Isabelle Shiranian was born on Nov. 14, 1925 in New York City, the daughter of Abraham and Vartig Shiranian. She excelled academically at Central High School and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was a proud member of the Providence “Vartanian” AYF Chapter and participated in the Sts. Vartanantz Church Choir and Ladies Guild for many years.
To support her family after her father’s death, Zabel worked for a jewelry manufacturer during her high school years. After graduation, she became an executive secretary for the U.S. Life Insurance Company.
During WWII, the female members of the Providence AYF wrote to the Armenian soldiers who were in the battlefield. They drew names out of a hat and Zabel pulled the name of Melkon (Mal) Varadian. He was stationed in North Africa with General Patton’s 7th Army. When Melkon returned to the states, they met in person at an AYF meeting and their 61-year journey together began; two years later, Melkon and Zabel were married and shortly after started a family.
As Zabel often said, they were blessed with three children, Michael, Sandra, and Malcolm and their spouses Armenie, Megerdich, and Kristen; seven grandchildren, Nick, Siran, Antranig, Armen, Melkon, Sarah, and Ani; and three great-grandchildren, Emily, Nicholas, and Carl. All are past or current members of the Providence AYF. Zabel also enjoyed the constant company of her grand puppy Mollie.
In 1956, Mal and Zabel purchased the Public Street Market in South Providence. Together, they operated the market for 40 years until their retirement.
Many lifelong relationships developed with employees. Notably, Arthur “Jake” Butler came on board as a young man and devoted many years to Zabel and Mal in the operation of the store. Jake, his wife Sandy, and their family are cherished friends to this day.
During their years at the market, the couple hired and mentored countless family members and neighborhood youth. It was the first source of employment to dozens of young men who grew to be cherished friends to the Varadians, and successful members of the Armenian American community in Rhode Island.
Zabel and Mal held court at Public Street Market and offered guidance in the business, athletic, and personal lives of many. Their service and generosity had a positive impact on countless individuals and families, and made a lasting impression on the community.
Family was a very important part of Zabel’s life. Having lost her father at an early age, she gave constant attention to her mother and uncle, Sarkis Keri Marderosian, who both lived near the market. She was very proud and fond of her many nephews, nieces, cousins, and other extended family members—she spoke of them often with affection—and was a loving sister to brothers Dickran and Charlie (deceased) Shiranian.
Zabel kept people happy with her kind demeanor and beautiful smile, despite her many illnesses and surgeries. She took great joy in the accomplishments of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She relished their celebrations and graduations.
Zabel passed away on Feb. 12, 2009. She will be remembered for her wonderful sense of humor. She laughed heartily when, at one event, she and Mal were accidentally left behind in an empty school parking lot. The family caravan drove off, everyone thinking the others had Mal and Zabel with them!