PHILADELPHIA, Pa.—With an anonymous donation of $10,000, the project for a khatchkar (Armenian cross-stone) memorial for the only Armenian to have served in the American Civil War will go ahead, said Sandra Selverian, president of the Philadelphia Armenian-American Veterans Association (PAAVA).
“However, we are making this final appeal for more donations to have a perpetual-care program for the grave site,” she said.
Khachadour Garabedian was born near Constantinople and emigrated to Lowell, Mass. in the 1850’s. He worked as a machinist, became an American citizen, and enlisted in the Union Navy during the Civil War, where he held officer rank. He served aboard two ships engaged in the blockade of Southern ports—along the Atlantic Coast and later in the Gulf of Mexico. Garabedian was discharged in Philadelphia in August 1865, and remained there, becoming the first Armenian in the city. He married into a prominent Philadelphia family, and died in 1881. He is buried in Fernwood Cemetery, in southwest Philadelphia. He and his wife had no children.
Garabedian was “discovered” by chance by Gary Kooltokian of Chelmsford, Mass., who uncovered Garabedian’s early years in America.
“The reason we needed a gravestone for Garabedian,” said Paul Sookiasian, who has carried out extensive research into Garabedian’s life, “is that the original stone disintegrated in the 1950’s and his grave is without a marker. We thought that a traditional khatchkar would be an ideal replacement.” Sookiasian brought the Garabedian story to PAAVA, which readily agreed to undertake a fundraising drive for the memorial.
The 10-year-old PAAVA is made up of veterans from the tri-state Philadelphia area, as well as former Philadelphians who want to retain their ties with the area. At its peak, it had more than 420 members, and enjoys the support of all five churches in the area, with members serving on the PAAVA Board.
The date for the unveiling ceremony has not yet been set.
To make a tax-exempt donation to the khatchkar memorial, send a check (payable to “PAAVA Civil War Project”) to Richard Weinsheimer, # 229, 300 Ernest Way, Philadelphia, PA 19111.