Maro Garabedian Dionisopoulos is a name, face and personality known to so many across generations. “Maro is our AYF and community icon,” reflected longtime friend Harry Kushigian. “Everyone loves her warm smile and caring heart.”
Maro was named Mother of the Year this past weekend at a sold-out dinner dance hosted by the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Providence Arax chapter.
Members of the community and friends from out of town filled the banquet room of the Providence Crowne Plaza for a lavish dinner and Armenian music by her friends John Berberian and Ken Kalayjian.
Maro’s activism heightened as a result of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia; she joined the ARS a year later, driving continued relief efforts and motivating others.
In 2009, she was recognized with the Varadian Spirit Award at the Providence Olympics; over the years, she has also been recognized by the Providence-Armenian National Committee (ANC) and the local Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) as Hamagir of the Year.
In Maro’s world, her friends are her family. For many years she hosted parties for her “kheyma groupies” in her hotel room at Kef Time Cape or Olympics. “She appreciates friendships,” said Rita Soovajian.
Friends have always been family for Maro. Everyone’s favorite “Doc” Peter Bedrosian said, “She has been a leader in our community since she was a young woman, serving on a variety of organizations continually while at the same time being a devoted wife and mother. She raised her daughter to follow in her footsteps to support community organizations.”
Integral to all her activity, Maro is a devoted member of St. Vartanantz Church. “What stands out more than anything in Maro’s character,” began Rev. Gomidas Baghsarian, “is her faithfulness towards her family and friends. She has true concern for everyone and is gifted with godly wisdom. Maro is a true blessing to everyone who knows her and certainly worthy of the honor that she is receiving from the Armenian Relief Society.”
Maro is the daughter of Harootune and Arossiag Garabedian, both of whom escaped their homes prior to the Armenian Genocide, married and found a home on Whipple Street in the legendary “little Armenia” section of Smith Hill in Providence. She was the youngest of 4 children; sister Helen, brothers Hamparzoum and Aram rounded out a family of boundless Armenian spirit and nationalism, encouraged daily by loving parents.
As an active AYF junior and senior, Maro attended conventions and Olympics no matter where they were held. Her first Olympics experience happened when she was 14 years old. She was known for her one point, fourth place finish in golf at Worcester Olympics in 1967. There have been many renditions in Providence Olympic lore about what happened that year. One narrative describes Maro becoming so frustrated with hitting the ball, that she threw the golf ball and then putted once she was on the green. Providence Olympic historian Garry Giragosian, Esq would neither confirm nor deny that bit of Providence Olympic history, adding another mysterious layer to the story. Garry’s only comment was actually quite succinct: “Maro is a doll…what a heart. It’s as big as Providence.”
In many respects and throughout her life, Maro has been a “Hye Jon” kid. “Even today, Maro is the AYF. With all due respect to so many others out there, no one cares and loves the Providence AYF and the AYF itself more than this woman,” said Steve Elmasian.
After Maro’s husband Spiros immigrated from Greece, the two got married in 1972.
A self-made professional, Maro then started her nearly 35 year career at Roger Williams University, where she was known as Mary. At the same time Spiros operated a popular pizza parlor in the shadow of Providence College.
She rose to various positions at Roger Williams; she was vice president and also the grievance chairperson at the university for 25 years. A member of the National Education Association, Maro served with boundless energy on the Rhode Island chapter’s budget board for several years.
Maro ultimately retired in 2004 after serving many years as an assistant to the Dean of Continuing Education.
Harootune and Aroosiag’s “Hey Jon kid” made a difference in all aspects of her life, and to so many whom she met over the years.
Spiros and Maro’s pride and joy has the last word.
That would be their daughter Dr. Fotini, a well-known Rhode Island pediatric dentist who has been recognized by her peers as a top children’s dentist in Rhode Island and a recipient of the American Society of Dentistry Award for pediatric excellence.
Fotini said, this “was like a small Olympics. It was a room full of love and happiness, a celebration of mom and what she is about—being Armenian and her love of friendships and family. She is truly a devoted mother and community member.”