The Many Facets of Nevart Mikaelian

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.—On a warm summer’s day, you will find Nevart (Apovian) Mikaelian surrounded by a herd of rambunctious children at Camp Haiastan, her second home, teaching them the ultimate camping experience.

Nevart Mikaelian with her husband Hratch and two children, Zareh Antranig, 5, and Sevan Anoush, 18 months.

Along for the ride are her own two kids, Zareh Antranig, 5, and Sevan Anoush, 18 months. Though too young to attend camp, their day will come most assuredly, the same way it did for this enthusiast.

After all, it is here where Nevart’s roots were cultivated as a camper for seven years, where she served as a counselor five years, two summers as director, and eight years as a board member, where she met husband Hratch, and is now cultivating day camp activities for youngsters not quite ready for an overnight.

On a more inclement autumn day, you’ll find her running the Tufts 10K for women, raising money in sponsorships for victims of leukemia and lymphoma.

It’s been 25 years since her dad Richard succumbed to lymphoma. Nevart was only 10 when she lost her father, but the image of a man with an affable smile remains indelible.

On any other given day, you’ll find her involved with Gomideh activities, motivating the AYF in her community, paying notice to her church, the ANCA, and supporting one Armenian Cause after another.

Putting it all into retrospect, call her the “ultimate Armenian Renaissance Woman.”

Of that 6.2-mile run, there was no holding back, relying upon her years as an AYF Olympic gold medalist and superlative high school athlete in Salem, N.H., where she was raised. No doubt, her years with the Lowell and North Andover AYF as one of three active Apovian sister combos paid dividends.

“What a beautiful couple my parents were,” said Mikaelian. “What’s even harder to imagine, as tears fill my eyes, is that there are kids every day who lose a parent to these blood cancers. Throughout this race, I will pray for a cure and better treatments for these diseases.”

The race took place over Columbus Day and attracted 6,500 runners from across the land, including a number of U.S. Olympic hopefuls.

Since graduating from the University of New Hampshire and securing a master’s degree, Mikaelian has been teaching special education for the past 15 years, and is currently employed as an evaluation team leader with the Natick, Mass., Public Schools.

Get her started on camp and it turns into a passionate monologue covering everything from the friends she’s met to the people she’s served and the improvements needed to keep the place in sync.

“I look back at it with fondness, though I certainly wasn’t perfect at it, and feel like I’m part of an elite club,” she confirms. “I know many young couples who met at camp and married.”

Of utmost priority these days is a $500,000 project for new sanitation facilities consisting of a new lavatory and shower building, the repurposing of old bathrooms and wash stands, and the continued creation of an “outer cabin circle.”

“It’s long overdue,” she maintains. “Hopefully we’ll have everything in place by 2014. The life skills I gained during camp and AYF are unlike anything I’ve seen with my students. No doubt, it’s all contributed to a wholesome future for me.”

As for her dad, he, too, was a former AYFer who was involved with music and church at St. Gregory’s in North Andover. There was a bit of spice to his life.

“We spent many hours going to church early so he could rehearse the organ with the choir,” recalled Mikaelian. “I think of him often, even when we were given the task of sweeping out our summer cottage at Salisbury Beach. He’d walk around in his bare feet to see how good a job we did getting the sand out.”

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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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