Photo by Amy Sweenley
Two Haverhill men — E. Philip Brown, a Haverhill High School world history teacher, and Thomas Vartabedian, a retired Haverhill Gazette reporter and photographer — researched and wrote “Armenians of the Merrimack Valley,” newburyportnews.com reports.
The book, released this month, was officially launched Saturday at the Haverhill Public Library.
Vartabedian said the project was “about a year in the works.”
Published by Arcadia Publishing Co. of Charleston, South Carolina, it is one of the company’s “Images of America’’ local history books. “Armenians of the Merrimack Valley” has 140 pages and 180 photos and can be purchased at area bookstores or through www.arcadiapublishing.com or Amazon.com.
Brown, who graduated from Haverhill High in 1976 and has taught there for nine years, does not claim Armenian heritage. He’s half-Irish, half-Italian.
So how did he acquire an interest in the Armenians?
He was working toward a master’s degree in public history from American Public University and was required to complete a capstone project.
“I was looking at different things,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vartabedian did a presentation about the 1915 Armenian genocide at Haverhill High last year, the 100th anniversary of the massacre.
Brown wondered if the time had come to write about the Armenians who fled the genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire and came to the Merrimack Valley.
“I love culture,” he said. “I’m a National Geographic type of guy.”
He discussed the idea with Vartabedian, who has spoken at many schools about the genocide and its aftermath.
Vartabedian knew that writing such a book would be “no easy task.”
“After hemming and hawing, I decided I’d collaborate,” he said.
Vartabedian’s mother survived the genocide by hiding in a well and came to the United States as a very young girl, he said.
He is an active member of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley and decided the time was right to put the story of his people into a book.
“Armenians of the Merrimack Valley” tells readers about men and women who rose from humble circumstances and achieved prominence. Paul Kazarosian, for example, was a very successful lawyer who served as Haverhill’s first city solicitor.
His parents survived the genocide and came to America.
His daughter, Marsha Kazarosian, has also achieved distinction as a lawyer, having won a high-profile gender discrimination suit against the Haverhill Country Club, among other accomplishments. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has described her as one of the top attorneys in New England.
Then there are the Jaffarians, who have built one of the biggest auto dealerships in the area. Other Armenian-Americans in the Merrimack Valley have achieved success as physicians, business owners, educators, athletes, artists and entertainers.
The book also features folks who haven’t become famous but have nevertheless made solid contributions to the Merrimack Valley and America. On the front cover, for instance, is a photo of Sebou Devejian standing in the grocery store he owned and operated at Washington Street and Washington Avenue in Haverhill.
Devejian was born in Armenia in 1890 and immigrated to the United States, where he, like his fellow Armenian immigrants, had to learn a language that has no similarity to his native tongue.
Both Brown and Vartabedian expressed disappointment that Turkey, the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, has never recognized the Armenian Genocide.
“It is very disturbing,” Brown said.
“Nobody came to Armenia’s aid,” Vartabedian said.
Vartabedian estimates that there are 5,200 people of Armenian descent in the Merrimack Valley. The Armenian Apostolic churches in the region — Hye Pointe in Haverhill, St. Gregory in North Andover and St. Vartanantz in Chelmsford — have “done yeoman’s work” in keeping their culture alive, he said.