Tatios Nazareth ‘Tom’ Magarian, Survivor of Armenian Genocide


TYNGSBOROUGH, Mass. — Born in 1914 to parents Nazareth and Dikranouhi (Chilingirian) in the town of Gurin in the region of Sepastia (Sivas), Tatios would only know the hometown of his family and forbearers for a year or two. In 1915 and 1916, the 10 members of his family would feel the pain of genocide.

At that time, the men of Gurin were gathered and removed by the Turks and never seen again. Those remaining were told they would be deported, and the Magarians sold/traded their household goods and belongings to get three donkeys, upon which they put the younger children. The women and children, along with elderly men, were forced to march by caravan southward. They would continue on foot through Kasaria, Albiston, Zeitun and Aintab. Then, in Ghatma, they were put on a train to Aleppo, Syria.

By now the family of 10 numbered five — two girls, Khungaper and Armenouhi, and three boys, Khatchadour, Magar and Tatios — and staying in newly-constructed gender-separated tent orphanages in open fields in Aleppo. Day by day the number of orphans increased. At some point, the middle brother, Magar, boarded a train heading back toward Aintab and was never seen again.

Later, the remaining four Magarians were separated again, with the two girls heading to Constantinople via Sis, and the two boys remaining in an orphanage in the Jebeil section of Beirut.

After years of turmoil, fear, death and uncertainty, there seemed some stability to life.

The eldest girl, Khungaper, would marry Harry Dadourian from Boston, Mass., and later send for her sister and two brothers and bring them to America. By 1924 a new life had begun for them all in a new land.

Tatios took on the name Thomas, and was known outside family circles as “Tom.” He attended school in Bronx, New York, and took part-time jobs at grocery and fruit stores in the neighborhood while living with his older brother, Khatchadour. He made many good friends and played baseball, and talked of the good-times watching Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at Yankee Stadium in the late 1920s.

In Boston, his eldest sister Khungaper’s husband had an accident at work that left him paralyzed. Tatios Magarian was asked to come and help the family make ends meet during the difficult times of the Great Depression. He was a senior in high school in 1931 when he had to leave school to help the family. He headed to Boston and started a food business on Commonwealth Avenue.

For the next 58 years, he developed his successful food business and moved it from Boston to Nashua, NH. “Tom’s Delicatessen” introduced the local New Hampshire citizenry to homemade New York-style delicatessen meats and salads, as well as a sampling of Armenian foods.

On July 4, 1942, Tatios Magarian married Virginia Tomasian of Washington, DC, at Holy Cross Armenian Church in New York City — the mid-way point for the Boston and Washington families.

By 1945, Tatios Magarian found himself in the small town of Tyngsborough, Mass., and owner of an orchard with hundreds of fruit trees. He loved the spring blossoms of the peach, cherry, plum and many varieties of apple. Many years later, when translating from Armenian to English the memoirs of his older brother, he rediscovered that his father’s land in Gurin also had orchards with blossoming fruit trees. He marveled at the connection with a father he never knew.

He called Tyngsborough home for 53 years, and also be a faithful servant of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church of Lowell and then Chelmsford, serving on various committees and as Parish Council chair during the transition years to new facilities. At the consecration of the new sanctuary in Chelmsford, Magarian served as Godfather to the Pillar of St. Thaddeus (Tatios) the Apostle. He was also a long time member of the Nashua Club of Kiwanis International, where he served as treasurer and president.

Perhaps the last of the Gurentzis born before the Genocide, he celebrated his 99th birthday on March 4, 2013, when he received a surprise visit. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian accompanied by his pastor, the Rev. Khachatur Kesablyan and a group of ACYOA members brought birthday cake and warm wishes. When Kesablyan asked him what message he might give to the young people visiting that day, he paused and said: “Choose a vocation you can continue doing what you have to do to bring the Armenians forward.” The archbishop offered special prayers and blessings to Magarian and led the group in the singing of the Hayr Mer – the Lord’s Prayer. It proved to be the last song that Tatios would sing as one week later on March 11, he passed away.

Tatios “Tom” Magarian was the beloved husband of 47 years to the late Virginia (Tomasian) Magarian; devoted father of Kenneth Magar and his wife Jane (Wrinkle) of Westfield, MA, Deacon James Khachadour and his wife Cynthia (Seferian) of Tyngsborough, MA, and the late Thomas Nazareth Jr.; nephews Robert and Richard Ovagimian, and the late Vahe, Ara and Sarkis Dadourian, Ronald Ovagimian and Nazareth Magarian; nieces Dorothy Magarian Bahtiarian, Charlotte Ovagimian Donabedian, Madeline Dadourian Koumjian and Sona Dadourian Kapilian and the late Anne Dadourian Haroutunian. He was also the grandfather of five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held at Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church in Chelmsford.  Expressions of sympathy and memorial donations in lieu of flowers may be made in his memory to Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church. The Giragosian Funeral Home prepared funeral arrangements. To sign the guest book and view photos, visit www.giragosianfuneralhome.com.

A 40th Day Requiem Service (Karasoonk) will be offered on Sunday, April 28, in Chelmsford.

— JKM