Obituary: Henry Kazarian, A True Townie Who Traveled The World

Photo: Henry Kazarian

Henry V. Kazarian, a lifelong Belmont resident who became a happy hodophile – the word for those who love to travel – died on Wednesday at Care One Lexington. He was 85.

He died of cancer, according to Donna Gasper, who was Kazarian’s tenant for 38 years, a long-time friend and for the final year of his life his caregiver.

“He was a townie through and through,” said Gasper. “He loved this town.”

For voters who cast their ballots at Town Hall, Kazarian was an election day fixture. The Precinct 2 election warden for many years, Kazarian would greet and assist voters, patiently instructing them on the proper procedure of placing a ballot into the scanner and calling the polls closed at 8 p.m.

“For the Town Clerk’s office, Henry did so much for us and was a dedicated and enthusiastic Election Warden at Precinct 2 and Town Meeting Member of Precinct 4 who consistently represented the Waverley Square area very well,” said Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Born in 1935 to Natalie and Hampartzoom Kazarian, Henry, his parents and his older brother, Vartkess, moved a year later to a two-family on Banks Street (off of White Street) which, with the exception of a few years, would be his home for his entire life.

Kazarian attended the Kendall Elementary School and Belmont Middle School before graduating from Belmont High in 1952. He matriculated at Northeastern University where he earned a BA in history and government with a concentration in English. After graduation, Kazarian enlisted in the US Army and was honorably discharged a year later.

For the next four decades, Kazarian worked for the town of Belmont as a custodian at the Town Hall complex and Police Headquarters.

Kazarian was a Town Meeting member for 28 years, a board member of the Council on Aging and a volunteer at Habitat. He was also devoted to the Beech Street Center, which he promoted to his friends and community during, at times, the contentious debate whether to build it.

After his retirement, Kazarian spent many years as a member of “The Situation Room” made up of old buddies who would steal away the mornings (and sometimes, the afternoons) at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Trapelo Road. Considered the group’s historian and “book of knowledge,” Kazarian told an observer “Whatever is in season is in style here.”

His interests were varied and extensive: softball umpire, following local and high school sports, reading poetry (he had more than 150 volumes) and attending plays by the Belmont Dramatic Club.

“He said ‘I like the Encyclopedia Britannica delivered to my house. I want to learn it from a book’,” said Gasper.

But Kazarian’s true hobby was to set sail with two or three longtime friends and explore the world: Portugal, Spain, Paris, the French Riviera, five times to Mexico (always on the beach) and Hawaii were just a few of the destinations. And it wasn’t just traveling to far flung places: each year he’d drive to Pennsylvania to attend a beer festival before swinging by Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“He would get a fruitcake and take two or three of his boyhood friends up to Montreal for a ‘visit’. He was a character,” said Gasper.

Kazarian began to slow down five years ago, unable to make his daily walk to Harvard Square for a coffee and to read the paper; he’d need to take the bus halfway. After feeling poorly for the past two years, Kazarian was diagnosed in late October with a growth in his stomach that could not be halted.

“Henry faced his last challenge much as he lived his life, courageously with a kind and generous spirit,” said Gasper. “He was a wonderful friend to all and a true gentle soul.”

He is predeceased by his immediate family. Funeral services and church services will be private due to restrictions placed on gatherings A celebration to honor and remember Kazarian will be held at a later date.

Those wishing to honor Henry with a memorial donation in his name may do so by check payable to the Town of Belmont designated for his beloved Beech Street Center, said Kazarian