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MY ARMENIAN GENESIS
THE LAST SURVIVOR (Hard Copy Title)

MY ARMENIAN GENESIS: THE LONE SURVIVORS
(e-Book Title)

by Mary L. MOVSISIAN Foess

My name is Mary L. LETTS Foess, nee Judith Movsisian.  This is my story, a nonfiction novel, to share with you.  My style is an autobiographical memoir, a one-of-a-kind book.  Born in Washington, D.C., on September --, 1945, I left Providence Hospital when I was four days old.  In foster care for eight months, I was taken by Lt. Commander David D. Letts, U.S. Navy, Department of War, and Eathel G. McCALLUM Letts, to my new home in Tacoma Park, Maryland, on May 11, 1946.

My adoption was filed by Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville, Maryland, on October 23, 1947.  My legal name was then amended to read, 
" Mary Louise Letts."

My Armenian identity, by birth, was forever sealed by the court of jurisdiction in Maryland.  My original birth certificate would be locked up in the Department of Public Health under Vital Records in Washington, D.C. - - permanently unavailable to me.  

Thirty-nine years later, Fall of 1984, I learned that the Armenian Genocide had destroyed every single one of my Movsisian family members except for my grandparents, uncle, and several first cousins on my grandmother's side. the lucky ones who got out alive!  ALL others were killed by the Turkish armies.  Fate would claim that their only granddaughter, Judith Movsisian, would be the last survivor to bear their name.  MOVSISIAN means "son of Moses."

My search was an unrelenting quest to know the truth of my origins and to find every last living family member to claim as my own, my birthright.

Mary L. LETTS Foess, nee Judith Movsisian, retired elementary school teacher from Vassar Public Schools, Vassar, Michigan.  A veteran teacher of 31.5 years in this district, Mary now volunteers there as a retired teacher in a kindergarten room at Townsend North Elementary School.

