BEDFORD, Mass. — At a time when the computer industry in Massachusetts was in fear about the impeding Y2K, Varoujan “Val” Asbedian saved the day.
Armed with three master’s degrees and a keen mind, Asbedian served as the state’s first Chief Information Officer.
The appointment not only centralized and consolidated four legislative IT groups under Asbedian but also signaled that lawmakers were becoming increasingly aware of technology’s role in society.
Flags in government buildings throughout his hometown of Bedford were lowered to half mast to an individual who not only embraced local and state politics but served as a vibrant member of the Armenian community.
His death on January 16 leaves behind an exemplary lifestyle applauded by one and all. His funeral took place at St. Stephen’s Armenian Church in Watertown, where Val had served on the altar and with the Board of Trustees while maintaining a strong spiritual life.
“The life of this person should always be considered a gift to his family and friends,” said Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian, pastor. “We should remember Val by emulating the significant goals he accomplished over his lifetime — to dream the same dreams and cherish the same values. Val was a talented and dedicated son, father, grandfather, a committed Armenian and faithful Christian.”
Asbedian’s top priority as a technical whiz was ensuring that a new $4 million web-based legislative system met its requirements with a staff that could manage it properly. The job took him all over the state and led to many sleepless nights.
In the process, Asbedian was instrumental in overseeing the implementation of this system, including Homeland Security and anything else dealing with technology-related legislation. Ostensibly, the glitch threatened to bring the world to a standstill, which didn’t occur under his watch.
“Val’s appointment heralded an entirely new era in the legislative management system, allowing the Commonwealth to keep pace with the challenges and opportunities technology affords us,” said then-House Speaker Thomas Finneran. “The new system which Val will oversee allows us to provide greater public access in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.”
While working on the Apollo 11 program in Houston, Texas, Asbedian helped put a man on the moon. One MBA from the University of Houston complemented two others from MIT in Cambridge and Adelphi University. He earned his undergraduate degree from City College of New York.
While immersing himself in aerospace technology, the role of safeguarding computers in the State House and across came naturally for Asbedian. He was affectionately known as Mister Y2K.
He was a man about town, serving nine years as a Bedford selectman and teaching night courses in business at Middlesex Community College while serving on its Board of Directors for a decade. In addition, he served on the Bedford Finance Committee, the Bedford Cable Television Committee and the Zoning Board of Appeals.
He was also a volunteer at the Bedford Veterans Administration facility and Household Goods in Action, doling out items to unfortunate citizens in need. He helped seniors with their income taxes and served for years on the Bedford Council on Aging.
In all, his service to the town extended 35 years, from 1979 to 2014.
“Val was attentive in keeping the cost of town services at a manageable and affordable level,” said Town Manager Rick Reed. “He had a great concern for its citizens, especially the elderly. Val will be missed by all who knew him, especially his loving family.”
The Armenian side was equally as distinct, growing up as a New York “Hyortik” AYF member, serving its central bodies and AYF Camp Hayastan Board of Directors for 25 years.
“The Armenian word ‘Asbed’ stands for chevalier or knight,” Rev. Antranig Baljian pointed out. “It was a name chosen by Val’s father to embody the chivalrous ideals and principals he wished in his children and grandchildren. Val was truly a knight in shining armor, full of devotion to God and country.”
Others mirrored similar sentiments to their friend, including Mesrob Odian, who knew Val as a 12-year-old. Both were interested in aviation and visited the Aviation Museum in Ohio together.
“Even in his ill state, he was concerned about genocide commemoration preparations a year ago,” Odian said. “He wanted to help. He wore that joyful smile and was so upbeat on everything. I have many fond memories of him on a motor scooter. Our daughter referred to him as Uncle Val the Rocket Scientist because he worked on the Lunear Excursion Module. His hugs were so tight, they almost hurt.”
John and Violet Dagdigian recall their friend whose smile would light up a room.
“Even with his declining health, he had that great smile on his face. It will help console us in our bereavement. Val was full of optimism, energy, accomplishment and dedication to the Armenian-American community.”
Tamar Hajian recalls a gentle man who was a towering figure in the 1960s throughout the Armenian Youth Federation.
“Val’s leadership and organizational skills at AYF conventions, Camp Hayastan and the New York’s World’s Fair in 1964 cannot be overlooked,” said Hajian. “He would often talk about Cuba where he was born and how his family persevered in Brooklyn, NY, where they settled. In an unassuming way, he convinced many young people to respect and advance their Armenian heritage.”
In addition to his wife of 50 years, Nancy (Fantazian) Asbedian, he leaves two children, Susan Ciaffi and her husband Marco, and James Asbedian and his wife Amy, along with six grandchildren and a legion of friends and acquaintances, including his brother-in-law, Dr. James Fantazian. He was predeceased by a brother, Kenneth.