ARMENIAN HERO'S FATHER DIES AT 88
by Jim Steinberg The Fresno Bee

Fresno Bee (California)
September 20, 2006 Wednesday
Final Edition

Charles Melkonian, a WWII vet, honored children's decisions.

Charles Melkonian, a World War II veteran and father of Monte
Melkonian, who was alternatively praised as an Armenian freedom
fighter and damned as a terrorist, died Thursday.

Mr. Melkonian had suffered from Alzheimer's disease. He was 88.

He was born on the kitchen floor of a two-room Fresno tank house,
delivered unaided by his mother.

Mr. Melkonian grew up to fight in World War II, then returned to the
San Joaquin Valley, the youngest of eight children.

He settled in Visalia and ran a successful showcase and fixture
business, first with his brother Sam and then independently. He was
an avid booster of all things Visalia, especially sports. He also
cherished his connection with his famous son Monte, an archaeologist
who became known as commander Avo. Avo Melkonian fought with the
Armenian group ASALA, which waged war to create an independent Armenia
and to avenge the Ottoman Empire's massacres of Armenians early last
century. ASALA is an acronym for the Armenian Secret Army for the
Liberation of Armenia.

Charles Melkonian's central teaching to his children was that they
make and honor their own decisions.

"Mom and Dad always trusted us to do what was best," said
daughter Maile Melkonian. "He knew that Monte was trying to right a
long-standing wrong, the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians. This is
still denied by Turkey."

Monte Melkonian believed conventional channels had proved inadequate
for Armenia, but Mr. Melkonian did not share his son's revolutionary
zeal.

"Dad was a risk-taker," Maile Melkonian said, "but he was very
law-abiding."

Mr. Melkonian began his working life as a 5-year-old harvesting
grapes, figs and okra. He did well in school, entered the University
of California at Berkeley but later transferred to the University of
Utah. He was the first member of his family to attend college. He
cut short his education to enter the U.S. Navy after Pearl Harbor,
then joined the Army Air Corps, where he served as a navigator,
radio operator and 50-caliber machine gunner in a B-17.

Mr. Melkonian was shot down with his B-17 crew over what he thought
was Nazi-occupied Belgium during World War II. It turned out that
the Allies had taken that area days before.

He returned to the Valley and went into business with his brother,
eventually becoming the company's sole owner. The company furnished
banks, insurance companies, restaurants and other businesses with
commercial kitchens.

Mr. Melkonian never fully recovered after he learned of his son's
death.

"He admired my son so much," said Mr. Melkonian's wife, Zabelle,
in Visalia. "We think our son's death was the turning point that
triggered my husband's Alzheimer's."

Mr. Melkonian and his wife visited Armenia five times, returning to the
hill in mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh where Monte Melkonian is buried,
"with his men buried below him," Zabelle Melkonian said.

Mr. Melkonian was a volunteer timekeeper for track meets at College
of the Sequoias, Zabelle Melkonian said. "He loved COS basketball. He
was in the boosters club."

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Salser & Dillard
Funeral Chapel in Visalia.

The family requests that any remembrance be sent to the Monte Melkonian
Memorial Fund Inc., P.O. Box 201411, Los Angeles, CA 90027; or to
the Monte Melkonian School Fund at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia.

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or (559)
441-6311.

INFOBOX

Charles Melkonian Born: April 27, 1918 Died: Sept. 14 Occupation:
Showcase and fixture shop owner Survivors: Wife, Zabelle Melkonian;
son Markar Melkonian; daughters Maile Melkonian and Marcia Bedrosian