BY TOM VARTABEDIAN
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.—Albert S. Movsesian is in the driver’s seat. Literally.
Each week when the call comes from Northern Essex Elder Transport, into his car he goes to drive some thankful patient into Boston to meet a medical appointment.
From his residence in North Andover, he’s apt to comb the Merrimack Valley for a pickup, make the 40-mile commute through rigorous traffic and weather conditions, hang around a hospital or doctor’s office for 2-4 hours, then return home.
For the 81-year-old Movsesian, it’s just another way to help his fellow man. It’s a volunteer lift he’s given over the past 18 years to the tune of 25,000 miles. For NEET, he’s the man behind the wheel when it comes to longevity and loyalty. Average it out and it comes to about 50 trips a year, always putting his passengers ahead of himself.
“You can thank my mother for this,” says Movsesian. “She always maintained that the best way to improve the world was to start with the individual. She was big on community service.”
It’s all about gratitude, he insists. Except for gas money, he doesn’t get a cent. What’s more, he’s never missed an appointment. Even more amazing is the fact that Movsesian has been driving for 65 years and never been cited for a traffic violation.
His passengers have included widows and widowers, shut-ins, the infirmed, cancer victims and others with debilitating illnesses. A sense of humor or kind word is sometimes the best medicine he can provide on each of his journeys. One time he put a birthday celebration on hold to meet a commitment.
“Be positive, upbeat,” he insists. “I transported a woman once whose husband was the son of an ace World War 1 pilot and president of Eastern Airlines. She had some stories to tell and so did I. It made the trip seem quicker because she didn’t have time to dwell upon it.”
The upside is a good report from a doctor or a thankful patient showing gratitude at Christmas. Or perhaps a simple smile for a simple deed. There’s also a downside — the many funerals and wakes he’s attended from patients who’ve grown close to him over the years.
“There’s a sense of compassion that develops,” Movsesian points out. “Some of them bake me cookies and show other forms of appreciation. I see them in the lobby, hobbling around or with their heads covered and thank God I have my health. It’s a very humble and rewarding experience. You feel the empathy.”
NEET is a non-profit volunteer program serving the elderly in 14 communities throughout Merrimack Valley. Volunteer drivers provide door-to-door transportation for the elderly to local and out-of-town medical appointments, essential shopping and social interaction when other means are either unavailable or unaffordable. Simply put, it’s a transportation of last resort.
The program is approaching its 30th year and is based in Amesbury. To emphasize the scope of its work, volunteer drivers like Movsesian went around the world approximately four times (126,182 miles) in one year. It’s a vital link in insuring that elders have access to needed services and opportunities.
“If it wasn’t for them, many seniors wouldn’t be able to meet their appointments and could possibly suffer dire circumstances,” Movsesian adds. “It’s the DRIVE that motivates me and I’m not just talking automobiles. I find a purpose and pursue it with passion.”
When Movsesian isn’t transporting patients, he’s sending supplies to Armenia as part of an IMEC (International Medical Equipment Collaborative) team from the Knights of Vartan “Arakadz” Lodge. The agency has serviced health centers in Berdzor, Kovsakan, Ishkhnanadzor, Vartut and Moshatagh. The result? A significant reduction in mortality rates.
He has campaigned for an Armenian Genocide curriculum in high schools north of Boston remains an active member of the Armenian Genocide Commemorative Committee of Merrimack Valley — a span that’s covered 35 years and included stints as chairman.
With the Knights of Vartan, Movsesian has served as commander. He’s a prominent Rotarian and board member of Armenian Library & Museum of America (ALMA). Movsesian has gone to bat for the elderly in other ways as a member of the North Andover Council on Aging. He’s also been a Big Brother for 44 years and member of Saggahew Masonic Lodge of Haverhill over five decades.
Over the past 54 years, he’s served as a Sunday School teacher, Parish Council chairman, Diocesan delegate, secretary and treasurer of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church of Haverhill, earning him the prestigious St. Nerses Shnorhali Medal for distinguished service.
In a statement from His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Catholicos of Alle Armenians Movsesian was praised for putting his abilities and God-given talents to use with a humble spirit and absolute dedication toward the prosperity and edification of the Mother Church.
Movsesian joined NEET after retiring from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company where he had spent 38 years. He is married to the former Charlotte Gulezian whose support for her husband’s many projects has been unwavering. The couple resides in North Andover where Movsesian originated Moses Apiary — Home of Happy Hive Honey — after his father.
Of utmost pride is his military service. Movsesian served as a radar technician in World War 2 with the U.S. Army Air Force prior to graduating from Boston University.
Despite it all, Movsesian’s life appears in cruise control and there’s no sign of ever letting up.
“I’m grateful for being able to work for such an organization as NEET as well as the others,” he says. “By the grace of God, I want to continue for as long as He will permit me.”