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Genocide Survivor Sam Kalfayan Passes Away

Staff Report

Sam Sarkis Kalfayan, former chairman of the Armenian Studies Program Advisory Board, died Saturday, September 6, at the age of 97.

He was born Sarkis Papazian in Samson, Turkey, but escaped when he was 3 during Ottoman Turkish massacres that took the lives of his father, two brothers and two sisters. Young Mr. Kalfayan and his mother, Aghavni, fled to Cairo, Egypt, where they lived several years.

In Cairo and still a teenager, his mother met another survivor of the Genocide. His wife and son had been killed, too. The two married, and young Mr. Kalfayan learned to speak French, Arabic, and Turkish.

He entered the United States at Ellis Island, N.Y., changed his first name to Sam and took the last name of his new stepfather, Barsam Kalfayan, in Wisconsin. The family moved to the Dinuba area in time for Mr. Kalfayan to enter grammar school. He graduated from Dinuba High School, caring for his polio-stricken father. He married his first wife, Serphouhi, but was called to serve in World War II in his early 30s, where he served under General Patton. He returned home and found that the torment of war had left his wife mentally ill. She soon took her own life.

Mr. Kalfayan graduated from Fresno State College then earned master’s degrees from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California. He was married to his second wife, Meliné, whom he called the love of his life, for 48 years. After her death, he married a third time, to Khatoun Lena Kalfayan, who survives him.