PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Barkey Aivazian was born August 28, 1927 in Fowler California to
John and Sosa Aivazian. At the young age of nine Barkey’s mother passed away. Four years later his father
lost his sight, and the children were sent to live
with his Aunt Florence Arakelian in Fresno. He
attended 8th grade at Madison, and
graduated from Central Union High School. His two siblings, a brother Sarkis and sister Gladys are deceased.
During high school Barkey joined the JNROTC, and during his senior year
enlisted in the United States Navy. Upon completing boot camp training at the
San Diego Naval Training Center, Barkey was
transferred to Camp Elliot for further assignment; and ultimately, to
Coronado for Amphibious Training. Upon completion, they learned they were to
be a huge part of the invasion of Japan. Barkey
left North Island aboard the Aircraft Carrier CVE-16 bound for Hawaii. He was
assigned to the USS San Marcus, LSD-25. After loading their landing craft,
they deployed for an unknown destination. During the voyage they spotted a
submarine, and all the ship’s guns were fired. They never knew if they made
contact, but it was never seen again. After stopping at numerous islands, the
ship arrived at Okinawa, which was a part of the staging zone for the
invasion of Japan. Barkey and the rest of the
amphibious crew were issued complete Army gear, and began preparations for
the invasion. All the while, the Japanese were dropping aerial torpedoes on
the ships in the harbor. Before they could leave,
the news that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was over. The
group’s new assignment was occupation duty in Japan, where they saw what a
slaughter it would have been had the amphibious group made the invasion. Barkey’s crew was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base for
eight months. After completing his tour of duty, he returned to the United
States, and was honorably discharged in 1946.
Returning to Fresno, Barkey took time off before joining the workforce. While
with friends at the Patio Drive-In he met Vera Brooks, a cutie from Oklahoma.
After a very short courtship they were married and began a 48 year adventure
that ended when Vera suffered a fatal heart attack. They had a daughter Treva, and two sons, Steven and Glen. In the beginning
they had a little farm producing walnuts and grapes, and Barkey
attended Fresno City Collage where he took courses
to learn the air conditioning trade. In 1948 he accepted a job with Vendorlator where he worked the casting and assembly
lines. After two years and not very happy with his job, Barkey,
Vera and Treva headed for Las Vegas where he opened
a tune up and air conditioning shop. After a year in Vegas, the family
returned to Fresno.
found that Vendorlator, had merged with Vendo, a large
company out of Kansas City. The merger brought a wider variety of work such
as aircraft wings and assembly parts for McDonald Douglas; enticing Barkey to give it another try. He quickly advanced to
lead man on the assembly line, then as foreman for aircraft and vending.
After 12 years, McDonald Douglas offered Barkey an
opportunity to work for them on Johnson Island in the Pacific Ocean, testing
missiles and taking part in a space project. He
to a pay grade of GS12; however, after eight years the family moved back to
Fresno, and Barkey returned to Vendo.
He logged in a total of 31 years with Vendo,
retiring in 1989 as General Manager.
retirement Barkey became bored with fishing and bumming
around. His friend John Wiedart, who had been
trying to persuade him to come help him out in construction of a new addition
of Colonial homes, was after him again. With boredom finally getting the
better of him, Barkey spent the next 11 years as a construction
the dedication of the Legion of Valor Museum in 1992, Barkey
asked if they would like some guns and other artifacts for the museum. After
donating the items, he was asked if he would like to join the volunteer
staff. He immediately accepted and was asked to modify the display cases,
install lighting and paneling, and was given the title of “Supply Officer.” Barkey says it is an honor to be a part of the staff of
the now Veterans Memorial Museum, “Home of the Legion of Valor”. He enjoys
being a part of the growth that has taken place since the museum’s opening.
2000, at a card party at a friend’s house, Barkey
was introduced to Gail Johnson. Unbeknown to him, his happy-go-lucky
personality had made quite an impression on her. Shortly afterwards Gail
called and invited Barkey to the annual Christmas
party held by her employer, Fresno Truck Center. They were soon married, and
upon Gail’s retirement she also became a museum volunteer. Gail passed away
in 2011, leaving Barkey once again, a widower. The
museum and the friendships with those he volunteers with have been an
inspiration for him to continue on.