BY CHRISTOPHER MENSOIAN AND MARTHA MENSOIAN
The following eulogy by Christopher Mensoian and Martha Mensoian was read during their father’s funeral services on July 10 at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Mass.
Dr. Michael G. Mensoian was born on June 24, 1927, in Providence, Rhode Island, to Michael George Mensoian, Sr., originally of Kesrig, a village outside of Kharpert, and Alice Mensoian (née Ogassian), originally from Massachusetts, whose parents had emigrated from the Adana region in the mid-1890s. Despite growing up during the Great Depression and losing his father at the age of seven, our dad was an eternal optimist, a source of great positivity and strength, and had a profound influence on the countless lives he touched.
He was a WWII veteran, leaving high school early at age 17 to enlist in the United States Navy to fight for his country, serving on the Destroyer USS Lyman K. Swenson. As the man of the house, he would send money and letters home to his mother and sister while his naval assignments took him to distant places in the Far East. One of our favorite photos is of our 17 year-old dad dressed in his white Navy uniform, proudly standing on the deck of the USS Lyman K. Swenson with Shanghai harbor behind him, smiling with a pipe in his mouth and a remarkable, meaningful, long life ahead of him.
When he returned home from WWII, he enrolled at Clark University to study geography, where he graduated in 1949. He went on to earn a number of graduate degrees, including three master’s degrees, a PhD, and a JD. Our dad always stressed the value of education and spoke about the importance of learning and being a lifelong student.
Our dad met the love of his life, our mom, Sirvart Gregorian, at an Armenian Students’ Association social while he was a professor at Boston State College. She was a registered nurse just down the street at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. The two married on July 5, 1969 and spent a long and happy life together until our mother’s untimely passing in 2003.
He became chair of the geography department at Boston State College, which later merged with the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1982. He went on to lead the geography department at UMass Boston, eventually retiring as Professor Emeritus in Middle East and Political Geography. Our dad continued to teach courses, often standing and lecturing for three hours at a time, well into his eighties. He loved teaching, being in an academic environment, and spending his time discussing Armenian issues with people both young and old, all of which gave him so much energy.
In addition to his day job as a professor, our dad was a true renaissance man. He was incredibly knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects and the most handy person we ever knew. He designed and built his family home in Westwood, as well as an addition to our home in Newton, and more recently, at the age of 92, designed and constructed a massive mobile surface on which he erected his electric train set and stored train and track parts.
He was actively involved in various Armenian organizations, including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) and the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), and served on the Board of Trustees of the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC) and Armenian Students’ Association (ASA). Our dad also was a longtime contributor for his beloved newspaper, The Armenian Weekly. Throughout the years, he published at least 88 articles, and just recently, completed his last article which will hopefully be published posthumously.
Anyone who was fortunate enough to have met our dad knew that he was full of passion and energy and had a love for life, Armenian causes, and most of all, his family. He traveled to Armenia and Artsakh multiple times, most recently in 2019 at the age of 92.
One of his proudest moments was on July 16, 2016, when he became a citizen of the Republic of Armenia at the age of 89. In a 2016 article for the Armenian Weekly he wrote: “I am not the quintessential Armenian, yet my feeling Armenian has been part of my essence since childhood. Dual citizenship… had a very personal meaning, which took hold after my first visit to Armenia some years ago. Not only was it motivated by a desire to connect with my dad’s past, but by my firm belief that it was an important way for us in the Diaspora to convey our faith in Armenia and its people.”
A few weeks ago, our dad turned 93. As many of you know, he remained highly active until his injury this past Sunday, July 5th (our parents’ wedding anniversary), doing one of the things he loved most: working in the backyard. Up until that day, he was still driving his car, self-sufficiently living in his home in Newton, working on his train set, continuing to donate his time and energy to a number of Armenian organizations, writing for the Armenian Weekly, and perhaps most precious to him, spending time with his family.
His heart was so strong that even after suffering an aortic dissection on Sunday, which, we were told, would cause him to pass on that day, he confounded doctors by regaining consciousness late Sunday evening and spending the next day and a half alert and speaking with his children, who stayed by his side the entire time.
He was the strongest, wisest, kindest, most caring father that we could have ever hoped for. He was the consummate role model, an eternal optimist, and a fountain of positivity and strength, who inspired our family and the countless others with whom he came into contact. Words cannot express how much we loved our dad and how much he meant to us. His passing leaves a massive void in our hearts. We will miss him dearly and will love and honor him forever through our actions going forward.