Aristotle Onassis?


Varoujan “Pops” Karentz (Not to be Confused with Aristotle Onassis)

THIS PROFILE IS GOING TO BE A CHALLENGE, because we could write a book about Mr.”Pops” Karentz. He is a marvelous young man!

“Pops” had a 34-year career with Raytheon, where he specialized in “military electronics,” gathering intelligence on large space crafts. In particular, he collected and analyzed data on Soviet ballistic missiles, using radar to track multiple warheads that could be directionally programmed from one missile.

An Armenian, Pops has written four books, including one on the history of the Ottoman empires’ 1915 genocide, also known as Armenian Holocaust, of an estimated 1 – 1.5 million Armenians. Although his mother and father were survivors, he never met his grandparents and aunts and uncles. His books track those who fled, how they fled, where they fled and why the came here and were welcomed into the United States. He is currently Chairman of the Armenian Historical Society.

Pops is also active with the Beavertail Lighthouse, built in 1856, the third oldest lighthouse in the United States, which lies on the Southernmost point of Conanicut Island in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island in Beavertail State Park, on a site where beacons have stood since the early 18th century.

He is a docent at the Jamestown, Rhode Island Historical Society, where he lives in the summer, as well as the Herreshoff Maritime Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island. Additionally, he was heavily involved in an Oliver Hazard Perry exercise to build a tall 190-foot, three masted vessel, in which children are taken out of school for 2-3 weeks.

Pops has also written a book on the US Life Saving Service, a predecessor to the US Coast Guard. This story has never been told. In the late 1800’s when ships were basically shipping commerce and there were no lighthouses, lifesavers were stationed every seven miles down the East Coast. There were a total of 280 along the East Coast. If a ship was in danger of there was a shipwreck, the ship would light a lantern. At that point the lifesavers would row out to the ship(s) or shoot out a line to the ship for passengers to slide to safety. In 1926 the US Coast Guard took over their operations.

As a Board Member of the Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County, “Pop’s” interest in learning to sail began at a young age in Narragansett Bay where he sailed in his Olympic Class Starboat. “During the winter of 1910-1911 twenty-two Stars were under construction at the boat works of Isaac E. Smith, located in Port Washington, New York and another 11 Stars, known at the time as “Nahant Bugs,” were being built by Richard T. Green & Co. of Chelsea, Massachusetts. These 33 boats were the first Stars to be built. Now, more than 90 years and 8,000 Stars later, Star boats continue to be built.” (Source: International Star Class Yacht Racing Association.) Pops had Starboat # 30.

After retirement when Pops and his wife were sailing in the Bahamas, he met Charlie (Youth Sailing Board Chairman) and Chris Pope at a beach party. They later met up again and sailed together from the British Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico. Pops subsequently sailed to Vero Beach to visit with Charlie and fell in love with the City. Three months later Charlie called him and said the house next door to him was for sale. In 2007 he and his wife bought it.

At a dinner one night at the Vero Beach Club early in 2009 he noticed there were no kids around. As a member of Cruisers Living on Dirt (CLODS), a group of 60-80 ex-sailors who met every Wednesday morning on the Miracle Mile, he raised the issue of organizing a youth sailing program and wrote a concept paper.

Of course Charlie stepped up to join the brigade and they approached the marina to see if they could create a base of operations. The marina agreed, as did the Vero Beach City Council, and they ran the Youth Sailing Foundation program out of a storage shed. At that time they were “cranking” out Optimists. They outgrew the facility in one year, relocated to the Vero Beach Power Squadron facilities; and following that YSF relocated its current World Headquarters. The rest is history.

Pops believes with “a lot advanced thinking” YSF can really grow. He believes the Lagoon is underutilized and there is no recreational sailing. He would like to see the City step-up and promote recreation on the Lagoon where sailors can rent or borrow boats, anchor out at one of the island and have a picnic. Unfortunately, he says the City does not have the organization to do so.

He’s quite a guy, this “Pops” Karentz.

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