Jack Sarmanian turns 80

Edgecomb selectman is in fourth term and volunteers for the American Red Cross
Posted:  Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 2:15pm

Jack Sarmanian turned 80 on Aug. 4 and celebrated his birthday with 30 relatives Aug. 5 and 6. The celebration began with a quiet evening on Saturday, Aug. 5 with his wife Sandy and daughter Julie, and ended with his son, David, and several other Massachusetts relatives enjoying a large dinner of lobster and oysters at the Boothbay Lobster Wharf.

Turning 80 isn’t a remarkable feat. But Sarmanian’s continued involvement in community affairs during his golden years is noteworthy. Retirement, for most, is a time for doing less, but for Sarmanian, his days are packed with community service. In May, Sarmanian was re-elected to his fourth term as an Edgecomb selectman. He has also been an American Red Cross volunteer since 2010.

Sarmanian has four degrees in psychology and social work. He spent 28 years in Massachusetts and New York counseling youth and families involved with drug addiction and domestic violence issues. In 2010, he was recruited by the American Red Cross to serve as a disaster mental health counselor. Sarmanian specializes in helping victims deal with pain and depression associated with a tragedy.

Sarmanian has been deployed four times by the Red Cross providing assistance to people facing life-changing events. He has assisted tornado victims in Minnesota and Oklahama, flood victims in West Virginia and campus shooting victims in Oregon. Like most Red Cross volunteers, he arrived at the scene within 24 hours.

Sarmanian became a Red Cross volunteer through his involvement with the local chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The American Red Cross needed licensed social workers to counsel victims experiencing life crises and hardship from natural disasters.

“They heard me speak and asked if I would become a volunteer,” he said. “I took some of their classes which prepared me for going on deployments counseling those experiencing grief and depression following a natural disaster.”

In a three-year period, he was deployed four times for 10-day periods counseling natural disaster victims. His last deployment was in June 2016 to West Virginia. In recent months, Sarmanian’s role in the American Red Cross has been as an instructor in psychological first aid. He is assisting military personnel and their families dealing with the adverse effects of combat. He speaks monthly at the Lewiston Veterans Center and travels to various U.S. military bases.

“My days of going on a 10-day deployment are probably behind me,” Sarmanian said. “Now I’m working with veterans either leaving for or returning from a troubled area. I speak to them and their families about coping with stress, post-traumatic disorder, depression and rehabilitation. The important part is getting them to talk about their experience. They go through a lot which is probably why 20 veterans a day reportedly commit suicide.”

Sarmanian has retired twice from full-time jobs. In 2000, Sarmanian was 63 and looking for something to do. He signed up for substituting teacher at Falmouth High School before being hired first as a part-time then as a full-time social worker. He wrote a grant resulting in the school receiving additional federal Medicaid funds which expanded his job from part- to full-time. When federal funds were no longer available, Sarmanian retired again, nine years later.

In his second retirement, his desire to serve the community remains. He chairs the board of selectmen. It meets every other week. He also serves as the general assistance administrator. The town of about 1,200 has no town manager or administrative assistant. This requires Sarmanian and fellow selectmen Mike Smith and Ted Hugger to have an additional supervisory role over municipal operations.

So why is an octogenarian still dedicating his time to serving the public through volunteerism?

“I do it because there are still a lot of things to be done. As a culture, we must make an investment in people and that is why I’m still an active volunteer.” After serving nine years as a selectman, Sarmanian wasn’t sure he should seek another three-year term. He decided against running until a resident asked him a question.

“I thought it might be time and let somebody else do it, but I was asked, what I’d do if I wasn’t a selectman, so I decided to run again,” he said.

Sarmanian grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts. He received psychology and master’s degrees from Boston University and Simmons College along with a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies from the University of Massachusetts. In 1972, he and his wife purchased a cottage on Cross Point Road which eventually became their year round home. In 1994, the couple purchased a new home on Shore Road. Sarmanian credits local residents for making the community a wonderful place to live.

“It’s a nice community with a lot of decent people committed to making the town a better place,” he said. “We are  a small town, but have a lot going on. It’s due to all the people volunteering on all the boards and committees working to make it all possible.”

As retirees, the Sarmanians find time for themselves. They are both antique collectors who enjoy finding items at  yard sales and flea markets. Jack has a large collection of tools which he started when refurbishing his Edgecomb residences. Sandi collects linens, fine china, and silver items. So if you are looking for Jack Sarmanian at the selectmen’s meeting on Monday, Aug. 14, he won’t be there.  The Sarmanians are heading to the Madison Bouckville Flea Market in upstate New York looking for more collectibles.