Memorials Approved to Honor Armenian Genocide Survivor & Little Girl Who Loved Reading

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Watertown City Hall

A survivor of the Armenian Genocide and a young girl who loved reading will be commemorated with memorials to be installed in Watertown.

On Feb. 13, the City Council approved having a bench and a little library installed on City property.

Memorial Bench

The bench commemorates Nazar Ohanessian, a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide who settled on Quimby Street. He left Turkey and spent time in Northern Greece and Athens in the 1940s during the German occupation during World War II. In 1959 he received notification that he could emigrate to the United States and he settled in Watertown, said City Manager George Proakis.

“The request of the bench comes from his grandson, who came to the United States in 1976 and attended Northeastern while living with his grandfather,” Proakis said. “His grandson tells many stories of the generous nature of Nazar, as he provided love and support to his nine grandchildren, his friends and neighbors in his community.”

The idea for a memorial for Ohanessian came about during a family get together, and his grandson told City officials, “I remember jokingly saying we owe him a statue in Watertown Square. A friend overheard this comment of mine and suggested to ask for a remembrance gesture of some sort. The bench is the least we can do to show appreciation, gratitude and love for our grandfather.”

The bench will be installed along the section of the Watertown Community Path that runs between Whites Avenue and Waverley Avenue.

Memorial Little Library

A little library will be installed at Filippello Park in the memory of Eliza Ruth Aidoo. She passed away at the age of 17 months on Oct. 6, 2021. Due to a serious illness she spent her entire life in the hospital.

Eliza loved reading, so her family thought that a little library would be a fitting tribute, Proakis said.

“Eliza’s family is from Watertown and her grandparents live across from Filippello Park,” Proakis said. “James Munroe-Ellis, Eliza’s Uncle, who (was 16 years old when he) purchased the library to honor his niece Eliza and celebrate her love of reading. The Munroe-Ellis family has been working with us to ensure that the library can be placed in the park, and Eliza’s grandmother has indicated that she plans to care for the library and ensure that it remains stocked with books.”

While the City has a detailed policy for dedicating squares and other places in honor of decorated veterans with ties to Watertown, Proakis said, it has not developed a policy for memorials to those who were not veterans. The Council will be developing a process for naming other memorials, including creating a Memorialization Committee to advise the City Council, Proakis.

The bench and little library, however, had been proposed before the effort to develop a memorial process began, so Proakis put the item to approve the two memorials on the agenda so they did not have to wait for the Memorialization Committee to be developed.

City Council President Mark Sideris noted that Eliza’s family approached the City about installing the little library years ago.

“As the Manager indicated this has been a long time coming and I want to take the opportunity to apologize for the length of time, but thank the family for being patient for the City to get this done I think it is a very appropriate memorial to Eliza.”

Councilor John Airaisan agreed, and thanked Proakis and Sideris for being proactive.

“I want to thank you and the City Manager for recognizing there is a gap in some of these memorial installations here in Watertown and acting on it,” Airaisan said. “I certainly want to thank the Munroe and Ellis families for their patience and persistence in getting it done. I know it has taken its toll on them, but in the end we are here this will pass and they’ll have a nice memorial of Eliza across the street from where they live.”

The City Council unanimously approved both memorials. 

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