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Como Park carousel benefactor dies at 88

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The man credited with saving the Como Park carousel has died, the Pioneer Press reports, citing Armenian news reports.

Gerard Leon Cafesjian, formerly of Roseville, who had retired to Florida, was 88, the newspaper reports.

Cafesjian netted a fortune in more than 30 years as an executive at West Publishing and he became a well-known philanthropist. He was the primary benefactor of a $2 million effort that saved what is now called Cafesjian's Carousel at Como Park, the Pioneer Press reports. The 1914 carousel is now well-preserved inside a pavilion at the park after a 75-year run at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

He also founded the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the Cafesjian Museum Foundation and the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. A story that appears in Armenian media has more information about Cafesjian's career and personal history.

A post on the Cafesjian Center for the Arts website notes this interesting fact about his early life: "After amphibious training, he served in the United States Navy in WWII aboard JP Morgan’s yacht, the Corsair III, built in 1895 and renamed the USS Oceanographer. The ship did extensive survey work in and around Guadalcanal and other Solomon Islands."

The site also notes: "He felt his destiny was to help the country of Armenia, which had gained its independence after hundreds of years of subjugation under various rulers. The time and circumstances and confluence of resources would help him make a difference for the country." Armenia's president offered his condolences to the family.

Cafesjian's name was in the news last month when a federal grand jury in Minneapolis indicted an Eden Prairie man, who is accused of stealing millions from his former boss, Cafesjian.

Messages for family were not immediately returned, the Pioneer Press reported.

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