Vartabedian: Diversity Was Dick Jaffarian’s Potion

HAVERHILL, Mass.—Whether it was selling you a car from his prominent dealership or donating to an Armenian charity, Richard “Dick” Jaffarian left behind no compromise in his character.

He fished and hunted with the best of them, grew prize roses in his backyard, sponsored athletic teams throughout the city, and faithfully provided for the welfare of his Armenian church and community.

He played football and the violin, had a keen interest in racing cars, and was a proud military veteran with the U.S. Navy Seabees, not to exclude his longevity and service at Haverhill Country Club.

Suffice it to say, Jaffarian never had time for boredom. He worked it to death the only way he knew how—with a positive mind and a brisk outlook toward life and the many people he touched along the way.

He passed away Jan. 24 following a lifetime of public service in Haverhill.

Nothing brought Dick greater pride than to see the Volvo-Toyota dealership he inherited from his parents Fred and Alice passed along to sons Gary, Mark, and Paul, along with a fourth generation now in tow.

I remember him from my days at the Gazette delivering eggs he had plucked from his son Mark’s farm on Upper Main Street. Fresh eggs. A bit incongruous for such a stealth businessman, but Dick liked nothing better than the personal approach. He wallowed in a quagmire of fun wherever he ventured.

“I’ve got all my eggs in one basket,” he chuckled, making a delivery to composing room foreman Bob Stabile.

The three of us one time decided to go smelt fishing in the dead of winter. There we were, groggy-eyed at 5 a.m. inside an ice shack with the temperature in single digits. Thank God for the wood-burning stove.

Out came seven rods. Jaffarian was like a maestro conducting the symphony. First one fish, then another. Often, he had five lines tugging at the same time. By morning’s end, he had pulled in 300 smelt, more than Stabile and I combined.

It was all business based upon his slogan: “No room for novices and no room for alcohol.” What he didn’t deliver to friends, he cooked for family. Not a morsel went wasted.

Afternoons often found him at Haverhill Country Club, shooting a competitive game of golf or over a card table with his friends. It wasn’t so much the formality as the sociability that enticed him. He liked nothing better than to be among his small coterie of friends, whether it was here, with the Hannah Duston Chapter, DAV, or with the masons at Merrimack Lodge, AF&AM.

There was always a story laden somewhere with Dick, like the time he lent me a rare fisheye lens which captured an unusual shot of a high-jumper going over the bar—panoramic style. Or the large Armenian flag he flew from his shoreline home at Moody Beach in Maine that drew curious eyes.  

Landlubbers would knock on his door and get an instant lesson in Armenian history. He never wasted an opportunity to help the students of St. Gregory Church in North Andover, which bears a strong family name.

Of utmost concern was the welfare of Armenian students. If there was a need, Dick filled it. Much of his benevolence was borrowed from his parents before him who were among the first Armenian settlers in Haverhill before the turn of the 19th century.

Alice presided over the Haverhill ARS for nearly two decades while Fred was a self-imposed “ambassador” when it came to promoting Armenian affairs. Son Dick was cut from the same mold.

The rose garden behind his home would rival anything you might find at the White House. Dick was his own horticultural expert when it came to maintaining the multiple varieties. His fingers were nimble, pricked with the love for gardening inside his very own arboretum.

What he didn’t present to wife Myda, he passed on to others. The couple enjoyed 53 years of marital bliss, marred only by the death of their son Paul in a snowmobiling accident five years ago.

Handy as he was, Dick built a home in Rangeley, Maine, out of logs which continues to be a haven for his family. A GPS might get confused trying to locate the spot, just the way he liked it. He preferred being that smelt in the ocean as opposed to a marlin in a lake. Prominence just wasn’t in his book of ethics.

According to son Gary, there was nothing his Dad couldn’t fix, nothing he couldn’t sell, and nothing he wouldn’t do for someone.

That would make him somewhat indispensible. But like he once said, with a little pearl of wisdom, “Take care of your life. Without it, you’re dead.”

Dick Jaffarian was his own caretaker. But what he did for himself only made the world a better place around him.

For that, he’ll be missed.

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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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