At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Armenia Tree Project
400 West Cummings Park
Woburn, MA 01801
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Clara Santoog Mayhanagian (May) would agree that she was one of the sweetest people around. She exemplified what it means to work hard, and her tireless devotion to her family business was unmatched. Clara loved others deeply, and she was an amazing mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Known as Mom or Grandma to so many, she touched the lives of countless others in her community in such a special way. Life will never be the same without Clara here, but she leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
Clara’s parents fled the Armenian genocide during WW1 and after immigrating to the United States, Kireken and Vartanoosh (Vartanian) Krekorian were blessed with the birth of the baby girl they named Clara Santoog on November 29, 1928, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Clara was raised in the family home on Richmond Street alongside her younger sister, Betty. Her father worked in food concessions with popcorn, peanuts, and caramel corn at fairs and festivals throughout Michigan and also opened a business across from the fish hatchery in Paris, MI. In addition to caring for their home and family, Clara’s mother helped in the family business. The concessions business was a family affair as they traveled to fairs all over Michigan. Clara herself would have a history at the Holland Tulip Time Festival for over 70 years. Clara and her husband also had a popcorn wagon at the old Kent County airport, now known as Roger B Chaffee Blvd.
She attended school up north near Big Rapids and also school in Grand Rapids and later graduated from Union High School in 1944. Clara loved dancing, music and cooking, but the family business came first.
Life was forever changed for Clara when she married Henry Mayhanagian whose family also fled Armenia during the genocide and immigrated to the U.S.. They were married in December of 1949, at St. Marks Episcopal Church in downtown Grand Rapids. They had a reception at the Pantlind Hotel. Clara and Henry made their home on 32nd Street in Wyoming and welcomed two children, Gary in 1954 and Debra in 1956, into their hearts and home. Although she and Henry were later divorced, they were forever grateful for the children they shared. Later, Clara married Jerry Balzeski, and they were married for 15 years. She was an amazing mother and homemaker who was there for her family in addition to working in the family business. Clara loved cooking traditional Armenian food, rice pilaf, boreg, dolma, and baklava. She sewed all her daughter’s dance outfits when Deb was a girl. For years Clara attended St. Paul’s Church and later followed her children the Grand Rapids First church.
Clara spent her entire life in the family business. She even had her own wagon for a couple years with her longtime friend, Margie. A hard worker, Clara pulled the wagon to the fairs herself until she was 87, often working seven days a week while moving from one fair to the next. She worked fairs in Allegan, Hillsdale, Adrian, Cassopolis, Ionia, Detroit and of course, she continued to be at the Tulip Time Festival. Last year, a customer she befriended over twenty years ago at the Tulip Time Festival put together a trolley ride and had Fox 17 News do a story on Clara and her popcorn wagon as she had worked there for so long. This was quite an honor for her and an opportunity to see so many of her fellow concessionaires one last time. In her 70 years of working the Tulip Time Festival, last year was the only time she had ever got to see all the tulips and the Tulip Time Dancers. Many people came to see her at the different events year after year as she was a constant presence at the fairs and festivals and in the lives of the festival goers. She always called everyone “Honey,” and welcomed many with a heartfelt hug. Clara dearly loved all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom worked in the family business with her as long as they were willing to do it her way. She set the bar high by her work ethic and care for details, but mostly her love of people.
In 2017, Clara and her loved ones were given the devastating news that she was diagnosed with cancerous brain tumors. She took all the chemo and radiation that she could as she wanted to just get back to work more than anything. Clara later moved in with her daughter Deb’s family where she received the most loving care. Faith Hospice offered the necessary medical attention to make her last days comfortable
Energetic, faith-filled, and so gracious, Clara Santoog Mayhanagian touched the lives of many in her own special way. She made everyone she met feel like the most important person in the world, and she loved others without condition. Clara was loved by everyone who met her, and with her warm, inviting, and gracious personality she drew others near with ease. Dearly loved, she will be forever missed.
Clara Santoog Mayhanagian (Krekorian), aged 89, of Grand Rapids, passed away at home, in the presence of her loving family, on Saturday, November 24, 2018. She was preceded in death by her grandson, Brandon and her half-brother, Edward Donoyan The daughter of the late Kireken and Vartanoosh Krekorian, she is survived by her children, Gary and Laurie Mayhanagian and Debra and Michael Groot; 10 grandchildren; 11 great grandchildren; sister Betty Kollender; nieces, nephews and friends. Known as “Mom” or “Grandma” to everyone she met, Clara ran a popcorn wagon around Michigan at many fairs and festivals all her life, until 2 years ago. She was a remarkable mother and grandmother, and everyone loved her. She will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered. A service to celebrate Clara’s life will be held on Thursday, November 29, at 1:30 pm at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Rosedale Memorial Park. Family and friends may meet her family at the funeral home on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 6:00 – 9 :00 pm. Contributions in her memory may be made to Faith Hospice. To read more about Clara’s life, to sign her guest book and to leave your own memory of her, visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com