Charlotte (Arsha) Kechejian, 100, of New York, passed away peacefully on Sept. 10. She was born in Nigde, Turkey on Oct. 21, 1912 to the late Setrak and Elmone Avakian. As a young child, she endured the horror of the Armenian Genocide, including her father’s murder. Young Arsha lived in an orphanage where her mother was a nurse. Over time, they made their way across the desert of Syria, through Lebanon, then by ship to France, and arrived at Ellis Island in New York when she was 10.
Arsha was eager to learn and loved the New York Public Library, where she expanded her English-language skills. Her mother re-married, and Charlotte welcomed a brother, Charlie Genjian. She graduated from Washington Irving High School in New York, and worked in retail.
When Charlotte was 19, she married the love of her life, the late Oscar Kechejian, in 1932. Initially, they lived in Washington Heights, and then moved to New Rochelle, where she raised her family. Shortly after Oscar’s death in 1976, she moved to Fort Lee, N.J., and enjoyed living near Charlie and watching her family expand with grandchildren. Throughout her life, she was an active and loving mother, grandmother, sister, neighbor, and friend.
In recent years, Charlotte took residence at the New York Armenian home in Flushing. She was a vibrant member of the community and remained an active voice to remember and recognize the Armenian Genocide. In 2010, Charlotte went to Washington, D.C. to testify at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Armenian Genocide Resolution 252. With her testimony, the resolution passed.
As recently as April, she attended the 98th commemoration of the atrocities in Times Square. With the 100th anniversary of the genocide approaching, Charlotte offered interviews and first-hand accounts of what happened. In March she told reporters, “I remember feeling so tired and hungry, but my mother kept telling me to walk just a little more.”
“I miss my father,” she added, shaking her head. “I miss him.”
Charlotte is survived by her three children, Edward Kechejian (Lynn) of Florida, Madeline Magarian (the late Aram Magarian) of New York, and Gregory Kechejian (Diane) of New Jersey. She is also survived by six grandchildren, Eric Kechejian, Christine (Kechejian) Miles, Michael Magarian, Paul Kechejian, Sarah Kechejian, and Lauren Kechejian, and 10 great-grandchildren. Charlotte is also survived by her brother, Charles Genjian (Grace) of New Jersey, along with many nephews, nieces, cousins. and friends.
Funeral services were held on Sept. 12 at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, N.Y., followed by the burial beside Oscar at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to either the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs (209-15 Horace Harding Expressway, Bayside, NY 11364) or the New York Armenian Home (137-31 45th Avenue, Flushing, NY 11355).
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