Remembering Harry Bedirian

Remembering Harry Bedirian

I joined the Franklin Odd Fellows fraternal organization in 1978 when Harry had already been a member for over 42 years. I remember Harry as a quiet and reserved gentleman. You would never hear a crossword from Harry, about anybody or anything – and he always had a smile on his face. He seemed to give the impression that he was content with his life at that time and place in his journey traversing his lifespan. He would only live for another 8 years, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get to know him better while I had the opportunity. Harry should be remembered and his story is worth hearing – – –

Harry’s trip to the United States at the age of 16 or 17.

Harry (Haroutune) Bedirian was born in Kayseri, Turkey in 1895 and was part of the minority population of poor farming Armenians. At the beginning of World War I in 1913, the Turkish Armenians sided with the central powers of Germany and Austro-Hungary while the Armenians on the Russian side of the border chose to fight on the side of Great Britain, France & Russia. This split caused widespread fear and suspicion among the majority Ottoman society in Turkey and many basic rights were taken away from the Armenians. When they tried to organize and demonstrate, the Ottoman “Young Turks” in power brought troops in and several massacres followed. No longer was there anyplace safe to live in Turkey and Harry had to flee the country. The persecution and mass killings of 1914 in Turkey turned into a full genocide in 1915 during WWI. Indeed, one of Harry’s cousins, Zachios Tozian, at the young age of 14, was killed by the Turks in 1915 during the height of the genocide. One and one half million Armenians were killed and another one half million more were scattered around the world. During that period, there were only 4 to 5 million Armenians, which meant that almost one half of the total population was lost!

Harry travelled with his brother Barsam (Henry) Bederian and they had many harrowing experiences including a train ride fleeing central Turkey and heading west toward Istanbul. Harry and others were desperate to get on an already overloaded train and had to ride on the roof through the biting cold night air and a man near Harry froze to death. From Istanbul, Harry and Henry crossed the Aegean Sea and landed in Athens, Greece for a while and then went on to Barcelona, Spain. They worked for funds for passage across the Atlantic to New York City.

An interesting fact about Harry’s Atlantic crossing is that his Naturalization paper notes that his passage was on the Carpathia Passenger Steamship. In April 1912, the Carpathia became famous for rescuing survivors of the rival White Star Line’s RMS Titanic after it struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic. The Carpathia navigated the ice fields to arrive two hours after the Titanic had sunk, and the crew rescued 705 survivors from the ship’s lifeboats. During World War I, the Carpathia transported Allied troops and supplies. On July 17, 1918, it was part of a convoy traveling from Liverpool to Boston. Off the southern coast of Ireland, the ship was struck by three torpedoes from a German U-boat and sank. Five people were killed; the rest of the passengers and crew were rescued by the HMS Snowdrop, a light cruiser from the British Navy.

From New York City, Harry made his way to Quincy, Mass where he lived for a time and found work in the shipyards as a riveter. Parinaz Ouzounian came to America in 1921 and, after an arranged meeting, they married on March 31st of that same year. He then moved to Franklin and started a poultry farm on the corner of Washington St. and Spring St. He then moved to West Central St. in Franklin and continued his poultry farm business with 7 acres of land. In the early days of Garelick Farms Dairy, which was across the street, they used to pasture some of their cows on Harry’s land to take advantage of a lower tax rate.

In January of 1936, Harry joined the Franklin Odd Fellows lodge and soon began enjoying new friendships and camaraderie that the lodge helped to foster. He also realized that the lodge was a great place to hold public suppers and his chicken farm business was perfect as the supplier of the main dish. Harry quickly mastered the art of cooking dozens of chicken halves over charcoal briquettes and turning them over all at the same general time so he could serve large numbers of people – and the chicken halvess would be cooked to perfection! Harry also joined the Aleppo Shrine of the Shriners and the Montgomery Lodge of the Masons and found himself in big demand for these outings. These were not Harry’s only customers as he hosted various other town events cooking on the Town Common.

Another interesting fact about Harry is that he never spent one day in school. When Harry was living in Turkey, his father escorted him to school and dropped him off at the front door of the school. Harry went in the front door and proceeded right through the school to the back door and went out – never again to return. Harry may have been single-minded as far as school was concerned; but in spite of his lack of education throughout his entire life he turned out to be an excellent provider for his family. At the time of Harry’s passing, he had 4 daughters, 12 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Beatrice Pastian noted that there were 26 family members in the picture taken in 1949; and if that picture were taken today – the count would be over 100. See the attached supporting documents, ie, Odd Fellows Members Roster of 1985 and many pies and articles of Harry with family and friends over the years.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to Zabel (Beatrice) Pastian of Ardsley, NY and Lucy Semerjian of Franklin, MA for their significant contributions to the history and lineage of Harry and also for the many pictures that they provided. Beatrice and Lucy are cousins and Lucy is the only surviving daughter of the four daughters that Harry fathered. They are both in their nineties and in good health and are very pleased that this article is written honoring the memory of their beloved father. Harry’s daughters are Elizabeth (1922 – 2012), Sirpouhi (1925 – 2015), Sona (1932 – 2023) and Lucia (1929 – current day). Also, many thanks to Jeff Lovell of Milford, MA, who is an old friend of mine and a genealogist in his spare time. Jeff donated a complete four generation genealogy report to cousins Beatrice and Lucy, to Harry’s nephew Larry Bederian and to the Tozian Family. I worked directly for Archie Tozian in the Franklin Water/Sewer Department in 1976 and 1977 and, as I just recently learned through Jeff’s report that Harry and Archie were first cousins. Small world!