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Arthur T. Gregorian, 93, rug collector

The merchant and famed connoisseur of rare Armenian rugs died of cancer.

By CRAIG BASSE, Times Obituaries Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Arthur T. Gregorian, a noted rug merchant who once operated a local store and exhibited his Armenian collection in museums, has died at 93.

Mr. Gregorian, who came here in the mid 1970s to retire, died Tuesday (Jan. 14, 2003) at his Concord, Mass., home. He had cancer.

His first job in a rug shop earned money for night school so he could become a physician. But something about those rugs compelled him to stay with the trade.

Considered the world's principal collector of rare, inscribed Armenian-made rugs, Mr. Gregorian emerged from retirement in Vina Del Mar at age 70 to open an Oriental rug store in downtown St. Petersburg.

His shop resembled a minimuseum. Rugs, each with explanatory information on accompanying cards, were hung on walls.

Before returning to Massachusetts in 1994, he exhibited carpets from his private collection at the Florida Gulf Coast Art Center in Belleair and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

Born in a mud-brick Armenian village in Iran, he fled with his family in 1918 when the Ottoman Turks drove more than 1-million Armenians out of their ancestral homeland. After an odyssey through India, Italy and France, the family settled in New Britain, Conn.

He opened his first rug store in Wellesley, Mass., in 1934, and later founded a store bearing his name in Newton Lower Falls, Mass.

His wife since 1936, the former Phebe Ballou, died in 1999. Survivors include a daughter, Lynda Christian, Waban, Mass.; a son, John, Wayland, Mass.; five grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Joseph Dee & Son Funeral Home, Concord, Mass., is in charge.

-- Information from Times files and the Boston Globe was used in this obituary.

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