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BETTY Berjouhi YEMENIJIAN

November 30, 1927 June 30, 2018
BETTY Berjouhi YEMENIJIAN
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Obituary for BETTY Berjouhi YEMENIJIAN

Berjouhi Balian Yemenijian died Saturday, June 30, 2018, peacefully in her home in Mission Viejo, California, where she had lived for over 30 years, in the company of her son Haig. Born into a mix of privilege and displacement, Berjouhi lost her paternal grandfather to genocide and lived through several major political upheavals before settling in the United States at 21, where she enjoyed a long, spirited, and happy life. She was 90 years old.

Born Berjouhi Balian, she was the third child and first daughter of Haig and Ovsanna Balian. Her father Haig was an esteemed attorney and judge in Alexandretta, Syria, where she spent the first decade of her life with her two older brothers, Zareh and Berge, and younger sister Flora, near extended family. Iskenderun (then called Alexandretta under French mandate) is in the region of Cilicia in present-day Turkey which once had a substantial Armenian population. Her family on both sides were Armenian and enjoyed a happy life in an ethnically and religiously diverse area of the then-Ottoman empire. In her later years, she reminisced frequently about her former home, lands, and summer homes on the Mediterranean. This formative first decade remained the touchstone of her memory.

In 1940 the Balians, like nearly all Armenians and other Christians in the region, fled when the French mandate in this part of Cilicia passed from the Syrian to the Turkish government.

In 1948, Berjouhi and her family left Beirut and made the crossing to the United States, where they settled in Detroit. Berjouhi considered her immigration to America the pivotal moment of her life. After experiencing upheaval and discrimination, she cherished the freedoms and opportunities for people of different backgrounds. Having been born into an Armenian family in Syria, among Turkish residents, raised in Lebanon, educated in French schools, and studied English before now living in the United States, she was fluent in English, French, Turkish, Arabic, Armenian.

In Detroit, she attended and completed secretarial school and earned a secretarial position at Cadillac Motor Company. In 1952 she met a handsome blue-eyed engineering student from Greece via Austria, and soon she and Arpo Yemenijian were courting in the parlor under the fiercely watchful eye of her father and two older brothers. Arpo had immigrated less than two years after, from Vienna, Austria, after growing up in Thessaloniki, Greece, where his own Armenian parents had fled from Istanbul upon Turkish expulsions of and escape by Armenians and Greeks there. Sharing parental roots in Istanbul, Berjouhi and Arpo shared many cultural and linguistic traditions.

Berjouhi and Arpo raised three sons, Theodore, Haig (currently Ter-Sbarabed of Knights of Vartan Vahan Lodge) and Jack (deceased.)
In Detroit, as throughout her childhood in Syria and Lebanon, Berjouhi enjoyed visits to her four aunts, Vartouhi, Haigouhi, Armenouhi, and Zarouhi. Her cousins Richard Thompson, Lillian Hopkins, Rosemary Avesian, all of Michigan, survive her.

When the boys had reached the ages of 7, 5, and 2, the Yemenijians bought their first house in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Arpo practiced law, specializing in immigration and worker's compensation, and served as a judge of the Dearborn Heights District Court as well as on the Michigan Workers Compensation Appeal Board. A protege of Governor George Romney, Arpo became active in the Republican party in 1964 and ran for US Congress in 1966. He was a founder and chair of the Captive Nations Committee, with whom Berjouhi was also active. Berjouhi was an Armenian school teacher for several years at St. Sarkis church.

In 1986, Berjouhi and Arpo moved to Southern California where they enjoyed a comfortable retirement. Arpo passed away in 1999. Berjouhi was an active member of the Armenian Relief Federation in Detroit and the Armenian Red Cross chapter based in San Diego.

Burial took place on July 9th during a private ceremony at Woodlawn Cemetary.

The family suggests memorial donations in Berjouhi Yemenijian's memory be made to Knights of Vartan, Vahan Lodge for the Tavoush Renovation Project.
Please make checks made payable to: Knights of Vartan, and mailed to the Treasurer:
Brian Der Matoian
26 Flores
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610


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