By Aram Arkun
Armenian Mirror-Spectator Staff
PEABODY, Mass. — On the morning of April 25, Armenians of Peabody, Mass. and their friends assembled to commemorate the Armenian Genocide with the participation of many local elected officials. At the start of the program, the Armenian flag was raised outside of town hall. Approximately 60 people attended the program.
Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. of Peabody was ill, and was represented by State Rep. Tom Walsh of the 12th Essex District. Fr. Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church opened the event with a prayer. His son Fr. Stephan Baljian of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley was also present. Mary Bellavance of the mayor’s office welcomed the guests.
Houry Boyamian, principal of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown, was the keynote speaker. She summarized the events of the Armenian Genocide through the story of her father Karnig Panian, a Genocide survivor who managed to overcome the extreme trauma and obstacles of his early life to become an educator and vice-principal at an Armenian school in Beirut, Lebanon. His life serves as an example of both the brutality of the Genocide and the resilience of the Armenian people.
Boyamian and her sister recently had their father’s Armenian-language memoirs translated into English and published under the title Goodbye, Antoura. Copies were given to several of the officials present at the event.
Rep. Walsh presented the proclamation from Mayor Bettencourt which proclaimed April 25 to be the day to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in Peabody and to remember “the 1,500,000 people of Armenian ancestry who lost their lives in the Genocide of 1915-1923.”
Peabody has commemorated the Armenian Genocide annually since 1991. Then-mayor Peter Torigian wanted to provide an opportunity for Armenians living in the North Shore area to come together locally on the model of the annual commemoration in Boston proper. His successors, Michael J. Bonfanti and Bettencourt, fortunately continued this tradition, and the Torigian family has helped support it, along with various Armenian community leaders. In a sense, the event now is also a tribute to the popularity and legacy of Torigian. His wife Jackie was present at the program, which concluded with a reception with a variety of delicious foods provided by Peabody town hall and the Armenian community.
Dignitaries present in the audience included Massachusetts State Sen. Joan Lovely of the 2nd Essex District, State Rep. Theodore C. Speliotus of Danvers, Peabody City Councilors Tom Gould, Dave Gravel and James Moutsoulas, and School Committeeman Jarrod Hochman. There was strong Greek support for the event, as exemplified by the presence of Fr. Anthony Pantilyan from Saint Vasilios Greek Orthodox Church of Peabody as well as several of the officials present of Greek origin.