By Mike Sprague
WHITTIER, Calif. (Whittier Daily News) — Michael Minasian, who helped build the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument in Montebello and was involved in the founding of the Armenian Mesrobian School, died on January 17 after a battle with cancer. He was 85.
Memorial services for Minasian, who was from Montebello, will be held on Saturday, January 28, at 11 a.m. at Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, 900 W. Lincoln Ave. in Montebello. Burial and a graveside service will follow at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles, after which a memorial luncheon will be hosted at the Bagramian Hall adjacent to Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral.
“He was a spirited man with a lot of character and his passing is not only a loss to his family but a loss to the community,” said Montebello Councilman Jack Hadjinian.
Hadjinian said Minasian was an important member of the local Armenian community.
“To his family, he was a family man,” he said. “To the community he was a leader and to all those who are involved in the pursuit of justice for the Armenian community, he’s a special person.”
Minasian was involved in the movement to officially recognize the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern-day nation of Turkey, during World War I.
He helped organize the first march in Montebello, as well as related events in Los Angeles, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Armenian genocide in 1965.
Two years later he spearheaded the development of the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument atop a hill in Montebello’s Bicknell Park — the first monument memorializing the victims of the Armenian genocide to be constructed outside of Armenia on public land, according to the monument’s website.
Since the unveiling of the monument in 1968, Minasian assumed the responsibility of all city-related and maintenance issues of the site, often covering expenses himself, including the costs to place the monument’s identifying signs on the nearby Pomona Freeway, the only signs on an American public highway to display the words “Armenian” and “Genocide” together, according to his daughter, Ani Gohar Minasian.
Minasian was born in 1931 in an Armenian village near Varantzov, which was then in the Soviet Union, to Sukias and Rehan Minasian, both survivors of the Armenian genocide. They came from the Alashgerd area in historical Armenia.
Minasian and his family left the Soviet Union after World War II, when they moved to a temporary camp in Stuttgart, West Germany, where more than 2,000 displaced Armenians gathered. In 1949, the family immigrated to the United States.
Prior to becoming a US citizen, Minasian joined the US military in 1953, serving in West Germany as a linguist in the Psychological Warfare Department for two years. As a result of his service, he was naturalized as a US citizen.
In 1961, he moved to Montebello and married the daughter of his teacher and the sister of his best friend from the Stuttgart camp, Lydia Ajemian.
Minasian owned an international music store in East Los Angeles, later became an insurance agent and then a housing developer. His company, Garfield Financial Corp., was involved with a dispute with the city over one of his properties. A settlement is pending.
He is survived by his wife, Lydia; children Ani Gohar Minasian, Raffi Komitas Minasian and Murad Mher Minasian, all of Montebello, and Vart Tamar Perumean of La Habra Heights; and six grandchildren.