hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

February 26, 2010

Poor Tom's Almanac: Kazarosian set the bar high, but reached even higher

Tom Vartabedian

Paul Kazarosian was a man of many words: Family. Fairness. Loyalty. Humility. Integrity.

He was an attorney; a storyteller; a husband, father and grandfather; a host; a mentor and a friend.

His death on Feb. 5 at the age of 86 closed the book on a law career that spanned 53 years' membership in the Massachusetts Bar.

In the courtroom, he had a voracious appetite for justice and argued his cases with passion.

Away from the courtroom, he loved to tell a story and would converse easily on many topics — politics, sports, current events and his Armenian heritage.

When he gathered with friends at the Monday Evening Club, conversation became a work of art. Members met at each others' homes to talk about or debate the issues of the day. Those lucky enough to have been a part of those evenings say he rarely lost the debate.

Paul Kazarosian looked at life through rose-colored glasses. He was of a sunny disposition, combined with honesty and integrity of character.

He was an intelligent and well-educated man, but his real genius was his ability to be a friend.

Had you been at his wake, you would have heard from those upon whom he bestowed that gift.

John Nazaretian said Kazarosian became something of a surrogate father to him after Nazaretian lost his own father in World War II.

"He taught me discipline and set an example of loyalty," Nazaretian said. "Paul was the best friend I ever had."

Nazaretian said Kazarosian had a "brilliant mind that never stopped working." He expected others to exercise their minds, as well, Nazaretian said. "He made me learn the capitals of every state."

Retired Haverhill District Court Judge Kevin Herlihy said he never knew a better lawyer than Paul Kazarosian, calling him a specialist in his field.

"He never forgot his roots," added Herlihy. "Paul was the perfect blend of a small town and a big city attorney. He represented his profession and city with extreme loyalty."

No one knew Paul Kazarosian better than his family.

Daughter Marsha, who followed her father into the family business, talked about how he influenced her career and taught her lessons that remain to this day.

"He was my dad, my boss and my mentor," she confirmed. "And he was humble. My father's favorite briefcase was a Demoulas shopping bag."

Marsha Kazarosian noted her father's reputation as a fine host — something to which those who attended his firm's popular Christmas parties can attest.

The son of Armenian genocide survivors, Paul Kazarosian made his way with sheer persistence.

His father worked as a barber and his mother toiled in the shoe shops. He put himself through Harvard, then the Sorbonne in Paris where he drove a cab to pass himself off as a Frenchman and earn a few extra francs.

His wife, Margaret, remembers the early days of his practice. "When my husband first started, he had an ingenious way of making himself seem in great demand," she said. "Paul may have had only one or two clients a week. He would schedule his clients at about the same time so that one of them could be waiting while the other arrived. After a while, he built a very lucrative and well-respected firm."

While Kazarosian built his law career, Margaret Kazarosian taught music in the Haverhill schools.

Married 61 years, the Kazarosians raised three children at their Haverhill home near Plug Pond, where in retirement they welcomed birds and other wildlife to their beautiful yard.

Daughter Paula Steele is a bio-pharmaceutical consultant in Maine and recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.

Son Mark is an economics professor and Stonehill College.

The Kazarosians are grandparents to six grandsons; one of them, Marc Moccia, said his grandfather "was always teaching me something, whether it was some practical lessons in life or the names of every United States president."

Paul Kazarosian spent the last five years at the Hannah Duston Nursing Home, where he ultimately succumbed to Alzheimer's disease.

May he rest in peace.

Tom Vartabedian is a retired reporter and photographer for The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this weekly column.