A Living Memorial to a Beloved Community Leader

The ANCA Martha Aramian Armenian Cultural Center – a landmark property in downtown Washington, DC serves as the home and permanent headquarters of the ANCA’s signature youth programs – the Leo Sarkisian Internship Program and the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.  The establishment of this center was made possible by the family of the late community leader and philanthropist Martha Aramian  of Providence, Rhode Island.

The Aramian family – lead by sisters Sue, Margo, and the late Martha – has long been among the most generous benefactors of ANCA programs as well as of charitable projects in the Armenian homeland and the Diaspora.  Their parents, Kazar and Nevart, were Genocide survivors who came to this country and committed themselves and their daughters to remember and honor their heritage and culture.  The family demonstrated that commitment as the prime donor to the ANCA’s Armenian Cause 2.0 Conference in 2011.  They also provided support for the Aramian Conference Room, located on the fourth floor of the ANCA’s national headquarters, and numerous educational programs for young Armenian American women.  The Aramians have also funded, in Martha’s name, a series of Capitol Hill programs on Armenian issues.

The ANCA Eastern Region’s Vahan Cardashian Award was granted to Martha Aramian in 2008, during a New York City banquet that also honored noted human right activist, and now U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.  Martha was the recipient of the Armenian Prelacy’s highest honor, the Queen Zabel Award.  Martha’s benevolent reach extended across the Armenian world to include the establishment of a child care center, senior center, and youth camp in Vanadzor, Armenia, a city devastated by the 1988 earthquake.  In her hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, she conceptualized and developed the Armenian Heritage Park, as a permanent memorial testifying to the strength and courage of Armenian immigrants to this country, which she later deeded to the city.

“Our family is pleased to offer this living legacy to our beloved sister Martha’s memory,” said Sue Aramian and Margo Aramian Ragan.  “The Martha Aramian Armenian Cultural Center will stand as an enduring home for Armenian American youth in our nation’s capital, a place for young men and women to celebrate their roots, explore their culture, build lasting friendships, and realize their professional ambitions and public service aspirations.”

“We are honored by the Aramian family’s truly remarkable support and visionary commitment to our cause, our culture, our community and – especially – our youth,” said ANCA Endowment Fund President Ken Hachikian.  “The Martha Aramian Armenian Cultural Center will serve as a wonderful tribute to Martha’s sacred memory, supporting and sustaining generations of young Armenians as they strive, succeed, and rise to great heights here in Washington, DC.”

Established through a generous founding donation from the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the Capital Gateway Program, over the years, has benefited tremendously from the generosity of donors committed to creating public service opportunities for young Armenian Americans.  A leading financial contributor to the Program has been the family of Hovig Apo Saghdejian, a 23-year old youth leader and community activist from Fresno, California, who lost his life in 2004 in a tragic car accident.  His family generously established the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund in his memory.  Substantial support has also been provided by longtime ANCA benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Barbara Hekimian and the Armenian American Veterans Post of Milford, Massachusetts (AAVO).

A Life of Purpose and Passion:

Martha’s passion, philanthropy, and perseverance led her to personally design, create, and finally deed to the city of Providence the Armenian Heritage Park, on the corner of Chalkstone and Douglas Avenues. The park is 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 became leaders in business, education, medicine, and politics – credits to their society.  Martha compiled a history of those families, whose names are engraved on granite stones around the central monument, so that their stories will be forever memorialized.

Along with her sisters and the International YMCA, she established the Kazar and Nevart Aramian Child Care Center in Vanadzor, Armenia, where young Armenian children could have an educational and social experience.  It immediately became clear that seniors needed a place to gather too, so Martha added the Zevartaran, named in honor of her aunt Zevart.  Three years ago, the Aramian Camp was dedicated, and was a place where these same children could go for summer camp programs.

Martha’s love for children included those she didn’t even know.  She sponsored weeks of summer activity at Aramian Camp for Armenian children who were refugees from the Syrian civil conflict.  Her desire was for them to have happy memories during this difficult time.

Martha believed the Armenian Church was the cornerstone of its people; therefore, she lent her support to all the Armenian churches in Providence in many different ways.  She was a dedicated member of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church, giving generously of her wisdom, ideas, and creativity.

When there was a need, she gave financially as well, often anonymously.  She was a supporter of the Armenian Martyr’s Memorial, the Homenetmen, the Armenian National Committee of America, the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island, a sponsor of the film “Screamers” on the genocide, and many other events.

Martha thought of others before herself.  She spearheaded the movement to rename Whipple Street to Aram G. Garabedian Way in honor of Aram’s contributions to the Armenian people.  She was the driving force for placing a bronze plaque at the old ARF Mourad Club on Douglas Avenue, where the first generation of Armenian immigrants used to gather.

Martha was recognized for her generosity.  She was awarded the Queen Zabel Award by the Armenian Prelacy, “Woman of the Year” by the Armenian Masonic Degree Team of Rhode Island, Pillar of the Prelacy, congratulatory citations from Rhode Island State Senator Domenick Ruggierio, Cranston Mayor Scott Avedisian, and a Key to the City from then-Mayor of Providence, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci.