It was the latter part of November 1922 when my mother, still Takouhie Charverdian, 16, and her sister Hripsema, wed to Khoren Apigian, left Bolis by ship for Marseille, France. By Christmas they were residing together in an apartment. Hripsema was expecting her first child and feeling quite ill, therefore her sister Takouhie did the cooking, washing, and cleaning.
Takouhie Charverdian left Marseille the latter part of April by train for Paris, where she remained for three days. She offered no explanation to me at the time of our conversations for how she managed this travel arrangement by herself. In Paris, she boarded a small boat that navigated the river one and a half hours to Cherbourg. She stayed there one day and then boarded the ship “The Normandy.” Miss Takouhie Charverdian was now on her way to Canada to meet her future husband, Mamigon Apigian, cousin to Khoren Apigian, her sister Hripsema’s husband. Khoren had written to Mamigon that his wife had a young, attractive sister. Takouhie got her visa easily because she was then “engaged” to a Canadian citizen. There were not many Armenians on this boat. Oskenaz Maloian, later to be from Detroit, and her brother Sarkis, brother and sister to Nishan Gerjekian, took care of my mother, protecting her honor from the French workers on the boat.
Expectant parents, Khoren and Hripsema Apigian immigrated to Canada in August where their first daughter Baidzar (Clara) was born on Aug. 13, 1923, which happened to be her Aunt Takouhie’s 17th birthday. Clara was born one week after her parents arrived in Canada.
Takouhie’s trip from France to Canada took 12 days without incident of sea sickness. She said she landed in Montreal, then took the train directly to Hamilton, Ontario. She got to Brantford on May 7, 1923.
Takouhie’s mother—my grandmother Nectar—and her son Hagop Charverdian, Serpouhie, and Baron came to Marseille one year later.
In Hamilton, Takouhie went to the home of Hagop Mooradian, which she described as “very nice.” Mardig Apigian, her future husband’s cousin, picked her up and took her to Brantford by train, to the Market Street house. This house is no longer there. Her future husband Mamigon greeted her at the train station with his relatives, Margarat (nanna) now wed to Mardig Apigian, Tom the lad with the red hair and blue eyes, Bill, Vahram, Arousiag, and Eddie. Together they walked home to Market Street.
Nanna was the first to speak, saying she was happy to see her. Mamigon Apigian, who was much later to be this writer’s father, shook hands properly and asked Takouhie, “How is cousin Khoren, and Hripsema?” Ma’s first impression when she saw dad: “Ohh!” She liked him because he was young, tall, and handsome, but skinny. “I didn’t know anything about love,” she told me. “I was a piece of dummy,” an honest but truthful way of putting it. She had been warned by her sister, “If the man wants to marry you is old, don’t marry until I get there. If he’s young and you like him, get married, but if you can wait for me until I get there.” Takouhie wanted to wait to get married so her sister could be there, but nanna and Mardig insisted that Mamigon and Takouhie marry soon. They said it was dishonorable to live in the same house under the same roof without benefit of marriage. (That seems ridiculous with all the people that were living in the same house at that time.)
Being respectful of their elders, Mamigon and Takouhie got married. She had gotten to Brantford on May 7, 1923 and married three weeks later, on May 28, 1923, which was Armenian Independence Day.
The ceremony was at Grace Episcopalian Anglican Church in Brantford. Dikranouhi and Khazar Posigian were the godparents. He was from Dad’s village of Tzarman, in Keghi. We are not related to either one. The newly weds honeymooned in Niagara Falls and dad gave her a new fur coat.
In Armenian tradition, the godparents are to be highly respected and honored. Whoever stands up at the wedding must stand up as godparents of the children born from the marriage. They are held in very high esteem.
Six months after Mamigon and Takouhie wed, they moved to Pontiac, Mich., where Mamigon had an uncle, Ousep. They left Brantford because nanna had put all the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, and hand-washing the laundry of seven people on the very young Takouhie, even though the newly married couple were paying room and board. It seemed that nanna, also called “Kechel,” often took to the couch for a lay down claiming headaches, taking advantage of the youthful Takouhie.
