On Sept. 17, His Holiness, Pope Tawadros II, the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, made a historic visit to Red Deer. The City has never been visited before by one of the popes of Christendom.
Pope Tawadros II lives in Cairo, Egypt, and heads the largest Christian Church in Egypt and the Middle East.
Tragically, this ancient church has suffered tremendous discrimination and extreme violence because of the fact that they are Christians. The situation has become even more acute with the turmoil in Egypt and the wars in places such as Syria and Iraq.
Another ancient branch of Christianity, which has suffered horribly over the centuries, is the Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox) Church. This church’s roots go back to the apostles St. Bartholomew and St. Thaddeus (St. Jude of James).
While the church was severely persecuted by the Roman emperors, it became the first state Christian church in 301 A.D. (the Emperor Constantine did not declare official tolerance of Christianity across the Roman Empire until 313 A.D.).
The Armenian Christians enjoyed periods of toleration followed by severe persecution and displacement, depending upon who had seized control of their homelands. Over time, many settled in Syria, as there was often reasonable toleration of Christians and other religious minorities in such cities as Damascus and Aleppo.
One Armenian Christian family, who made Damascus their home, was the Coudsi family. Generally, they prospered.
However, by the turn of the last century, the Ottoman Empire was rapidly collapsing and government persecution began to increase again.
Hence, in 1903, Alex, George and Cesar decided to emigrate to Canada, initially settling in Montreal. Another brother decided to move to the Philippines, while a sister moved to Mexico.
In the fall of 1912, Alex Coudsi, along with some fellow Armenian investors from Quebec, decided to venture into cattle ranching in Central Alberta.
Consequently, they purchased 1,440 acres (nine quarter sections) of land east of Red Deer in the Hillsdown/Valley Centre districts. The price paid was nearly $20,000, considered a very large sum of money at the time.
The ranch had been originally been assembled by James and Anna Lund Geissinger, who had moved to California.
However, the property had become known as the Bar EP Ranch, after J.F. Edge-Partingdon, one of the original settlers on the property.
Meanwhile, George Coudsi moved into Red Deer and established the Aurora Café on the east side of Gaetz Avenue, just south of the intersection with Ross Street. George quickly developed a reputation for the high quality and diverse meals that he served.
George also ran a profitable catering business for social and fund-raising events in the community. Since the Coudsi’s were strong supporters of arts and culture, among the events staged by George were lavish banquets in support of the Red Deer Theatrical Club.
Unfortunately, a sharp recession set in during 1913.
Economic conditions worsened in the summer of 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War. George eventually closed the Aurora Cafe. He bought the Commercial Café on Ross Street, which he later sold to George Moon and Charlie Chuck in 1916.
In 1915, a widespread massacre of Armenians in what is now Turkey commenced.
Although almost all fundraising in the community was directed to the War effort, the horrific stories about the massacres and forced deportations of the Armenian Christians prompted many local residents to donate to the Armenian Relief Fund. The congregation of Knox Presbyterian Church, in particular, became major supporters of the Fund.
With the extreme conditions for the Armenians overseas, together with the general hardships of the War and the post-War economic depression, George moved back to Montreal. Cesar moved to the United States for a while where he worked as an electrician.
However, he too eventually moved back to Montreal.
Alex continued to own the EP Ranch, but often found it difficult to pay for the management and taxes on the holdings. Finally, in 1942, the ranch was sold to the Lawrence brothers of Pine Lake. It became the home of Ben and Mabel Lawrence, and their two sons, Tony and Tom.