Life Story / Obituary
Naomi Pustay was a woman completely full of love and laughter. She was a wonderful woman, who brought so much joy to the people around her. Naomi was a hardworking lady, a loving mother, grandmother and friend, and a funny, fun-loving clown. She was known as “Mama the Clown,” which was the perfect alter-ego for Naomi. Today her love, and her laughter, lives on in all who knew her.
Naomi’s story began on a cool fall day in 1930, as the pumpkins were carved in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Those were desperate days in this country, which was caught in the teeth of the Great Depression, and times were so tough for so many. Yet on October 29, 1930, Leo and Ruth Ingersoll found a reason to celebrate, with the birth of a beautiful baby girl, a daughter they named Naomi. She was born at home, which interrupted her daddys noontime nap, becasue he was summoned to bring the bacon string to tie off the cord.
Naomi was the baby of four children in the family’s home, located at 1416 Powers NW in the city. Growing up during the Great Depression, everyone had to do their part, and Naomi was no different. She often recalled helping pick bushels of fruit with her family to earn extra money as a little girl. She also helped her father with his Ash service, too.
Naomi attended Harrison Park Elementary School, before heading off to Union High School. She worked in the library there, and made many friends that way, getting to know all of her classmates. Everyone loved Naomi, the non-stop joker with the great personality.
After she graduated from Union in 1948, Naomi began working as a waitress in several area taverns, and later worked at the Kroger Grocery Store on Michigan Avenue. It was her personal life that was about to get more interesting, however.
One day she met a young man named Albert Pustay, a Navy vet back from the war. They began dating, got married, and before they knew it, they were the proud parents of four fine children, Alan, Pat, Hope and Rodney, who made their mother so happy and proud.
Naomi was a wonderful mother, very loving, fast on her feet, and did whatever she needed to do to keep a roof over their head and food in their bellies. She always excelled at the latter, and could make a meal out of anything. Whatever she threw into her pot came out tasting delicious. Naomi was also a wonderful seamstress, who made many clothes for the kids over the years, too.
When her kids were old enough, Naomi went back to work, taking a job with the Knape & Vogt factory. She worked there for the next 30 years, and always took any overtime she was offered. Working all that time and keeping track of the kids wasn’t always easy, though, and the family joke was that Naomi forgot about little Rodney a few times, but always returned to pick him up!
Times were often tough on the family, and they did what they needed to do to get by. They moved around the city almost annually, and moved a remarkable 24 times in 27 years! The family didn’t mind too much, though. They always felt that wherever they lay their head was home. They went camping quite often as a result, and were members of the National Camper and Hiker Association, too.
Naomi divorced from Albert after almost 30 years, and promptly began living her new life. She had plenty to keep her busy and occupied, from her job at Knape & Vogt, to her “alter ego,” Mama the Clown. Beginning in the early 1970s, Naomi became active in many parades and gatherings, dressed as a clown, the perfect outfit for the fun-loving, funny lady. Her signature “move” was to “shimmy out of her britches” and reveal her long underwear, complete with a big red heart sewn onto her rear!
One night after a performance in 1986, Naomi went to the Swingin’ Door Tavern, dressed in her full clown costume. There she met a wonderful man named Terry Miller, and she told him if he wanted to see her real face, to come back to the bar the next night. He did, and the love that sparked between them was no joke. The two fell deeply in love, and were together the rest of her life. Terry was a wonderful partner to Naomi, and the man her children considered their real father.
Naomi and Terry shared a terrific relationship, and did much together over the years. They enjoyed traveling, and going to the Dulcimer Festival in Evart every year.
Naomi enjoyed many things of her own, too, from playing with jigsaw puzzles and board games with her grandkids, to playing bingo and baking cookies, too. And of course, she loved being a clown, whether in costume or out. She was active in the parades and events into the 1990s, though she kept the laughter coming even after she “retired.”
Eventually, Naomi began to slow, as her health declined. After a lifetime of hard work, the years began to take their toll on her. Sadly, Naomi died on Monday, June 23, 2008, at her home, with her beloved family by her side. She was 77.
Naomi was a wonderful woman, so genuine and generous, caring and compassionate. She was a hardworking lady, who devoted her life to her family, and to bringing joy to all those around her. She was a loving mother, grandmother, partner and friend, and a lady who always knew how to make us laugh. Today her love, and her laughter, lives on in all who knew her. She will be greatly missed.
She leaves with us her loved ones; Terry Miller of Walker her acting husband of 23 years and our stepfather; her children, Alan & Sue of New Hudson, Pat & Anita of Dorr, Hope of Grand Rapids and Rodney of Jamestown. Also surviving is her sister, Margaret Burke of Ludington; 7 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. She will be deeply missed by all who loved, cared, and knew her. A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11 AM on Friday at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 851 Leonard St. NW. Friends may meet the family on Thursday from 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the funeral home. Memorial contributions in her memory may be made to Heartland Hospice. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to read Naomi’s Lifestory, archive a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook if you are unable to attend.