Alvin Bedrosian

The priest in the center of this photo is Sahag Kahana Der Bedrosian, the father of Alvin Bedrosian. He was the first Vicar of the Saint Stepanos Church in Marash [Kahramanmara], as well as the locum tenens for the Prelate from 1908-1914.

Submitted by Karen Bedrosian-Richardson, Alvin Bedrosian’s daughter

My father, Alvin Bedrosian, was four years old when his father was arrested in 1915 with other community leaders and deported to Der Zor.

From Der Zor, Der Sahag was summoned to Aleppo, where he was arrested and jailed 15 times before being subjected to the military tribunal on the accusation of subversive activities, the allegations being based on an innocent letter he sent to the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) headquarters in Cairo, asking for financial aid for the Armenian villagers around Marash. He was exiled to Der Zor again, but managed to escape and was sheltered by a cousin in Aleppo for the duration of World War I.

Der Sahag returned to Marash in 1918 and organized the first Armenian National Union to take care of the 25,000 returning deportees. With the withdrawal of the French troops from Marash in 1920, and the failure of the Turkish mandated peace commission to Aintab, of which Der Sahag was a member, the persecution and living conditions in Marash once again became intolerable. Two more children (twins) were born in the Der Bedrosian family in 1921, one of whom survived.

In 1922, when the Turkish government allowed the surviving Armenians to emigrate, Der Sahag left for Aleppo with the survivors of his family. In Aleppo, Der Sahag served for a few months in the St. Karasoun Manoog Armenian Apostolic Church.

On September 14, 1922, the Der Bedrosian family traveled to Marseille, France, and boarded the Britannia ship for the United States. They landed in Providence, Rhode Island, on October 1, 1922. At immigration, the family’s surname legally became Bedrosian.

According to their immigration documents, Der Sahag was forty-five years old when he came to the United States. His wife, Zabel, was thirty-seven. My father, Askanaz (Alvin) was ten, his sister, Sahaganoush (Mary) was seven, and the baby Sumpat (Samuel) was a year and a half. The older brother, Nishan (Mark), was seventeen, and had immigrated in July 1922 with his grandmother Lucia directly to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Five years later, in 1927, Der Sahag died at the age of fifty. His widow Zabel and her four children moved from Troy, New York, to Springfield, Massachusetts, where they lived with relatives until 1932, and where Mark and Alvin were able to find intermittent employment at the American Bosch Corporation plant. During the Depression the plant was closed and the brothers managed to support their family by operating their own radio repair shop.

In 1931, while living and working in Springfield, Alvin, then age twenty one, invented the “B” tube that was used extensively in automotive radios and in military mobile communications equipment. During this time, his older brother Mark invented and patented an electric sign designed for indoor use in restaurants, grocers and trucks.

In 1932, the Bedrosian family again returned to Troy, New York, where the economic effects of the Depression were less severe. Here, Alvin was able to complete his high school education while working for Sears Roebuck as a serviceman repairing radios, refrigerators and washing machines. In 1935, Alvin’s mother died at the age of fifty, leaving four children and her own mother, Lucia. The two older brothers, Mark and Alvin, worked to support the family.

Alvin married Isabel Torigian in 1941 and the couple moved to Long Branch, New Jersey, where Alvin joined the U.S. Army Strategic Research and Development Laboratory at Fort Monmouth as an engineering aide, and where their children, Karen and Robert were born.

During the next 11 years, he achieved a rapid succession of promotions. Among his contributions were authoring five technical manuals for the Army and developing inventions in the fields of instrumentation and electrical measuring. All the while he pursued his B.S. degree in the evenings at Rutgers University, and became a registered professional engineer.

In 1954, Alvin was appointed Liaison Officer for the Army’s Scientific Liaison Office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he remained for 21 years. The family lived in Belmont, Massachusetts during that time.

Alvin retired in 1975 and he and Isabel moved back to Long Branch, New Jersey. In 1978, they were both invited to join the Advisory Council to the Armenian Studies Program at Columbia University. In 1981, Alvin was asked to be the Project Director for Videotaping for the Armenian Survivors Videotape Project- a project under the auspices of the National Center for Genocide Studies and the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

In March 1984, Alvin was invited to join the first Board of Directors of the Center for Holocaust Studies at Brookdale Community College (now known as Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education, Chhange), which he did.

On January 26, 1985, Alvin died in Long Branch, New Jersey.

A remarkable intellectual curiosity, combined with a compassionate nature, enabled my father to withstand early losses and setbacks and to persevere. He was not easily discouraged and had a strong desire to be helpful and to “give back.” Being so grateful for the many opportunities he was able to pursue in America, Alvin wanted to help another disadvantaged group.

In his retirement he focused on teaching those American Indian tribes whose reservations were on land suitable for the cultivation of pistachio trees how to grow, harvest and market pistachio nuts in the U.S., thus enabling them to attain a measure of economic self-sufficiency.

His interest in pistachio trees originated with his birth, when his grandfather planted a pistachio orchard on Alvin’s behalf. The expectation was that by the time Alvin was ready for college, the proceeds from the orchard would be enough to finance his education.

After years of research and correspondence with agronomists all over the country, his plan was presented to and accepted by the Middle America Indian Council in Wichita, Kansas, which presented it to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for funding.

With great zest for life, Alvin was beloved by those he helped and was known as “Uncle Al” to most.

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