NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.—The year was 1970.
The average home sold for $5,000. Income averaged out to $9,500. A postage stamp sold for six cents. And Richard M. Nixon was serving as president of the United States long before the Watergate scandal.
That same year, a group of conscientious Armenians from Merrimack Valley pooled their efforts and money to purchase an abandoned church in North Andover.
A choir was formed, joined by Chake Boloian and others who brought their Badarak to new vitality with a pitch-perfect sound.
Seven pastors and 46 years later, Boloian still holds her charmed place in the chorale, making it a point to show up every Sunday to sing her sharagans. Organists have changed. Choir directors have been added. Singers have come and gone. But Boloian remains the true Energizer bunny. She never stops.
“Chake sets an example for the others,” says Nina Hovsepian, her soloist mate. “I hope I can still sing that well when I reach her age. She’s truly remarkable.”
The singer has seen her three children raised in the church, attend school, and marry their spouses here. They’ve served on the trustees and taken other pivotal roles. Husband Mousheh, known affectionately as Red, also served the Board for years and continues his active role.
Six grandchildren have followed, four of them boys who’ve been ordained acolytes, including Robbie, the latest, who took his vows Jan. 31, during the 46th anniversary of the church.
It was there that Chake was honored with a Distinguished Service Award from the Prelacy, bestowed by His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan. An acolyte and a veteran choir member both recognized the same day from the same family gives credence to the church that proclaimed this the year of “service” for all parishes.
Surrounded by her husband, children, and grandchildren, the honoree appeared stunned by the tribute. She didn’t have a clue until son John approached the podium and read the accolades.
“A few years after joining the choir, my sister recalls going to Saturday rehearsal with our mom and lying around the pews while she practiced,” he said. “She symbolizes the epitome of service. We had an organ in the house that my dad purchased for her, just so she could sing. She hasn’t stopped.”
Bishops and archbishops, church anniversaries and special occasions, funerals and genocide memorials. Chake has never laid down her voice, even during moments of illness and foul weather. An occasional vacation or two would be the only hiatus. And even with that, she probably did her own quiet reflection.
“Every time Chake sings, my dad still wears the biggest smile of all,” added John Boloian. “He reminds us of that all the time when we’re upstairs in the sanctuary: ‘That’s your mother singing there.’ You could see the pride unfold.”
Chake’s service doesn’t stop there. Her active involvement in the Ladies’ Guild and Prelacy are two other examples, along with helping to prepare the monthly Avak luncheons.
“Our mom made sure this church was as much a part of our lives as it was hers,” her son added. “It extended right across the table to the Sunday School and other areas.”