Providence Spirit, Providence Pride

Following Mal Varadian’s advice, John Mangassarian, Shooshig Aghjayan and Joyce Bagdasarian certainly made “it” better than when they found “it.”

As recipients of the AYF Varadian Spirit Award, these longtime Providence activists were recognized for many years of volunteer efforts in the community, contributing year after year to the  successes of a wide range of community activities.

Joyce Bagdasarian

For Joyce Bagdasarian, a lady who left a significant legacy, everything Armenian counted in a big time manner. She is missed.

An active AYF member in all aspects, she also devoted a great deal of time to the church and its Ladies’ Guild, most often serving as chairperson. She was also a member of the National Association of Ladies’ Guilds and served as chair in that capacity.

An outgoing and truly genuine person, Bagdasarian’s spirit attracted and motivated others.

Some 10 years ago, still talked about at church coffee hour and local socials, she single handedly organized an event at the West Valley Inn where she lined up 30 or so New England Armenian musicians for a fundraising dinner for Sts. Vartanantz Church. It was a huge success. There was a “Who’s Who” of Armenian dumbeg and oud players, clarinetists and saxophone artists, keyboard and guitar players and of course, the singers. It was an Armenian version of “We are the World.” What was most amazing was she got all the players to play for free.

Her world of friends extended to Worcester, Lowell and New York City. She enjoyed spending weekends with longtime friends in those communities.

2021 Varadian Spirit Award recipients Shooshig Aghjayan and John Mangassarian march in Opening Ceremonies parade

Shooshig Aghjayan was a charter member of the Providence “Varantian” AYF Juniors and charter camper at AYF Camp Haiastan. With Mal Varadian and Annie Surabian as mentors, she served on AYF executive and on many committees in a continual manner.

“Shooshy” was a motivating force in the 2003 and 2009 Olympic Adbook success for the host Varantians.

She is the embodiment of preservation of the Armenian cause. She was active in Hamazkayin, has hosted countless organizational meetings in her home, as well as meetings with political figures at ANC events.

Shooshy, alongside her late husband Haig and children, has had a passion and love for the AYF that still continues to radiate in her today, motivating others. 

For decades, she has been a church choir member and an active member of the Sts. Vartanantz Church Ladies’ Guild.  

This spirit, zeal and fortitude have carried into the next generation to her childrenmost notable and respected activists George Aghjayan and Armenian Weekly editor Pauline Getzoyan.

John Mangassarian has been described as a “workhorse.”

The amiable and unassuming gentleman goes where “things need to be done.” He has done that for a long time. He is at Camp Haiastan several times a week before and during camp season to help with whatever needs to be done…painting, cleanup, etc.

Active in the Sts. Vartanantz Church Men’s Club, he holds special regard and conviction for the club’s annual cleanup of the Armenian sections of local cemeteries.

“Many who have passed on no longer have family members to tend to their gravesites. These people need to be respected, not neglected,” noted Mangassarian. “They have come before us and established what we have.”

Mangassarian is a charter member of the bazaar “do it all” club: setting up tables, carrying boxes, picking up toorshee, etc.

He has served on several Olympic Steering committees; he’s never at the microphone but he’s the one in the background who has helped “make it happen” with hours of “doing.” There is a lot of work that has to be done before the microphone, concessions and flags are set up on the field.

Mangassarian’s volunteer efforts extend to the homeland where every year he helps to repair and build homes. “We need to help fellow Armenians who are living in dire circumstances,” he states with his typical burst of energy and conviction.

As a noted member of the Providence community would say (and probably has said) to this spirited threesome: “job well done.”

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Harry Derderian

Harry Derderian is a native of Indian Orchard, Mass and resident of S. Lyon, Mich. He is a member of the marketing faculty at Eastern Michigan University as well as an adjunct professor of business at Schoolcraft Community College.
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1 Comment

  1. Very thoughtful article highlighting the impact of humble
    servants of the community. People like this is why we have
    continuity. Thanks Harry!!

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