                                                                         Synopsis

The backdrop of my odyssey, MY ARMENIAN GENESIS: THE LAST SURVIVOR (hard copy), and MY ARMENIAN GENESIS: THE LONE SURVIVORS (e-Book copies) by Mary L .Foess, is the Armenian Genocide. This nonfiction novel, based on true events, has two themes: my immigrant grandparents’ journey to the West Pullman area of Chicago, Illinois, then the silent, invisible event in the Movsisian family’s life, one never celebrated by any of them - - a baby girl’s birth, 1945, in Washington, D.C. This occurred one month after the end of World War II. This six pound, two-ounce newborn was destined to be the very last girl to inherit the nearly extinct, mitochondrial DNA from their female lineage which dated back to the origins of mankind: the Cradle of Civilization. Fleeing from Nor Kegh, Charsandjak, Kharpert, near the Euphrates River Valley, the region hardest hit by the Turkish armies, my grandparents Manoog and Yeghsapert, Uncle, and 3 cousins, emigrated to the United States of America. Grandfather, however, had arrived in 1913, whereas Grandmother, and Uncle set foot in Chicago, IL, hence joined him there in 1921. Two cousins emigrated from Cherbourg, France, to the Armenian settlement there in the mid-1950s. Few villagers from their homeland got out alive; this region was especially targeted because it held a high number of educated Armenians. This included shop owners, school masters, physicians, bankers, lawyers, and priests. Most of their churches were destroyed during the massacres! Armenians were the very first group to accept Christianity (301 A.D.) as their state religion. Grandmother’s horrific journey, known as ‘the death walk’ on the escape routes, led her to Cherbourg, France. They were the lone survivors of her side, whereas Grandfather’s entire tribe was killed. Because he came thirteen years earlier than Grandmother did, he was able to set up shop as a fruit vendor, his very first reality in his dream to thrive in the growing city of Chicago. This would lead to his opening up of his dry cleaning, suit making, and tailoring business. An educated man, he had been a schoolmaster in Armenia; he could speak four or more languages and read and write in both the Armenian and Roman alphabets. His hopes for his then only son were for him to become an attorney in this land of opportunity. Grandfather also was among the 7 men who founded the very first Armenian Apostolic Church in the Midwest, named Holy Savior Armenian Apostolic Church, consecrated on October 26, 1924. Having a voice of an angel, as well as absolute pitch, Manoog Movsisian later became the choir director there. These God-given, musical gifts were passed on to five female descendants, four of whom were not raised by the Movsisians or aware of their Armenian heritage!How did this last living survivor, baby Judith, carry on the family ties by continuing the female line (the X chromosome) of her Armenian ancestors, but had never known or seen any of them? How and where did she find the magic key to her given name, systematically hidden from her until September 23, 1983? The catalyst was a World War II veteran, who later became a great orator there. This tough, smart, successful lawyer had once pleaded two cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. It was he who Grandmother had to bury in the sand before they reached their new European home, Cherbourg, France.  A tiny breathing tube allowed him to breathe. Her swift action protected him from the murderous, Turkish armies.  Eventually, he arrived in America with his mother at the age of nine; sixty-four years later he would hear a proverbial knock on his kitchen door. Who was this tenacious, light olive-skinned elementary school teacher who stared at him through the screen? Two identical pair of dark, brown eyes locked within mere inches of separation. This event was the beginning of a perceived, impenetrable wall breaking down. “Oh, please come in!” he would say to her, with love radiating from his eyes. A defining moment, this meeting of their eyeballs would be the event in Judith’s odyssey, as only Uncle could give her the seven magic keys that unlock virtually every single door, one which had remained systematically closed, until the day following Easter Sunday, 1986. How did this date jump-start her continuing odyssey, the one which would lead to Judith’s full family reunification with some of the Movsisians and her father’s family, the Leggs, from Virginia and Maryland, who were among the very first English settlers - - early to late 1600’s - - to set foot in these two colonies? Colonel John Thomas Legg was among them. The greatest, unexpected surprise at Judith Movsisian’s journey’s conclusion included the discoveries of her heritage, about 6 %, from one Native American tribes, Piscataway. Two direct line Revolutionary War veterans, Fortunatus H. Legg and son, William Legg, in addition to eight Mayflower passenger ancestors: Mary WENTWORTH Brewster, William Brewster, Humility Cooper, Elizabeth TILLEY Howland, John Howland, Henry Sampson, Agnes COOPER Tilley, Edward Tilley, John Tilley, and Edward Winslow. Revealed to Judith by searching on http://www.ancestry.com, this program was another trump card in her deck. Her journey continued. The knowledge of these DNA-based, family jewels, formerly buried from her access, like nerve gas in steel containers in the Atlantic Ocean, was a pleasant shock for her as she approached maturity. This court-mandated, total secrecy, intended for a lifetime, was thus expunged forever from Judith’s consciousness. Now living in the thumb region of Michigan with her husband, nearby children, and grandchildren, she found this deluge of genomic groups, mostly Old World, to be a part of her inherited gift, Truth. It was restored to its full complement. Revealed as her newly-found, culturally diverse ethnicity which included this Asian ancestry, this information was, in part, donated by hundreds of volunteers, such as librarians, one Armenian magazine editor, historical societies, public records clerks, police departments, Armenian priests and other clergy, physicians, lawyers, private investigators, judges, funeral directors, congressmen, and private individuals from all over the  U.S.A.  Any required fees, if any, were nominal. Judith’s count of mailed letters during the twenty-five year period was over 1,000. Her case for refusing to be ‘assimilated’ into the melting pot and also having no family medical history for neither her children nor she, had a true ring. Their heartstrings had been pulled. Judith Movsisian, now renamed Mary Louise LETTS Foess, found it impossible to return to her former, ‘blank slate’ existence, that is, her having no awareness of any across-the-Atlantic, country of origin ties and her given name. She now looks into the mirror and sees her where her face came from. Three of her grandchildren inherited some American Indian features from their paternal great-grandfather. Who was the catalyst regarding Judith’s identity, and thus, her original birth certificate bearing her rare, Armenian surname, was permanently sealed and hidden by the metropolitan, Department of Public Health of Washington, D.C., in the vital records file cabinet - - under lock and key? Which courthouse of jurisdiction played a hand in this breakthrough, issuance of the Final Order of Adoption complete with the raised, golden seal? How could she have seen her beautiful mother’s black-and-white, Fenger High School, Chicago, IL, graduation photo? The key to Judith’s success was fated to be in her Armenian uncle’s hands. A precious jewel in her life, the only relative in his generation she would ever see, had allowed the impossible to bear fruit. The love in his eyes on that fateful day, mid-October, 1986, would prove to be more powerful than the explosion of the atom bomb. Judith’s grandmother, Yeghsapert DEORIAN Movsisian, unknowingly, had also been a catalyst. Her thousands of steps taken on her journey to freedom were not without pain and violence!  With each step she took, Grandmother assured one more heartbeat for each of her many descendants . . . now numbering twenty-two. Though assimilated into the American culture, they could not forget the gift of their Armenian heritage, one from one of the oldest known civilizations on Earth. We survive. We shall continue.

 

                

   

       Mary (age 7) and Dale De Mott (age 5),                            The De Motts & Tommy and Bobby Letts
       Lansing Township, MI, 1952                                                Lansing Twsp., MI 1951


Dale, a Vietnam War veteran, had been a figher pilot during his military service there. His life was saved by Mary, his next-door playmate, in the summer of 1949 when he ran out on W. St. Joseph St. near their driveway. Neither Richard nor Harold, Dale's older brothers, were paying attention at that moment due to a distraction. Four-year-old Mary rushed out in front of the moving pre-World War II car, grabbed him, and dragged him to safety. This vehicle barely missed hitting both of them!
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