104-Year-Old Genocide Survivor Dies in Milwaukee

B. Artin Haig (Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
B. Artin Haig (Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

B. Artin Haig (Photo by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

He was a photographer who lived incredible life

MILWAUKEE, Ill. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)—B. Artin Haig, A 104-year-old Milwaukee photographer who survived the Armenian Genocide, shot photos of President Franklin Roosevelt and saw Babe Ruth play at Yankee Stadium has died on Monday.

He died of natural causes at St. John’s on the Lake where he lived. Haig celebrated his 104th birthday in August

Born Haig Artin Kojababian in Armenia in 1914, less than a week after the start of World War I, he was orphaned at the age of 4 or 5. He saw his mother dragged away by Turkish soldiers; his father, a math professor, disappeared. His family was wealthy and among the ruling class in their Armenian village of Hadjin.

He fled Armenia and lived with an uncle in Constantinople, then moved to Marseilles, France, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, before immigrating to New York when he was around 10 years old. There, a distant cousin owned a photography studio at West 46th Street and Broadway — Times Square. Haig wanted to photograph pretty girls and he asked his cousin, who took pictures for theater producer Flo Ziegfeld, what he needed to do to become a professional photographer.

B. Artin Haig has been a photographer for years. Haig was photographed in his studio in 1982. (Photo: Journal Sentinel files)

B. Artin Haig has been a photographer for years. Haig was photographed in his studio in 1982. (Photo: Journal Sentinel files)

Haig moved to Washington, D.C., and worked for Underwood & Underwood, a news photography company that had studios at hotels where brides would come to get their photos taken. At that time, Haig recalled, brides would arrange for photos to be taken by two or three photographers free of charge before choosing their favorite to hire.

He also found his own bride at Underwood & Underwood — his wife, Mabel, who was known as Caroline, was a receptionist at the firm. They were married for more than four decades before she died in 1977 of lung cancer.

He moved from Washington, D.C., to Dallas to work for Gittings, a prominent portrait studio at a time when portrait photography was big. Haig moved to Milwaukee in 1954 and bought a photography studio next to Chapman’s Department Store across from the Pfister Hotel on Wisconsin Avenue.

He later opened up B. Artin Haig Photography studios elsewhere in the Milwaukee area.

At the age of 93 he traveled back to his homeland with his daughters, but his village had been destroyed by the Turks during the Armenian genocide.

“There wasn’t much that he recognized,” his daughter Dolores Mishelow told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He had never been back since he escaped at night with the help of the Kurdish people. I’m sure it was very emotional for him. I think it was exciting for him to see.”

He continued taking photos into his 90s, by then using Hasselblad cameras. As his eyesight weakened, he used an assistant and had someone carry his camera equipment. He tried digital photography, but Haig never warmed up to it. To Haig, film remained the best medium.

In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in December, Haig talked about the incredible things he did and witnessed in his eventful life. That included watching his favorite players Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth while he lived in New York.

“I used to go to baseball games and I used to sit on the third base side because I liked to see them steal home,” Haig said.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s on the Lake chapel, 1840 N. Prospect Ave., Milwaukee.

He is survived by four daughters, Caroline Case, Dolores Mishelow, Raquel Gutherie and Artyn Gardner, nine grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and one great-great-granddaughter.


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One Comment;

  1. State of Emergency said:

    It’s interesting how this generation did not suffer debilitating depression after all they went through. Mr. Haig went on to live a long and prosperous life. These days, a carcass of a dead cat on the roadside can develop into PTSD and require professional intervention or else the person might go off on a shooting rampage! Most genocide survivors went on with their lives as if nothing happened. After all, Mr. Haig went into photography because he was still interested life and girls!