Mama and Her Ten Girls
AS TOLD BY ESTHER LOZANO
BOTH Mom and Dad were born in Bitlis, Turkey, to Armenian parents. Early in the last century, when there was a widespread massacre of the Armenians, our dad left Turkey and came to the United States. He was about 25 years old. Our mama, Sophia, left some time later, when she was 12 years old.
It seems that the parents of both families agreed to send our mother to the United States to marry our father, Aram Vartanian. Sophia was too young to marry when she arrived in Fresno, California, so she lived with her future mother-in-law until she became of age.
Our parents’ first child was a boy whom they named Antranig, a name he later changed to Barney. He was born on August 6, 1914. The next ten children were all girls. Our father became a Bible Student, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known, when Shield Toutjian visited Fresno and gave a discourse to the Armenian community in 1924. Afterward, our whole family attended Christian meetings together.
We moved to Oakland, California, in 1931 and associated with the congregation there. Barney served Jehovah faithfully in Napa, California, until his death in 1941. I was the third girl born after Barney, and I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah in 1935. After attending meetings for some 75 years, our sister Agnes got baptized fairly recently! All us girls were present, and we were very happy that the last of the ten girls was now baptized.
Sadly, Mother was not present. She died just the year before at 100 years and 2 days of age. Her death was reported by the California newspaper Hayward News of May 14, 1996. It stated that “she performed voluntary community service as a Jehovah’s Witness by teaching . . . the Bible to interested people for 54 years.” The article also quoted our sister Elizabeth, who said: “Her home was always open and she always had room for one more at the dinner table . . . She would always say, ‘Come in for some cowboy coffee,’ and if you happen[ed] to come when she had made her famous baklava pastry, you were fortunate indeed.”
Our oldest sister, Gladys, is 85, and the youngest is 66. We are all active Witnesses. Three of us served as missionaries after graduating from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Elizabeth, who now lives in Newport Beach, California, was in the school’s 13th class and served in Callao, Peru, for five years. Ruth attended the 35th class. She and her husband, Alvin Stauffer, served as missionaries in Australia for five years. I was in the fourth class of Gilead and in 1947 was assigned to Mexico, where in 1955, I married Rodolfo Lozano. * Both of us have served in Mexico ever since.
We ten sisters are very grateful for the measure of health we have. It allows us to continue serving Jehovah with all our mind, heart, and strength for as long as he wills—both now and forever in his new world.
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Agnes at her baptism, 1997
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Elizabeth on the day she graduated from Gilead, 1949
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Esther (on right) at Mexico branch, 1950
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Ruth and Alvin Stauffer serving as international servants at Mexico branch, 1987