Special to the Gazette
Staff and residents at the Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center recently joined together to celebrate a huge milestone: Mary Vartanian’s 109th birthday! Amidst a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” and the well-wishes of every person in attendance, Mary gave a big “thumbs up” when presented with her cake. Mary has been a resident of the Armenian Center for the past six years and is beloved by residents and staff alike.
“Mary is such a pleasant, friendly individual,” said Salpy Yeterian, Activities Director at the Armenian Nursing Center. “She is very appreciative, throwing kisses to the staff each time they greet her. Moreover, she is just a joy to be around.”
Living to 109 is a remarkable accomplishment and one that Mary does not take for granted. She attributes her longevity to her faith – she prays daily – and hard work. Although not a fan of exercise, she could often be found cleaning, cooking, and helping her family. Mary reflected on her life by saying, “I lived a simple life, taking care of my family. I also went to church and volunteered at the functions. That’s what I most enjoyed.”
Mary was born in Aintab in 1914, just before the outbreak of World War I. She moved several times to different countries before ending up in the United States. Mary was introduced by her doctor cousin to Hovhannes Vartanian, also born in Aintab (in 1905. They married in 1935. Hovhannes was a violinist as well as a composer and performed for the Armenian Radio of Aleppo, receiving the Syrian National Medal of Recognition for his talent.
Together Mary and Hovhannes had four sons and two daughters. Sadly, Hovhannes passed away in 1969 when Mary was only 55 years old. She never remarried. One of their sons, Zaven, emigrated to the United States and settled in Watertown, MA. Mary, along with another son, joined them in 1972. Mary was a resident of Watertown for 45 years. Always active, she lived by herself until she was 101. After a fall, she decided to move into the Armenian Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Salpy noted that Mary is generous and giving. “When her family brings in snacks or food, Mary immediately wants to share her bounty with the residents and staff. “She is always looking out for the staff.” Salpy further explains. “I brought back to her room after a BBQ this summer,” recalled Salpy. “Mary looked at me and said, ‘Thank you, but you must be tired too. Go and sit down!’
At a young 109, Mary walks about the Center, participates in meals, and enjoys art projects. She is very observant and frequently comments on what’s going on in the community and the world. As Yeterian puts it, “Mary Vartanian is truly an inspiration to us all!”