PROVIDENCE, RI — The Armenian Heritage Park in Providence is located at the intersection of Douglas and Chalkstone Avenues where the surrounding neighborhood, known as “Smith Hill,” was home to many survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their families. On Monday, May 31, as it finally stopped raining, their descendants and the greater Providence community converged at the iconic intersection for a Memorial Day service of remembrance.
With pandemic restrictions easing and community members allowed to gather, this was one of the best turnouts at Armenian Heritage Park in recent years. The Providence Homenetmen Scouts opened the program with the singing of the American and Armenian national anthems. Archpriest Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian and Rev. Hagop Manjelikian officiated for the service with the assistance of Archdeacon Hagop Khatchadourian. Soprano Joanne Mouradjian served as soloist for the requiem service.
Former RI state senator Aram Garabedian spoke of the efforts for Armenian Genocide recognition and its inclusion in educational curricula in RI schools and across the country. Garabedian, a native of “Smith Hill,” was the driving force introducing the initial successful legislation for genocide education in 2000, despite strong Turkish opposition.
Erin Arcand was present on behalf of US Senator Jack Reed, a strong and consistent supporter of the RI Armenian community.
During the program, those who first arrived were remembered both for their survival and for their return overseas looking for lost family members, some joining the French Foreign Legion to fight for Armenian independence as the first republic. In addition, the firstborn of these survivors were honored for their service to their adopted nation of the United States during World War II.
Honoring and remembering those who built the “Smith Hill” neighborhood and ultimately the greater RI Armenian community was the message of the day. The great-great-grandchildren of some of those whose names appear on the 80 stones around the monument paid their respects as flowers were placed. All of the names were read, along with the names of those the community has lost over the last two years.
While Armenian monuments and churches are endangered or destroyed in places like Turkish-occupied Armenia, Artsakh and Nakhichevan, thanks to the late Martha Aramian and her family, the monument at Providence’s Armenian Heritage Park remains in pristine condition.
Aramian and her sisters Sue and the late Margo were the children of Genocide survivors Kazar and Nevart who embodied the commitment to “remember and honor their heritage and culture” and instilled that same dedication in their daughters. Recipient of the ANCA Eastern Region’s Vahan Cardashian Award in 2008, Martha’s passion drove her to persevere in creating and designing the Armenian Heritage Park, which she ultimately deeded to the city of Providence, as “an homage to the Armenian community who fled the horrors of the Genocide, overcame great obstacles in this new land, and established families who went on to become leaders in business, education, medicine, [and] politics.”
The inscription on the monument at the park aptly sums up its intent and the sentiments of the day:
ARMENIAN HERITAGE PARK
A TRIBUTE TO OUR FOREFATHERS WHO SEARCHED FOR FREEDOM AND HUMAN DIGNITY
WHEREVER ARMENIAN IS SPOKEN OR WRITTEN ARMENIA LIVES