After a courageous battle with liver cancer, longtime Armenian American journalist Tom Vartabedian passed away on November 12, 2016. His countless articles have appeared in several Armenian and non-Armenian publications spanning nearly 50 years, covering everything from community events and initiatives, to interesting individuals and their stories from both Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora. For decades, readers looked forward to his weekly “Poor Tom’s Almanac” column, which has been published for 46 consecutive years, since 1970.
Below is Vartabedian’s final column, which he wrote on Oct. 12.
The End to an Indelible Career
As the dog said when he bit his tail, “This must be the end.”
After 50 years as a writer and photographer for The Gazette, my career as a roving journalist has come to a staggering halt. In the interim, I’ve had the luxury of covering every beat possible.
My Almanac started in 1970 as a way of perhaps introducing some levity into the serious and often stoic world of journalism. Hopefully, I’ve made some small impact into your lives and perhaps an elusive smile here and there.
It was not my choice to concede but one made for me through my battle with terminal cancer. The future remained imminent, after being diagnosed eight months ago. Trust me, I gave it a good shot, hoping to turn despair into some semblance of encouragement.
My final week was spent in Nova Scotia with dear friends—a trip that was postponed once—and finally came to fruition. I shall take the good times with me to my final resting place, leaving the photos behind for others to enjoy.
The symptoms were insurmountable.
My appetite abandoned me almost entirely. Much as I tried, the sight of food made me nauseous. While others were dining on salmon and steak, the best I could do was a cracker and maybe some ice cream.
My condition weakened by the moment until finally I was counting the days to return home. It takes a good front not to alarm those around you. The last thing I would have ever wanted in a group of 50 tourists was a pity party.
Some pain and discomfort built up gradually to the point where my physical energy took an extreme hit. I was content just staying in my room with a good book but played the game. Hopefully, I left behind no telltale signs of remorse among my peers.
I have often been told by others that my career as a journalist and photographer became stagnated and stale. How untrue! Why would anybody spend a half century with one job, one paper?
My response to that comment would be, “Why not?” If you really love your work and your environment, why change? Working in the city where I have lived was a true complement. I was always there for my children and wife. Her job as a local schoolteacher ran parallel to mine.
Never a traffic jam. Not even a school bus. There’s something to be said for proximity. Even more to be said for building up a rapport with a loyal readership. I always considered Haverhill as my own personal Cheers bar. The stories simply manifested themselves on all fronts.
My association with the Armenian community here has been undeniable. Every stranger became a friend in waiting.
The wonderful years with The Gazette were also complemented by a similar passion with The Armenian Weekly and writers like William Saroyan who became my source of inspiration. I had the best of both worlds in the American and Armenian genre.
Over the last 20 years, my stories and photos made the rounds throughout other ethnic publications in the world which brought me added pleasure. My friends and associates throughout the medium stood right by me throughout these moments of turmoil. It’s the best lifeline any cancer victim can embrace.
As I get ready to take my final bow, I can only hope that God gives me just a little more time to welcome forth a photography exhibit I have opening Oct. 23 at the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown. I’ll be collaborating with another photographer named Sona (Dulgarian) Gevorkian who is truly an impeccable artist with her camera.
Our work together will reflect images of Armenia both from the Eastern and Western extremes.
The final copies of a book, “The Armenians of Merrimack Valley,” co-authored with Haverhill High’s Phil Brown, will be inscribed for charity at a dinner-dance Oct. 22 by the Armenian Friends of America.
And finally, I opted to repeat the classes on obituary-writing at our Haverhill Citizens Center the first three Mondays in November beginning at 1 pm. It’s open to the public. In the event I’m still breathing, I will have fulfilled what I consider to be a long and productive life to which there have been few if any regrets.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a daughter inculcate a career as an editor and journalist, along with two Eagle Scout sons who have made their mark in mechanical engineering and marketing. That would not have been possible without the education they all received in our local public schools.
If I can leave you with anything, please do not take our community for granted and get the most out of it. What you do for yourself invariably dies with you. What you do for others lives on and forms legacies.
When troubles get you down, find your faith and give it a chance. It’ll be there waiting for you.
Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly.
Florida Atlantic University Conducts First Public Teacher Workshop on the Armenian Genocide in South Florida
Workshop is Part of a Series of Events in South Florida Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide
By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Managing Editor
As part of the South Florida commemorations of the Armenian Genocide, the first genocide of the 20th century, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) will conduct a two-part series of events. On January 20th, Dr. Rosanna Gatens, Director of the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education (CHHRE) at FAU and Reverend Fr. Paren Galstyan, Pastor of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Florida, held a workshop at the Alex and Marie Manoogian School. The workshop featured lectures, exhibits, and thought-provoking information and dialogue on the Armenian Genocide. Facilitated by Dr. Mary Johnson, Facing History and Ourselves, the workshop explored the role of World War I in the execution of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
Fifteen teachers from Broward and Palm Beach County participated in the FAU workshop. “St. David’s Armenian school was the perfect setting for teachers, not only to learn about the Armenian genocide and how to teach it, but also to begin to understand Armenian identity,” stated Dr. Gatens. “All of us were fascinated by the richness of Armenian culture, but even more by the ancientness of Armenian Christianity,” Dr. Gatens said.
During the workshop instructors examined the exhibit “Witness to the Armenian Genocide: Photographs by the Perpetrators’ German and Austro-Hungarian Allies,” produced by the Armenian National Institute (ANI), the Armenian Genocide Museum of America (AGMA), and the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). The ten-poster set includes an introductory page, a detailed timeline, a color-coded map geographically matching the photographs with their location, and seven pages displaying 34 captioned historic photographs. The color-coded map in the exhibit is based on the previously-published ANI map of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Turkish Empire illustrating the three prevailing aspects of the Genocide: the deportations, the massacres, and the concentration camps.
FAU’s second lecture commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide will take place on Sunday, April 19, 2015, as part of the Martin and Edith Stein Community Lecture Series. Dr. Tamar Akçam will discuss his book, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire.” Dr. Akçam is the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Florida Atlantic University Events Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide:
January 20, 2015
Teacher Workshop: The Role of World War I in the Execution of the Armenian Genocide, facilitated by Dr. Mary Johnson, Facing History and Ourselves, FAU, Boca Raton Campus, 8.30-a.m.3.30 p.m. at St. David’s Armenian Church, Boca Raton. Substitute reimbursements available. April 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. This program is part of local commemoration of the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.
April 19, 2015
Martin and Edith Stein Community Lecture Series: Dr. Tamar Akçam will discuss his book, “The Young Turks’ Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire,” Dr. Akçam is Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marian Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University. This program is part of south Florida’s commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. FAU, Boca Campus, 7-9 p.m., location TBA.
Florida Armenians would like to encourage you to attend a very special fundraiser to benefit the One Fund Boston to assist the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Hosted by Miami’s own Nectar Gebeshian, originally from Newton, Massachusetts, and The News Lounge in Miami, the evening will feature a DJ, raffle, silent auction, giveaways, drink and tapas specials in addition to a dessert and candy bar. The requested donation is $20 and includes one drink, one raffle ticket, and the dessert bar.
“I wanted to do something down here to benefit the victims because this really hit close to home. It could have been me or any of my friends,” stated Nectar Gebeshian. ” The last thing the victims need to deal with is the mounting medical bills that they will continue to accumulate for the coming years, they need to focus on recovering and returning to some sense of normalcy. It’s not much but I believe every little bit counts,” Gebeshian said.
The goal is to raise $2,000 to benefit One Fund Boston which goes directly to the victims.