World War II vet has 100 reasons to celebrate

Eight decades ago, Hinsdale's Harold Bogigian was thankful to have made it back from a World War II "suicide run" with the U.S. Navy.

A radioman on the SS John Stevenson merchant ship, Bogigian and his fellow crewmen departed New York in January of 1944 on a mission to deliver supplies to Murmansk, Russia, in the Arctic Circle.

"My parents were terrified when I left," related Bogigian, who was 19 at the time. "Our mission to Murmansk was probably my most dangerous mission of the entire war, and I spent a whole winter frozen in the port of Murmansk. It was an extremely dangerous mission because of the German submarines, air attacks and the horrible weather and the ice conditions."

The seas finally thawed enough by April 7 to head home, and the ship returned to home soil one month later.

Bogigian, who turned 100 on June 25, reflected on a life that began as the youngest of four children born to Armenian immigrants in Indianapolis in 1924. The Great Depression a few years later brought harsh conditions. His father labored as a factory worker while his mom took on sewing work.

"It was hard to find jobs back then," Bogigian said. "We didn't even have running water in the house."

He graduated high school in 1942, months after the U.S. had entered the war. Bogigian did not hesitate to accept Uncle Sam's invitation to serve.

"It was the thing to do," he said. "The whole country was in a very patriotic mood at that time, and virtually all the young guys were enlisting in military service."

His assignment after Murmansk was considerably less harrowing on board a sub chaser in the Caribbean.

"Beautiful, nice calm waters and not too many subs down there. My ship got put into dry dock and they sent me home on leave," Bogigian recounted.

After war's end, he moved to Chicago and landed a job with an advertising firm while also taking classes at Northwestern University to advance his prospects in the industry. His prospects on the romance front flourished as well when he met his future wife, Lucille, the daughter of his father's friend from Armenia.

"I don't know how I survived those years," he quipped. "I met my wife and was trying to get an education and working. All that stuff was happening at the same time."

They married in 1949, and Bogigian's Northwestern commencement in 1950 came two weeks before the birth of their first child, daughter Lynn. They added daughters Cathy and Janet to the brood, compelling them to move from the far south side of Chicago to Hinsdale in 1970. He recalled being dazzled by the home sizes and acreage available in the growing suburb.

"I've loved living in Hinsdale. It's been a dream place to live," he said.

Professionally Bogigian would ultimately become director of advertising for the dairy division of Beatrice Foods before retiring in 1983.

"I loved my job, I had a wonderful career," he said.

Lucille passed away in 2011. July 9 would have been their 75th wedding anniversary. Bogigian is regularly asked for his secret to living to 100.

"I think it's staying active physically, mentally. Keep your mind sharp. Don't sit in the rocking chair all day long."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean