Walter Varton Basmajian, 90, of Massena


Massena - Walter Varton Basmajian, 90 of 10 Sherwood Dr. Massena, NY passed away on February 4, 2013 (Monday night).

He was born in Massena on July 22, 1922. Walter was the son of John (Agisha) and Virginia (Bochalian) Basmajian, who came to American from Sivas and Istanbul Turkey back in 1912 and his mother in 1920, two great Armenian people.

He was a graduate of Massena Central High Class on 1941. He was on the track team, threw 12 pound shotput and was on the football team which went undefeated in 1940. He attended the Central City Business Institute in Syracuse NY and received a degree in standard business in 1942.

He worked in his father's grocery store as a meat cutter etc. He was a substitute worker at Alcoa for a short time before entering the Army in July 1943. He served overseas in Central Europe, Rhineland, Belgium in World War II with company C, 4th Signal Battalion. He was honorably discharged at rank of Corporal in March 1946. He played football on the Army team.

Walter returned to Massena and continued working in the family grocery store. In 1957 he became a real estate broker for C. Hail Sprague of Gouverneur before finally opening his own business near the grocery store, which became Basmajian Real Estate on Main Street, Massena.

He married Marie Billingham of Saranac Lake, then of Massena, on Dec. 28, 1949. They had two children, David and Gina.

He became active in politics when asked to take over the Democratic Chairmanship which lasted 50 years, earning the Silas Wright Award from the Democratic Committee for outstanding service. He knew the Kennedys, the Clintons, Eisenhower, Truman, Johnson, Humphrey and so many more politicians - the list goes on and on. He helped run campaigns for many many people in the county. Most people know he loved politics. He was very active in the community until Alzheimer's started to get the best of him around Jan. 2012.

He was president of Massena Board of Trade 1949-1950, President of American Armenian Hall 1960-1961, and President of Massena Chamber of Commerce 1964; President of County Real Estate Board 1965, President of Neighborhood Center 1960; he was Director of Chamber of Commerce 1948-1968, Director of County Community Development Corp. 1968-1974, Director of Salutation Army Advisory Board 1968-1973, Director of the Armenian Hall 1950-1973, President of Lions Club 1968 and lifetime member, life member of American Legion Post #79, and VFW Post #1143, a member of the AmVets Post #4, a life member of the Masonic Lodge F & AM #513.

He was chairman of Massena Industrial Development 1977, chairman and director of St. Lawrence County Development Agency with the IDA from 1977 to 2007. He was the Village building inspector for four years. A St. Lawrence University scholarship established by the St. Lawrence County Industrial Agency was named in his honor in 1993. He retired as chairman of Democratic Town and Village Committee in January 1994, and was a former County Chairman of St. Lawrence County Democratic Committee.

He loved football, hockey and bowling. He had many trophies from the Bowlmore Lanes. He loved helping people and the community. In the 70s and 80s he relaxed at camp on Wilson Hill enjoying his boat, fishing and swimming in the river. Walter was much loved and will be greatly missed and leaves a legacy of political knowledge, love and laughter behind.

He is survived by a son, David Basmajian of Massena, and a daughter, Gina Haggett and her husband Roleigh of Massena.

His loving wife Marie died in January 1994. He was predeceased by his parents and a step-brother, Mikey (Shorty) Basmajian, and was also predeceased by a sister, Susan Natowitz of Potsdam, and a sister, Violet Agnello of Rochester.

Surviving is a sister, Shinorick Markarian of Rochester, NY; many nephews and nieces on both sides of his and Marie's families; a sister in- law Nancy (Gail) Carbone, and two brothers in-law, Jim and Earl Billingham.

Walter never was a grandfather, but had quite a few Labradors as grand puppies. He loved animals. He was predeceased by his best friend, Connie Vebber of Massena. Memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimer's Association, 441 West Kirkpatrick St., Syracuse, NY 13204.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 at 11:00 am at St. John's Episcopal Church in Massena with Rev. Kathyrn Boswell. Interment will be in the spring in Pine Grove Cemetery in Massena.

Friends and family may be received on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 from 7-9 and Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 2-4 & 7-9 pm at Phillips Memorial Home, Massena. There will be joint services Wednesday at 7:15 pm for the American Legion Post #79, AmVets Post #4, and VFW Post #1142 at the Phillips Memorial Home.

Online condolences may be made to

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