The move to Pontiac put physical distance between sisters Takouhie and Hripsema, now both wed to Apigian men. Khoren and Hripsema lived in Niagara Falls, where they raised Clara, Suzie, and Nishan.
Mamigon and Takouhie had four children: Abraham born in 1924, Khasvart (Alice) in 1927, Nevart (Norma) in 1929, and Serpouhie (Betty) born in 1938. All siblings were named after dad’s slaughtered family.
Mamigon and Takouhie were devoted to each other. They saw their first child and only son Abraham serve in the U.S. Army during World War II; he was in France and took part in the Invasion of Normandy. He saw service in Belgium and Germany, earning a Purple Heart for serious injury when a boulder fell on him after a bomb explosion broke all but one of his ribs. In addition, his body was filled with shrapnel. Those were worrisome years for the Apigians until Abe returned home.
Mamigon passed away in 1972, Takouhie in 1989. The devoted couple is sorely missed.
I proudly follow in my father’s footsteps. Dad taught Armenian school in Brantford, joined the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) when he was 18, and was a member until his death. He notably went door to door in Brantford selling the Hairenik Daily. I’ve been a contributor to the Hairenik Association’s English-language Armenian Weekly for over 25 years in remembrance of my father, my martyred grandparents, and the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in the genocide.
Dad had a proud fedayee funeral; his casket was carried out of White Chapel Cemetery on the shoulders of his ARF ungers singing revolutionary songs to the fallen hero and carrying a floral tribute basket of red, blue, and orange flowers symbolic of the tricolor Armenian flag. It was a fitting farewell to the tall, handsome, but skinny young man who had greeted a young lady named Takouhie at the Brantford train station in May 1923.
He was a gentleman who applied to become a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman but was turned down because he was too thin. He was the intelligent young man who was sent out of Armenia by his parents to get an education in the New World but instead, at age 13, found himself setting pins by hand in a Brantford bowling alley, and later worked as a moulder. I have a studio photograph of the dashing 18-year-old Mamigon standing proudly beside his Indian motorcycle. I remember him as the game 60-year-old racing with what he called “Young Jacks” down Woodward Avenue in Bloomfield Township and beating them in my brand new 1960 Catalina convertible!
I am writing this family history of my mother’s, and I never truly expected to accomplish anything except to establish an historical record of one special “Queen,” my mother Takouhie. And then this happened: Within hours of writing this third and final installment and reading the April 25th edition of the Armenian Weekly, I was astounded by the article written by R.P. Sevadjian on page 9 and the photo, courtesy of Aida Shahbaz, at the bottom of the page, of a group of community leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Now, 93 years later, because of a photo and article in the Armenian Weekly, I believe I have located a close relative of my mother’s, Hadji Boghos, who at one time lived in Ethiopia.
Standing in the back row on the left side was a gentlemen named Boghos Yeghiaian. I repeated the surname to myself several times. It was a most uncommon name, and it was like a miracle: It was Hadji Boghos, my grandfather’s sister’s son or grandson, whom I had written about in Part II of this odyssey. The article says he was a successful businessman but that most Armenians fled Addis Ababa during the 1970’s revolution. How strange it seems to discover an exiled Zonguldak relative of my very own. Where he went to I do not know, but somewhere I do have cousins—Yeghiaians—and that was another major reason why I wrote Takouhie’s history. In our talks, mother mentioned the surnames of Palandjian, Tertzagian, Keshishian, and that unusual one of Yeghiaian; none of these names represent any relatives I am aware of. I am certain many of us have survivor relatives out there somewhere.
My message to Turkish President Erdogan and Prime Minister Davutoglu: Your predecessors, the soulless Ottomans like Talat from which you inherited the black stain on Turkish history, tried and failed to eradicate the noble Armenian people from the face of this earth. We have sprung up and prospered in the four corners of the world, and we will forever remain a thorn in your side until we regain our historic land, Mt. Ararat, and are rewarded reparations. Instead of extinguishing us, we have flourished. In the darkness of the past 100 years, Takouhie and I light a candle for all the silenced Armenian voices who died needlessly.