2431) Joe Fitzgerald article on John Baronian, April 12, 2008, Boston Herald

To: letterstoeditor@bostonherald.com
CC: info@tassausa.org

Dear Editor,
Joe Fitzgerald's article on John Baronian (April 12) was not in the best interest of your readers which perpetuates hatred and ignores forgiveness and reconciliation. What Joe writes about John may be a true story but ignores the fact that the Armenians fired the first shot and revolted against their own government of the Ottoman Empire and massacred many Muslims which resulted in their death during the relocation of Armenians in 1915. The majority survived and many of them made their ways to the United States like thousands of Armenians before and after them, settling in places like Watertown, MA and Fresno CA. . .

I read Joe's article during a visit to Boston to attend a three day convention of Turkish American Scientists and Scholars (TASSA) at Harvard University and to participate in the Turkish Film festival. Over 500 individuals attended the TASSA conference between April 11-13 who came from Universities and private firms from around the US and Turkey, and yet neither Boston Herald nor Boston Globe carried any news of this important gathering that contributed to the economy of Boston.

During my stay Boston, I visited Watertown just outside of Boston and by chance met four Armenian-Americans who had immigrated to the US from Syria and Lebanon, the children and grandchildren of relocated Armenians in 1915. We all spoke in Turkish and they had no ill-feelings against Turkey or Turks. Stories of Armenians who still speak Turkish and wish to visit Turkey should also be presented to your readers, not the 93 year old stories, some exaggerated and fabricated, that does not foster friendship among the people of this wonderful land that we all call home with different heritage..


Yuksel Oktay
Washington, NJ 07882

PS. A brief story of my encounter with four Armenians in Watertown, MA is given below.

Like `Mr. Jumbo,' We'll Never Forget By Joe Fitzgerald | Saturday, April 12, 2008, The Boston Herald, Boston, MA

This one's for John Baronian, who was 87 when he died a week ago today. If he'd had a nom de plume, which he didn't because there was nothing pretentious about him, it would have been Mister Jumbo, for Tufts University never had a more zealous tub-thumper than this ardent alumnus from its class of 1950.

John loved everything about his alma mater, which is why he also tooted the Herald's horn because its sports pages were graced by the elegant prose of Tim Horgan and Tony Massarotti, his fellow alumni.

He was the life of every party he attended, including the annual Johnny Pesky Friendship Dinner, where his anecdotes kept the laughs coming at his table. But there was a greater passion that burned within him, an imperative to share a message transcending all of the causes and loves that defined him, and this is written with the certainty John's dying wish would have been that this message did not die with him.

So once again, here it is, in his own words.

John, an Armenian born in America, wanted the world to acknowledge and remember the atrocities inflicted upon his people by the Turkish government during a 1915 genocide that resulted in 1.5 million deaths. As recently as eight months ago, when the Anti-Defamation League lent its weight to history's whitewash of that bloodbath, John was telling his story to anyone who would listen. `My parents lived in Turkey in a place called Harput,' he said. `My father was a farmer. Armenians had lived there for centuries. It was like a kingdom with its own symbol, Mount Ararat. `When the genocide began, the Turks were immediately brutal. Women were beaten and raped by the soldiers while men were hanged in the square or shot in the woods.

My uncle and grandfather were taken to those woods and shot to death, just for being Armenians. That was all the reason the Turks needed. `Then came the death march. That's what we call it, though the Turks called it a relocation march, which was ridiculous, because thousands were forced into the Der El Zor desert with no water, no food, no anything. `My mother was among them with her three little children, all under 5: My sisters, Helen and Azadouhi, and my brother, Sirak. All around her, people were dying needlessly while her own children kept crying from hunger and thirst until they died, too.' John, who would be raised in Medford, serve in the Pacific during World War II, and enjoy success in the insurance industry, never forgot his heritage, even as he was living the American dream.

Sarah Baronian's anguish never subsided `I can still see her crying,' he once recalled. `She would try to hide it, but we'd catch her all the time; whenever she'd try to talk about it she'd break down and cry again, unable to continue. She could hear the voices of those little kids, the sisters and brother I never knew,
pleading for something to eat or drink as they died in her arms in the desert.' And then, invariably, he would add this afterthought. `Just before he began slaughtering Jews, Hitler asked, `Who remembers what happened to the Armenians?' In other words, people will eventually forget whatever you do.

`I can assure you, Armenians have never forgotten. And that's why I tell this story. God forbid anyone forgets.' In John's memory, it will continue to be shared here. Goodbye, good friend, and God bless


Chance Meeting During a visit to Watertown and Needham, Massachusetts
The first thing i did when I arrived in Boston was to pick up copies of local newspapers, the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Metro (advertised as the world's largest global newspaper. I also looked for "BostonNow, the freebie daily newspaper, but Boston herald reported that the rival of the other freebie Metro, had ceased publication. But there was another article in “The Boston Herald” on April 12. It was on the life of Armenian-American John Baronian who had just passed away at the age of 87, which made references to the events in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 without mentioning the Armenian revolts which was the cause of the Armenian relocation that year.

After reading the article and also previous Internet notices of Billboards for the April 24 commemorations that would be posted in various towns near Boston, I drove to Watertown and to Needham. I did not see the billboards but I met four Armenians at Starbucks in Watertown and had a wonderful conversation with them. After parking my car in front of Starbucks coffee house and locking the car, one of the group of four men sitting at a table in front of the store said: “This is a safe town, you don’t need to lock the car.” I said "thank you" and mentioned that it was only because of a habit. They looked like most folks in Turkey and i remarked, “You must be all from Anatolia”. They responded by stating that one was from Syria, two was from Lebanon and only one from Anatolia. They invited me to their table. They were all Armenians, Kirkor, Armen among them. When I told them I was from Istanbul, one of them said, “Don’t tell inside your are from Turkey, they may not serve you.” He was joking of course, and I did get my lathe and joined them.

As we started our conversation, it started raining, which prompted one of them to bring me a cap from his car, and we all went inside and had interesting conversation, all in Turkish, since, especially the ones from Lebanon, told me that they learned to speak Turkish from their grandmother and they spoke only Turkish in their homes and now in America also.

The conversation was about the war in Iraq, the declining values in the US (I had David Boren's new book "Letter to America" with me, and when I mentioned that I would be celebrating my birthday in Boston on April 14, Armen, the jewelery artist, shot back, “You mean you were born in April 24.” I said "no," and as I was getting ready to ask about the Billboards, a man joined the group, greeting everyone the Anatolian way. He was Greek- American and had just come back from a 15 day trip to Greece. When I introduced myself as the traveler from Istanbul, his comment was, “No, you came from Constantinople”. From that moment on, he ignored my presence and I decided to leave, looking for the billboards which I did not see.

Yuksel oktay, PE
April 18, 2008