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Franklin Ohanesian

Death Jan 2009
Burial Cremated, Other, Specifically: Unknown Cemetery
Memorial ID 84472657 · View Source
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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Franklin Der Ohanesian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide and longtime insurance salesman in Sacramento, died Wednesday at age 101.

He died at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento of complications from pneumonia.

Mr. Ohanesian was 7 years old when the Armenian genocide began in 1915 near the start of World War I. It occurred in present-day Turkey when the Young Turk Party began purging Armenians from the government, the military and then from the population itself.

In total, about two-thirds of the nation's Armenian population was murdered in labor camps, forced marches and mass killings.

"He managed to escape from that by being resourceful," Gail Ohanesian said of her father. "I was always so proud of his background and also proud that he never was resentful toward anybody because of the hardships that he went through. He was always just so happy to be here and never complained about anything."

Mr. Ohanesian's immediate family in 1915 consisted of 13 members including an aunt, uncle and cousin. By 1922, only six were left alive.

The family was forced to walk with hundreds of others to a labor camp in the nation's interior, commonly called a "death march" because so many died along the way. The military also used these journeys to break up families.

Mr. Ohanesian's grandmother was left along the trail to die because she couldn't keep up. His father and oldest brother were separated out, to join a group of men to serve as laborers. They were never heard from again.

The family was confined to different work camps. At one of these, Mr. Ohanesian's mother was forced to leave him and his sister at an orphanage because she couldn't care for them at the camp. But the orphanage was full, so she left them on the doorstep.

The children were taken into the orphanage that night and required to share beds in the infirmary with sick children. Mr. Ohanesian soon contracted a contagious eye disease, trachoma.

They got little medical attention and were fed only once daily. But Mr. Ohanesian learned to steal medication to treat himself, and he slipped out of the orphanage every day to find food.

"He got beaten when he returned to the orphanage each day, but he thought it was worth it," said Gail Ohanesian.

Surviving members of the family were eventually reunited, and in 1921 they joined other relatives who emigrated to Fresno. But Mr. Ohanesian had to stay behind on Ellis Island in New York for a year until his eye condition improved.

His family ended up in Sacramento, where Mr. Ohanesian became the first member of his family to learn English and graduate from high school. He later helped an older brother open Pioneer Grocery at 21st and L streets, site of today's Distillery Restaurant.

"He was the interpreter for the family because the rest of the family never had a chance to go to school and didn't learn English as well," his daughter said.

After struggling to find work during the Great Depression, he started a career in the insurance business and eventually spent 33 years with Prudential Life Insurance as a sales agent, retiring in 1973.

Along the way, Mr. Ohanesian was a founding member of the Armenian American Citizens League and the XXX Fraternity, a social group for Armenian men. He also was a longtime member of Pioneer Congregational Church.



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  • Created by: Juanda Owens B.
  • Added: 4 Feb 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 84472657
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Franklin Ohanesian (unknown–Jan 2009), Find A Grave Memorial no. 84472657, ; Maintained by Juanda Owens B. (contributor 46581824) Cremated, Other, who reports a Unknown Cemetery.