Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Joann "Josie" Arvanigian

January 6, 1939 - June 12, 2020
Portage, MI


Graveside Service

Thursday, June 18, 2020
12:30 PM EDT
Portage Central Cemetery
7719 S. Westnedge Ave.
Portage, MI 49002


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.

American Heart Association / American Stroke Association Memorial or Tribute Donation
3816 Paysphere Circle
Chicago, IL 60674
(800) 242-8721
Web Site

Community Healing Centers
2615 Stadium Dr
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 343-1651
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

VanderSalm's Flower Shop & Garden Center
1120 S. Burdick St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(269) 343-2671
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a zest for life that was contagious to all who were near, Joann “Josie” Arvanigian made a significant impact on the lives of so many. She took pride in everything she did, and she took her roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker to heart. Joann was always one to keep busy and, although she experienced so many of the best things life has to offer, sharing these experiences with others is what was truly important to her. There was no greater joy in her life than her family and Joann was happiest when surrounded by their love. Life will never be the same without her here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy and will never be forgotten.

The 1930s are remembered as some of the toughest days we’ve faced as a nation. The effects of the Great Depression were felt around the world. Amidst this time, also came incredible inventions such as Scotch Tape, Monopoly, and the ball point pen. As the nation bounced back at the end of the decade, there was cause for great celebration in the lives of Neshan and Satanig (Chickagian) Sirabian as they welcomed the birth of their baby girl, Armenee Joann, on January 6, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. Raised in the family home in Detroit, she was the youngest of five. As she was a welcome surprise, her next closest sibling, Harold, was 10 years older than baby Joann. Joann’s father was a cobbler who repaired shoes while her mother was a church leader who enthusiastically ran the ladies auxiliary for many years. As a young girl, she loved the Tigers and regularly hopped on the bus to go downtown to watch the games. Her parents often gave her a nickel to go the movies on Saturday afternoons, and she never passed up an opportunity to stop for a burger at the local greasy spoon. She attended local schools and graduated from Cooley High School in Detroit in 1957.

New and exciting changes were in store for Joann when she met the young man of her dreams. His name was George Arvanigian. They met through the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and only had the opportunity to see each other occasionally as he lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. At the time, several big cities had AYF groups where kids from different locations would come together for various activities. They even had their own Olympics! After a short courtship, Joann and George were married in 1959 after having seen one another only a handful of times. The newlyweds settled in Worcester, which is where their son, Greg, was born. During that time, George worked at a corrugated box company. During the holidays, the couple also peddled Christmas trees on the family lot. As George accepted additional job offers and promotions, they moved to Philadelphia, where they welcomed their daughter Karen, and later to Howell, Michigan where they completed their family with the birth of their little angel, Leslie. In 1971, they started Arvco Container Corporation after moving to Kalamazoo just a few years prior. Joann stayed home to raise their three children while she and her husband grew their business, one that is still proudly in the family today and a staple within the community.

Joann enjoyed her life as a wife and mother. She was a wonderful mom who had dinner on the table every night and was always the last to sit down to eat; she never had a warm meal. Her cooking, including traditional Armenian foods, was enthusiastically consumed by all who tasted it! She was a socialite at heart who loved to entertain. She created a home of warmth, love and laughter, but don’t try to get one over on her or you may get the evil eye or the wrath of the plastic spatula! Her home was always immaculate and she made a point of staying on top of things. A common phrase every evening was, “Kids get your bikes out of the way so your dad can get the car in the garage.” A phrase that still rings in their ears today.

Later, Joann was thrilled to become a grandmother to Andrea, Alex, Nick, and Nate. She made it to as many of her grandchildren's events and activities as she could, supporting them in their sports, plays, and aspirations. She made every holiday special and created many lasting memories.

She and George purchased a second home in Naples, FL, but sadly they only spent one winter there together before George passed away in 1989. Later in life, she was fortunate enough to be able to escape the brutal Michigan winters and enjoy the Florida warmth and sunshine. She cultivated many meaningful and lasting friendships with other snowbirds.

As her family and friends can attest, Joann was not one to let grass grow under her feet. She could always find something to do. Over the years, Joann she tried her hand at bowling, tennis, bridge, and golf. She even made a hole in one at the age of 75 at the Kalamazoo Country Club on hole #12! In addition, Joann was the first female president of KCC and, being the exceptional cook that she was, always had a helpful tip ready for the chefs in the kitchen. During her later years Joann would frequently meet her friends at the country club to play bridge and over time she became quite an avid player.

Prior to his passing, Joann and George were fortunate enough to enjoy travelling the world. Through the years they traveled to Japan, China, and Europe. A city girl at heart she loved her annual shopping trips to NYC with her daughters. On her most recent trip, her kids took her for a private tour of the New York Stock Exchange. Joann was thrilled as she had taught herself the ins and outs of investing after George’s death. The CNBC ticker was a mainstay on the TV screen at home, unless a Detroit Tigers or Lions game was on. Joann also loved casinos and had a chance opportunity to shoot craps with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. The Desert Inn was one of Joann’s favorite places as they treated her like a high roller, even though she didn’t consider herself one.

Through the life she lived each day, Joann Arvanigian was a gift to so many. She was outgoing and at times a little feisty. If there was one word to describe Joann, it would be spunky! A leader in many ways, if Joann didn’t like the rules, she would work to change them. Her strength and resilience were an inspiration. Joann never shied away from speaking her mind and taught others the importance of being true to yourself. Deeply loved, she will be forever missed.

Joann Arvanigian, Age 81, of Portage, died on June 12, 2020. Joann was preceded in death by her husband of 30 years, George Arvanigian; 3 siblings: Doris Sirabian, Dorothy Mossoian, and Harry Sirabian; and her parents. Surviving are her children: Gregory (Jennifer) Arvanigian, Karen Arvanigian, and Leslie Thomas; grandchildren: Andrea Arvanigian, Alexander Arvanigian, Nicholas (Hannah) Arvanigian, and Nathan Thomas; a brother: Harold (Laura) Sirabian; and many nieces and nephews.

A graveside service will take place on Thursday (JUN 18) at 12:30 p.m. at Portage Central Cemetery, 7719 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage. Visit Joann’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Community Healing Centers or American Heart Association. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.