Helen Baronian passed away peacefully on September 28, 2019 at age 93. She was born in Worcester, Massachusetts to Hovannes and Margaret (nee Karagavoorian) Baronian, both of whom were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. She first grew up in the tightly-knit “Laurel Street” Armenian neighborhood of Worcester and later moved with her family to Medford, Massachusetts, where, as a gifted student, she graduated with honors from Medford High School. She was also an active member of the Medford chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). During World War II, in which her brother John served in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps, she played the role of comforting her parents during this tense and difficult period and, in particular, taking care of her mother, who had to have her leg amputated because of diabetes. Her role as caregiver stalled plans to attend college and served as a reflection of her deep devotion to her parents who had lost their first set of children in the Armenian Genocide.
After her mother passed away in 1948, Helen went to work in various jobs in the Boston area but finally settled on Arkwright Insurance Company in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she quickly rose through the ranks. In the 1970s, she became the first woman executive in the company, becoming head of the Underwriting Department and Assistant Vice President. She was often tasked to travel to the company’s regional offices where she oversaw their underwriting work and gave seminars to employees. Because of her thoroughness and attention to detail, the president of Arkwright also chose her to arrange company retreats for executives in as faraway places as Bermuda. As the first female executive in the company, she played a special role in mentoring younger women, who greatly appreciated her advice and friendship.
Helen was very proud of her Armenian heritage. In addition to being an AYF member and an active alumnus, she taught Sunday School at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. She also volunteered for Friends of Armenian Culture Society (FACS), especially its longstanding Armenian night at POPS, and was a member of the Armenian Assembly of America. Together with her late sister Betty, she hosted numerous parties in their Medford home for Armenian groups as well as Tufts University where her brother John was an active alumnus and trustee.
Devoted to her family, she was a very generous aunt to her three nephews: John, Gregory and Ara Aftandilian, taking them to movies as kids and on various trips when they were older. She was also dedicated to her siblings: John, Betty and Stella, and her brother-in-law, Victor, as well as numerous uncles, aunts and cousins who were part of her extended family.
Helen took special pride in her Cape Cod house in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which she had built shortly after she retired from Arkwright. She loved to entertain relatives and friends there and see her nephews and their spouses, grandnephews and grandnieces come by and visit. Nothing gave her greater joy than to be around family. She was known to have a bell at the dinner table and would ring it whenever there was any unpleasant conversation. She taught everyone that they should be grateful for what they had and to always be kind to those less fortunate, an important lesson for us all.