Marie J. Simonian, 96, an orphaned survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide who became a nurse and physiotherapist, died of a stroke Oct. 23 at Montgomery Hospice Casey House. She was a Rockville resident.
Mrs. Simonian was born in Deort Yol, Cilicia, in western Armenia in 1909 and was orphaned six years later, during the period when as many as 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks. She grew up in a British Quaker missionary orphanage in Beirut and was one of the first Armenian women to graduate from the American University of Beirut's nursing school.
Mrs. Simonian married and studied in London, where she received a diploma in physiotherapy and worked in the field. She and her husband immigrated in 1975 to the United States, where their children were living, and settled in Prince George's County and later Rockville.
She plunged into work for her church, St. Mary's Armenian Apostolic Church in Washington, and the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. She also was a member of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian American Wellness Center in Yerevan.
She urged her family to build character through moral courage, hard work and love. She was proud of her family's academic accomplishments, which include nine doctorates, seven master's degrees and 24 bachelor's degrees. Fifteen family members became presidents of their own companies or nonprofit organizations, and eight are published authors.
Her husband of 67 years, John Simonian, died in 1998.
Survivors include four children, Dr. Simon Simonian of Potomac, Cecile Keshishian of Los Angeles, Rita Balian of Arlington and Annie Totah of Potomac; 11 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.