Vartabedian: Classic Armenian Couples Show Lots of Class

What does it take to form a successful relationship?

Aram and Alice Der Apkarian celebrate their 60th anniversary with many years of happy memories.
Aram and Alice Der Apkarian celebrate their 60th anniversary with many years of happy memories.

Just ask Jack and Pauline Kachanian of Windham, N.H., or Aram and Alice Der Apkarian of Methuen, Mass.

Together, they celebrate 125 years of marital bliss with no signs of ever letting up. Their potion is hardly a cabinet of prescription drugs to get them through the day, but love, understanding, and extreme faith toward God and themselves.

Take the Kachanians. They got married 65 years ago and are still dancing around on their honeymoon. They come to church each Sunday at St. Gregory’s in North Andover, patronize the events surrounding community life, and are still making annual jaunts to Florida.

The fact he’s 88 and she’s 85 pays little consequence in their lives. Their age is the rock of Ararat.

“A hug every day does wonders to our marriage,” says Pauline. “We’re not only soul mates but best friends. We conduct our lives together and give each other enough breathing room to enjoy some freedom apart. But when it comes to God and the church, there is no compromise. He’s blessed us for 65 years.”

Pauline taught Armenian School and sang in the choir since the age of 11. Jack spent 16 years as a Diocesan delegate and 20 years as a trustee when the two were attending Holy Cross Armenian Church in Lawrence.

The Kachanians met one New Year’s Eve during a concert in Symphony Hall. They got married in 1944 after Jack served with the U.S. Army in World War II. While he spent 56 years in the wholesale paper products business, she was his bookkeeper.

Together, they raised four sons before one succumbed to a heart attack a decade ago. Four grandchildren and one great-grandchild give them plenty of boasting rights.

Eight bypass heart surgeries have refused to take their toll on Jack over the past 25 years.

“The fact both of us were Armenian made our lives a lot easier,” says Pauline. “We never had a problem. I look at young couples today and sometimes wonder. They give up too fast. A marriage is a lifetime commitment and differences need to be worked out, not have them linger.”

Jack and Pauline Kachanian observe their 65th anniversary as active members of the Merrimack Valley Armenian community.
Jack and Pauline Kachanian observe their 65th anniversary as active members of the Merrimack Valley Armenian community.

The Kachanians visited Armenia in 1985 and toured the different villages. They spent four hours with the Vehapar over dinner, and together they dined on fish from Lake Sevan.

They’ve also been to Hawaii five times, traveled the Caribbean, and been to Bermuda. A 65th anniversary celebration took place in a Middle Eastern restaurant with lots of relatives and friends.

“Every Sunday when I hear the Badarak sung in church, it inspires me,” says Jack. “We count our blessings for being alive and together. A lot of our friends are widowed. I think God is keeping us alive to serve as an inspiration for other Armenians.”

The Der Apkarians are cut from the same marital cloth, dedicated to one another and living each day as if it were the first week of their honeymoon. For their 60th, Aram had sent Alice a short love note. It read: “The sum of all that makes a man happy consists in the well choosing of his bride.”

A sense of humor is important fare. As to what forms a successful marriage, Aram has his formula. “Quite simple, really,” he notes. “It’s falling in love many times, but always with the same person.”

They met at an AYF bowling match. Alice was a Donabedian and she had gone along for the joyride. The year was 1949. They had their first date in January, got engaged in June, and tied the knot on Oct. 16. Just like that.

“It was not only love at first sight, it was commitment forever,” says Aram. “We bet a lobster as to who would win the bowling match. We both won one another!”

Other than Der Hayr and the deacons, few know the Badarak better. Aram serves as official greeter each Sunday. He’s noticed all right. When he stands, everybody stands. When he sits, so do the others. When it comes to the Kiss of Peace, don’t hide. Aram will tell you the response.

“The value of church in my everyday life gives me the strength to sustain my proud heritage,” he says. “I have two sets of families: my own and everyone else’s.”

For years, he’s written a column called “Aram’s Helpful Hints,” in which he’ll divulge some timely secrets about how to remove carpet stains easily and how to recycle pickle juice.

You want tourshi? See Aram. He’ll burn your tongue out and warm your heart at the same time. Same with Alice, whether it’s cooking for a bazaar or involved in ARS work.

As parents of two and grandparents to three, all have been involved with St. Gregory Church in some part and parcel, through hard times and happy occasions. Daughter Karen was married here in 1972. Son-in-law Onnig was buried here in 1996. Daughter Shake has remained a vital cog in the social wellbeing of the church and serves as president of the Women’s Guild. Grandchildren John, Kristen, and Melineh were Armenian School students. There’s also a great-grandchild in the midst.

“Every day is like a brand new experience in our lives,” says Alice. “As time goes by, we don’t get older. We mellow. It’s a blessing.”

In a day when golden anniversary couples are becoming as extinct as dinosaurs, the Der Apkarians and Kachanians not only fit the nuptial mold, they break it!

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Tom Vartabedian

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, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
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