Brothers Lavon (left) and Popkins (right) Zakarian were part of the Armenian community in Maine, one of the oldest in America.
Popkins Zakarian (1903-1980) was born in Bulgaria and immigrated to Portland with his Armenian parents, Mary and John, and brother, Lavon, around 1904. He worked in an Armenian grocery store, and later operated a linoleum business in Portland for 50 years. Lavon went to the University of Maine and had a distinguished football career.
The first Armenian immigrants arrived in Maine in 1896 to escape growing persecution in Turkey. Hundreds more arrived by the time of the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
Mary Zakarian immigrated to Portland from Bulgaria and Turkey around 1904 with her husband, John, and children Popkins and Lavon. They were Armenian.
By 1908 there were 27 families in Portland's Armenian community. They lived in the area bounded by Forest Avenue, Cumberland Avenue, Lancaster Street, and Washington Avenue. In 1915, Maine's first Armenian immigrants were prepared to assist the next wave of Armenians fleeing the horrors of genocide in Turkey.
The Armenian community in Maine was close-knit, and as their populations grew, they built Armenian schools, apartment houses, and a bank. They socialized together at dances and picnics and created humanitarian organizations like the Armenian Relief Society.
Brothers Lavon (left) and Popkins Zakarian were part of Portland's large Armenian community. Popkins Zakarian was a community activist, and fought against Portland’s 1954 so-called “slum removal” associated with the Bayside Park renewal, which displaced 64 families and 27 businesses—many owned by people of Italian, Russian-Jewish, and Armenian heritage.
Zakarian became so involved in opposing Portland’s municipal politics that he ran for city council and was elected in 1966, serving two stormy terms.
Popkins Zakarian (1903-1980) was born in Bulgaria and immigrated to Portland with his Armenian parents, Mary and John, and brother, Lavon, around 1904.
Zakarian worked in an Armenian grocery store, and later operated a linoleum and flooring business in Portland for 50 years.
Popkins Zakarian was an Armenian immigrant and community activist in Portland. Zakarian became so involved in opposing Portland’s municipal politics that he ran for city council and was elected in 1966, serving two stormy terms.
Zakarian’s gadfly tactics were not popular with other politicians. He was an outspoken critic of Portland’s Urban renewal programs, and once compared the Franklin arterial to the Berlin Wall. The Portland Evening Press reported in January, 1972, “Fellow city council members are annoyed by Mr. Zakarian’s habit of wasting time by raving on subjects not before the committee, so Councilor Loring has banned him from meetings of the community development committee.”
Zakarian made an unsuccessful bid for the Maine Senate in 1968, and was not re-elected to Portland’s City Council, effectively ending his political career.
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