HAVERHILL, Mass. — Thomas M. Vartabedian, an award-winning Haverhill Gazette writer-photographer for 50 years and Armenian community activist, died Saturday, November 12, with his loving family by his side following a courageous battle with cancer. He was 76.
Vartabedian joined The Gazette as a sportswriter in 1966 when it was a daily newspaper and extended his career to include feature stories, pictures, news events and his Poor Tom’s Almanac column, which began in 1970 and continued in retirement up until his death.
Through his tenure, Vartabedian won a number of awards and accolades, including that of Master Reporter by the New England Press Association. One of the other more notable awards was the American Cancer Society’s Sword of Hope Award, joined by several more from the Associated Press and United Press International over the course of his 40-year, full-time career at The Gazette.
After being diagnosed with gastro-intestinal cancer in February, Vartabedian fought his illness by bringing hope to others with a series of columns, as well as through a show on Haverhill Community Television and participating in the 2016 American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Haverhill, where he sponsored a team called Ararat, named after a biblical mountain in Armenia.
He also garnered national attention for an obituary writing class he launched last spring at the Haverhill Council on Aging, inspiring others to write their life’s story before they passed.
Vartabedian was active in Armenian affairs as a member of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley, which took him to high schools throughout the Merrimack Valley and Greater Boston teaching students about the genocide and human rights. The committee was recognized this past April by special resolution by Gov. Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Statehouse.