BY TOM VARTABEDIAN
WATERTOWN—John Kebadjian considers himself a very rich man. Not in terms of monetary wealth, but in good friends, good health, and service to others. Kebadjian has spent the past five years as a consummate volunteer for Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives as office manager and Jack-of-all-trades.
Recently, at Project SAVE Archives’ Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, John received his Five-Year Volunteer Appreciation Award. Project SAVE considers itself blessed many times over with John’s devotion to keeping the Archives well organized and ship shape.
In the last five years, John has toiled over 7,806 hours, and he’s still climbing. If you are at the office bright and early enough, you’ll see him come in from his other job as a school crossing guard, to unlock the Archives’ door. After working 8 am to 2 pm, he leaves to take care of the safety of his schoolchildren as they head home. He’s like a perpetual green light in a traffic signal—always on the go, donating 30 hours a week to Project SAVE’s mission. This is his way of making a difference.
“No doubt about it, John is a very valuable part of our Archives staff team,” said executive director Ruth Thomasian. “Along with his great management skills, he brings good cheer into our office every day. He is a joy to work with and lightens our load in many ways, making a huge difference in our office operations. We can’t imagine what we would do without him. We’re very fortunate he came along when he did—he has been vital part of Project SAVE ever since.”
In 2009, he and Ruth reconnected after many years. John likes to tell the story of how he bumped into her one day. He had moved into the Coolidge School Apartments in East Watertown where all the Armenian kids had gone to school.
“The Coolidge School happens to be right next to the house where Ruth lived,” he recalls. “One Saturday when she was out gardening, she looked up and waved. We chatted over the back fence. She remembered that I had been a church treasurer and wondered if I would volunteer for Project SAVE doing light bookkeeping. I said ‘yes’ without hesitating.”
After several months, Project SAVE’s archivist Suzanne Adams asked John to consider coming in more often to help her with office organization. He said he must decline for the time being. The reason: John was caring for his sick brother every day. But after his brother died, he started coming in every day.
John jumped aboard with both hands and feet in motion and became office manager. This year’s Project SAVE volunteer luncheon held Nov. 11 at The Talk Restaurant in downtown Watertown turned out to be the perfect occasion to recognize him, with 30 guests attending.
John was humbled by the gesture and was presented a handsome photo award of himself at his desk opening a box of photographs to be sleeved, with his fluorescent yellow crossing-guard jacket flipped over his chair, a reminder of his active life.
“John’s been so caring and goal-oriented, looking to create more space for us by organizing collections and files,” added Thomasian. “When I asked him to be a photo donor, he agreed—‘But only after I get things better organized around the office,’ he said. “It’s been a work in progress ever since. He is now almost ready to become a photo donor himself! Thank You, John.”