In Memoriam: Rich Serabian Remembered for Quiet Deeds

HAVERHILL, Mass.—Every Armenian church community needs an activist like Richard Serabian, one who leads by example and answers every call whether it’s his or the other guy’s.

The irony behind this is the bell. It never stopped ringing, whether it was a church supper, Parish Council meeting, or something bigger, like the construction of a new church.

Truth be told, the Armenian Church at Hye Pointe was his home away from home, and Rich catered to its every demand.

“He was like an ambassador,” said his brother Robert. “There wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do for his church or community. My brother touched all parameters. In so doing, he made life a little bit better for those around him. We miss him already.”

Richard Serabian died suddenly on Jan. 28 at his home, leaving behind a legacy of good will and impeccable devotion toward faith and heritage—qualities he had derived from his parents Charles and Beatrice, who blazed their own trail in this city. He was 70.

You wouldn’t find a photograph of Rich anywhere. The last picture taken of the man was at his college graduation from Suffolk University where he secured both an undergraduate and master’s degree in business administration.

“He never drew attention to himself,” his brother added. “Richard preferred the background. It’s just the way he was when newspapers showed up at church. He let the spotlight shine on others.”

Rich was usually the first guy you met on the scene and the last to leave. In between, he was the consummate host, making his rounds with hand extended and a broad smile on his face. His glass was always half filled, never half empty. More than anything, he wallowed in delight when the newer generation carried on the tradition set forth by his predecessors.

“The immigrants built this church,” he once told me. “Generations have come and gone but the heritage continues to remain firm. They gave this community life and inspiration. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Throughout his life, Rich was involved in different religious, charitable, and educational organizations that provided opportunities for those in need. He served as Parish Council chairman and advisor. He was on the building and finance committees for the current church project.

His work outside the church posed a stiff challenge. After working for various CPA firms, he launched a 30-year career as an internal staff auditor with the U.S. Defense Contract Audit Agency.

I remember him walking into the Haverhill Gazette office one afternoon with a picnic notice in hand. The place was in chaos as a bank holdup was taking place and the day’s edition was being held up for a spot news break.

It didn’t bother Rich in the least. He took a seat and waited for the delirium to end before politely asking for a church picnic notice in the social section of the paper.

“I’m in no rush,” he told the editor.

To him, getting that notice into print as the self-designated church publicist was the most important item on his agenda. And God forbid if it didn’t appear or some cub reporter accidentally misplaced his release. Back he’d come with a rebuttal.

You often found him in Watertown caring for the elderly and infirmed. Or making a visit to someone’s home in the city who needed a helping hand. Rich was a friend in need and a friend indeed.

In his spare time, he loved walking the shoreline at Salisbury Beach or gardening. In his more active days, he pounded the ball for different softball leagues in the city.

I first met the man patrolling the sidelines of a Haverhill High football game back in the late 1960’s. You would have thought he was a coaching assistant the way he carried on and lashed out at some errant official.

Rich knew every player by name, as well as every play before it was exercised. His Hillies were his manta and they would never be denied a call. His love for football cannot be denied, extending all the way to his beloved New England Patriots.

Make no mistake about it. He would have been on the edge of his easy chair on Super Bowl Sunday the week after his death, giving his brother an ear ache at crunch time against the New York Giants. Robert tells me he was counting down the days to kickoff.

“He watched them play in a different venue,” his brother said.


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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