Life Story Visitation
Life Story Service
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.
St. John Armenian Church
22001 Northwestern Hwy
Southfield, MI 48075
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Joe Andonian, words such as hardworking, positive, and friendly come to mind, however, perhaps the word that paints the most vivid picture of his life is selfless. He was always looking for ways to help others. Born with a natural way with people, Joe lived his life to the fullest. His wonderful collection of memories will be his greatest gift to all who knew and loved him.
The Roaring Twenties was a period of economic prosperity with a distinctive cultural edge. Jazz music, as well as the automotive industry, were booming. With the media focused on sports heroes and movie figures, Karnig Andonian and Zumrout Kacharian welcomed home their newborn son, Joseph, on October 20, 1923. Joining his older siblings Geneva, Jake, and Valrich, his birth brought his parents great joy. He was later followed by his baby brothers, Mike and Eddie.
His parents fled the Armenian massacre from the Turkish people and settled in Pontiac, Michigan. His father supported the family by working as a shoemaker. When Joe started school, he did not speak English which motivated him to grow as a student. His family stressed the importance of education and he worked hard to not let them down. As a young person, he was awarded a medal from the city Mayor for saving a stranger’s life from drowning. This early memory became a source of character in his life to always do good for others. Joe proudly graduated from Pontiac High School and pursued higher education at General Motors Institute in Flint. Ambitious and fiercely independent, he put himself through school by taking advantage of their work-study program. After graduating from GMI, he joined the United States Navy as a pilot. Once the war was over, he took the opportunity to use his GI bill funds to study at the University of Michigan. He started out in medicine but later switched to their law degree program.
While attending his niece’s wedding, he met, Nancy Tarpinian, who would change the course of his life forever. Joe was immediately drawn to her beauty and struck up a conversation with her that lasted a lifetime. Although he wasn’t finished with school, the happy couple joined in marriage on July 9, 1949. Together, they started their lives with only a couple of boxes of possessions between them. They were proud parents of their four wonderful children: Laura, Kristine, Arthur, and Susan.
They raised their family in Portage as Joe had landed there with his first job in the Patent Law department with the Upjohn Company. Later, he successfully started the licensing department with the company and soon became known as “the Father of Licensing”. During his employment, he was fortunate to travel the world with his job and with his family. He never took these experiences for granted. Joe served for thirty-five years before his mandatory retirement at sixty-five years of age. Knowledgeable and well-respected by his peers, he won the prestigious Upjohn Award during his tenure at the company. Never one to remain idle, he went into private practice until the age of ninety.
As a father, he was supportive and engaged in his children’s lives. He drove Art to his early morning hockey practices and cheered him on at the baseball diamonds. He also attended countless dance recitals and participated in his children’s extracurricular events. He was a strong supporter of his daughter’s pursuit of law school and law degree. When personally motioning her into the court system he had to make frequent stops due to his emotional response. Joe taught his children the importance of being frugal as well as having a strong work ethic. His strong commitment to his family carried on when he became a grandfather. Joe never missed an invitation to attend his grandkid's special celebrations and events. The value of education continued throughout his life. Joe’s career was exceptionally successful allowing him to pay for his grandchildren’s books during their college years.
Joe was active throughout his life. He enjoyed daily runs from anywhere he was and he a regular at Milham Golf Course in Kalamazoo. Fit and full of energy, in his seventies, he and his daughter, Sue, and her future husband, Bart, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. After a night of camping in the canyon, he sang his way back up to the top. On a trip to Rome at age ninety, Joe climbed the up the steps of the Colosseum. He was currently the oldest active member of his local YMCA in Lowell and even filmed a fitness commercial for them. His message for all was to stay active and get the most out of living. Joe believed in the philosophy of using your energy and good health before you lose it!
Joe held many special interests in addition to education. He and Nancy enjoyed vacationing together over the years. They took their motorhome all over the country and their favorite was to head out west and explored many areas with Las Vegas as their ultimate destination. Joe loved playing Blackjack and he always sat next to the dealer! He was a big fan of his Michigan teams including, U of M football, the Detroit Lions, and Detroit Tigers baseball. An avid reader, he was known to read a book a week! Joe especially favored James Patterson’s novels. He also enjoyed watching classic movies. When it came to food, he always ate smart and healthy and whenever possible enjoyed his favorite Armenian foods. He loved being on the Talon Flight in 2017 with his son Art as his companion. It was a great honor to be flown out to Washington D.C. and to be in the presence of so many others who served.
Joe adored his grandchildren and enjoyed their visits over the years. As his family grew, so did his pride. He loved financing the family vacations and spending time together. There simply wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his special family. He was happy to remain active up until he fell in March of 2023 and broke his hip. Accepting his fate, Joe was incredibly thankful to have lived such an abundant life. Loving and kind, there is no doubt that he will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by all those who knew and loved him.
Joseph Andonian, age 99, of Lowell and formerly of Portage, Michigan, died on Sunday, June 18, 2023. Members of his family include Laura Lentenbrink, of Portage; Arthur (Laurel) Andonian, of Kalamazoo; Susan (Bart) Dempsey, of Lowell. He is also survived by his eight grandchildren: Bryan (Maricica) Lentenbrink, Jenni (Alex Santana) Lentenbrink, Alex (Teresa) Andonian, McKenna Andonian, Brett (Anisa) Dempsey, Blain Dempsey, Bryce Dempsey, Savanna Dempsey; five Great Grandchildren: Tom and Oliver Lentenbrink, Lucas Santana, Liam Santana, Georgia Dempsey. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nancy, in 2004; his daughter, Kristine in 1975, son in law, Tom Lentenbrink 2019 and all of his brothers and sisters.
Life Story services will be held at 1:00 PM on Sunday, July 2, 2023 with visitation one hour prior to the service. Visit Joe’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the St. John Armenian Church.