focused heavily on thememory of former House Speaker George Keverian.

Keverian, who died in March, organized the first State House commemoration in 1985, a tradition that has continued since he left the House in 1990.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, remembered Keverian as a dedicated public servant at a time when both their ethnicities were obstacles.

“It was inconceivable that a Greek guy would be governor and an Armenian Speaker of the House,” Dukakis said. “We were ethnic curiosities. I can’t say how I did it, but I can say how George did. He was one of the most intelligent, most committed, most caring people I have ever known.”

Keverian’s brother, Jack, was invited to speak at the commemoration by state Rep. Peter Koutoujian, who hosted the event along with state Rep. Jonathan Hecht and state Sen. Steven Tolman.

“George made a difference in the lives of so many friends and strangers,” Keverian said, noting his brother’s chief concern was looking out for the “little guy.” “Our family and many likes us were the little guy,” Keverian said as he became overwhelmed with emotion. “I miss my brother.”

Gov. Deval Patrick also attended the commemoration, noting the Armenian
community’s influence on the state.

Koutoujian noted that Patrick has asked President Barack Obama to use the word “genocide” in his anticipated April 24 statement and to encourage Congress to pass the Armenian Genocide Recognition bill.

“I honor your loss, and I accept this loss as my own,” Patrick said. “I am grateful to the Armenian community in Massachusetts as the living example that you are of the resilience of the human spirit.”

Before leaving to attend an event in Springfield, Patrick posed with survivors of the Genocide and shook hands with children from St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School and the Armenian Sisters Academy, who sang the Armenian national anthem.

One survivor took Patrick’s hand and kissed it, an Armenian tradition. Patrick returned the gesture.

Survivors in attendance included Starrie Alemian, Aznive Aznavorian, Peter Bilezikian, Areka DerKazarian, Ojen Fantazian, Vergine Mazmanian, Sarkis Muncherian, Miriam Nerkizian, Rev. Barkev Orchanian and Veronica Sarmanian.

Both current and former Watertown representatives — Hecht and Rachel Kaprielian — spoke, noting the importance the remembrance continues to hold in the community. Watertown Town Council member Marilyn Devaney and President Clyde Younger also attended.

“We are here, Armenians and non- Armenians alike, to express our horror and outrage and to stand against those who would deny the truth about these terrible events,” Hecht said. “We are also here to express our profound respect for the survivors who are with us here today.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the first sitting Speaker to attend the commemoration, remembered Keverian and spoke on the issue of Turkish denial of the Genocide. He stressed the importance of remembering the Genocide victims at the State House.

“By remembering what happened back then, we also remember what is happening right now,” DeLeo said.

Other politicians in attendance included Wilmington Rep. James Miceli and former Rep. Warren Tolman.

James Kalustian, president of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, praised Boston’s North End residents for their support of a Genocide memorial on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.

Husband and wife opera singers Yeghishe Manucharyan and Victoria Avetisyan performed from the gallery, as did the Erebuni Armenian Chorus of Greater Boston.

The invocation was delivered by Rev. Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church, with the Requiem prayer given by Rev. Krikor Sabounjian of the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators.