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Joseph Manjikian celebrated his 104th birthday at the Pasadena Highlands with over one hundred people in attendance including family, friends, and community leaders. Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) presented Mr. Manjikian with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition honoring his life. City of Sierra Madre Mayor John Harabedian, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) National Board Member Raffi Hamparian and ANCA-Western Region Board Member and Sierra Madre resident Raffi Kassabian, ANCA-Western Region Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, Armenian Bar Association President Garo Ghazarian and Kessab Education Association President Esther Tognozzi were also in attendance.
“My father is the richest man from Kessab,” said Dr. Haig Manjikian, son of Joseph Manjikian. “Having survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and suffering the loss of family and close friends, he understands that the real wealth in life lies in the ability to cherish and appreciate time spent with family, friends, and community.”
Joseph Manjikian was born on May 9, 1910 in Kessab, Syria, at that time a part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. During the Armenian Genocide, his father was conscripted into the Ottoman Army only to be murdered along with fellow Armenians. The villagers were forced into exile, marched into the desserts of Der Zor, along with countless other Armenians from the region. He was able to survive by eating weeds his mother collected along the way. By good fortune, survivors from Kessab were able to go back to their village, as it became part of Syria after World War One. In recent weeks, Kessab, which has been inhabited by a Christian Armenian population for centuries, has been in the media spotlight as it was attacked by extremist militant groups that entered Syria through the Turkish border and drove out the local villagers from their ancestral lands.
“Today we celebrate a man who is a national treasure for the Armenian nation,” remarked ANCA National board member Raffi Hamparian. “Joseph Manjikian represents our past, our present and our future. He is a signal of our collective strength and the ANCA is honored to be here to mark his 104th birthday.”
Joseph Manjikian eventually immigrated to California in 1950 with his wife and two children, followed by a third child born in the US. His story symbolizes the American Dream. He worked as an auto mechanic for forty years supporting his family and establishing new roots in Los Angeles. All his children represent first generation college graduates and raised their families with a strong Armenian-American upbringing. In his later years, he most enjoys being in the company of his eight grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and all extended family and friends.