Project Save: A True Gift of History

Ruth Thomasian and Project SAVE are a very important, worthwhile organization worthy of your attention. I had the pleasure of talking with Ruth recently and told her of a hand-held Armenian language prompter given to me years ago by Steven Karadian.

Cover of a Project Save calendar
Cover of the Project Save 2015 calendar

Project SAVE’s mission is to collect, document, preserve, and present the historic and modern photographic record of Armenians and the Armenian heritage. Get in touch with them by writing to P.O. Box 236, Watertown, MA 02471-0236; calling (617) 923-4542; visiting; or e-mailing

What a charming, ebullient lady Thomasian is. She knew I was from Michigan and told me how upon graduating from high school she had said, “Get me out of here [Watertown]! I was a Methodist and consulted with a clergyman who advised me. I sent for a catalogue and I knew Albion College in Albion, Mich., was for me. I was happy to stay in Albion for four years. I got my degree in history and elementary education. I now love what I do.”

She glowed when she said, “I even own a Petoskey stone.” How is that for a Michigan connection out of the blue? Petoskey stones were deposited only in certain rare places by the melting of glaciers millions of years ago. Looking for them along the shores of Lake Michigan is a fun hobby. There’s a lot of Michigan in Thomasian’s heart.

Her grandparents, Mardiros and Mariam Tovmassian, were from Arabkir, a village of Ancherti that means “without water.” “Ironically they settled in Watertown,” she said. Grandpa Mardiros was a businessman who purchased wheat to turn into bulgur. Doesn’t that show the entrepreneurial mind of an industrious Armenian, just like the dedication of his granddaughter Ruth Thomasian?

Project SAVE accepts all kinds of photographs. Their collection includes photos of Armenians from China, India, Japan, Hayastan, and Diana Apgar’s family photos in Yokohama.

“We visit people in their homes to locate and collect photographs. We need young people to assist us in this project. We need a local conduit to collect photos in other cities. The collection includes a lot of unknown photos, but we want them all regardless because perhaps they could have the photographer’s name which we could then research, or even have Armenian writing we can decipher,” she said. Thomasian suggests that donors keep a digital copy of donated photographs.

I have volunteered my services to Thomasian to collect photos in the Detroit area.

This year’s Project SAVE calendar commemorates the 100th year since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. It is a true gift of history, a precious keepsake for all time, containing brief essays about the Armenians, a reminder about those who came before. It represents our precious Armenian history, which the Turks tried to erase and to this day deny. Never forget!

Call or go to the website for this special calendar. It can also be obtained from the website It is $15.00 for 1, or $10.00 each for 10.

Locate those photos tucked in a drawer or in your attic and send them to her address. Don’t allow them to eventually end up in a garage sale, resale shop, or even worse to be thrown into the trash. Our ancestors deserve much better and you can be of enormous help. Please send your photographs to this worthy organization and purchase the 100th commemorative calendar, too.

Please recognize and be grateful for the work Thomasian is doing for the love of being Armenian. She and I have forged a permanent bond—two women of proud Armenian descent bidding each other “Tsedesoutiun.”

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.