After the War

After the Armistice, Fossum returned to Persia with his sister, Alma Fossum, a trained nurse and Hannah Schonhood, a public school teacher.

They were joined by French linguist and theologian, George H. Bachimont.

In transit the party learned that fighting had again erupted. They would not be able to proceed to Soujboulak (Mahabad.) Instead, they agreed to travel to Yerevan to assist in relief efforts there. Fossum was named commander of the district near Mt. Ararat. Along with administrative oversight, Fossum devoted himself directly to the care of orphans and refugees.

This was just after horrific bloodletting in Armenian eastern Anatolia, a historical disaster the bitterness of which remains unabated to this day. Responsible for a region that was still home to ethnic Turks, Armenians and Kurds, Fossum found his work of saving lives obstructed by political fear and prejudice. It would be necessary to step into the breach.

Fossum and Bachimont left Yerevan on Sept. 5 on a peacemaking expedition to Mt. Ararat. Journalist Fullerton L. Waldo, who accompanied the men, wrote in his “Twilight in Armenia” that they “went together into the no-man's land" where Fossum was to “try every resource of his skills, his knowledge, and his fearless disposition” to negotiate a peace.

Waldo reported that Fossum took ill on the journey. “I cannot forget the iron resolution he showed. Lying three days ill of a fever on a mud roof at Sirbahan, he raised his head from the pillow to laugh and chat with the tribal deputations who could in a trice have slain him."

Although able to return home - a journey described by his travel companions as a one day forced march - Fossum never recovered. Apparently running a high fever, Hannah Schonhood reported that he was at times delirious. He finally succumbed on October 10, 1920 and was buried in Yerevan.

Although the cause of death has been ascribed alternately to poisoning and nervous exhaustion, he may have been assassinated: death came when an explosion went off in his room, attributed to a faulty can of lye. 

Fossum's example is the guiding light to our work in the Middle East. His achievements are legendary: He brought spiritual and humanitarian care to those who had suffered the worst that the world has to offer. His care for children and widows, the establishment of medical and social care where none had existed before, and his willingness to stand in the gap for the disenfranchised and forgotten are concrete testimonies to his humanity and godliness.

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