Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

John Ohanyan

May 29, 1932 - October 28, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI



Tuesday, November 3, 2020
11:00 AM EST
Holy Spirit Parish
2230 Lake Michigan Dr. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-6369

Visitation for one hour prior (masks and social distancing required)

Web Site


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.

Gilda's Club
1806 Bridge St NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8300
Web Site

Armenia Fund
Web Site


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

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


With a life filled with so many experiences including both trials and triumphs, John Ohanyan touched the lives of so many in such a special way. He was hardworking and talented, and he spent a lifetime using his gifts to bring beauty to the world around him. Deeply devoted to his family, John was blessed to share much of his life with his true love. Together they welcomed a son and three grandchildren who were John’s greatest source of pride and joy. Deeply loved, he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his friends and loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.

The republic in Turkey formerly began in 1923, and with the ratification of the second constitution their shift to secular Westernization began and continued over the 10 years that followed. It was during this time of national shifting that Vicen and Ortans (Riccioli) Ohanyan announced the birth of the baby boy they named John on May 29, 1932, in Istanbul, Turkey. He was their second son as he was joined in his family by his older brother, Josef. To support their family, John’s father worked as a shoemaker while his mother cared for her family and home. They lived a comfortable life, and they even owned their own home.

Many of the character and practical skills John was most known for were established when he was growing up. He attended local schools, and although he didn’t finish high school while living in Turkey he did eventually earn his diploma. It was when he was just 13 that John started wood carving, carving sculptures. From the age of 16 until he was 23, he worked as a woodcarver in his cousin’s shop. At that time, John left home and went to Beirut, Lebanon, as he had a cousin living there. John opened his own carving shop, and he continued to operate that shop for 10 years until repeated rejections for citizenship forced him to close the shop. From there, John moved to Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, and Paris as he also had family living in these areas. But, after a year he returned to Beirut as he couldn’t find the work he wanted. This was in 1966, and he did make a stop in Italy for two weeks on the way. John then contacted a friend in Montreal, Canada, who helped him submit travel papers. After his acceptance of a green card, John moved to Montreal later in 1966 and worked there for a time. With a desire to come to the United States, John moved to Detroit at the suggestion of a friend in 1967, but his stay there was short-lived as he moved to Grand Rapids when a different friend told him of all the furniture manufacturers in the area. After working for a couple of companies, John began working for John Widdicomb Company. They extended a contract for a master woodcarver, but since he needed approval from the United States he returned to Canada and then went back to Turkey to visit his parents. This was a joyous reunion for John and his parents as they were so happy to see him. Since his parents really wanted to see John get married in Turkey, he married Maryam Safak on February 18, 1968. Once Maryam’s paperwork was complete, they moved to Canada for 18 months and finally moved to Grand Rapids. John and Mary have been in the United States for 52 years and United States citizens for 48 years.He was always so very proud to be an Armenian American.

While spending the rest of his life in Grand Rapids, John continued to use his skills as a woodworker. He worked for Widdicomb for 34 years and has been described as a hard worker. He always loved working with his hands and wood and was forever carving new things. John retired at the age of 70, and his retirement years allowed him more time to spend in his workshop located in the basement of his home. In 2000, he received the honor of being inducted into the Grand Rapids Area Furniture Manufacturers Association Hall of Fame.

John and his wife created a loving home in which they raised their son, Aram, who was born on January 6, 1979. Father and son enjoyed attending Boy Scouts together as well as sporting events including Tigers and Michigan State University football games. John even went to Aram’s first concert with him when they went to see Survivor. Although John was strict as a father when needed, he was also kind and tenderhearted. He wasn’t really emotional or much of a hugger, but he was all about a firm handshake. Later in life John was thrilled to become a grandfather, and he was an important piece in the lives of his grandsons, Aidan, Andrew, and Alexander. He made each boy a bed as well as lots of toys and cars to play with. As a family they were members of St. James Catholic Church since the mid-sixties.

In addition to his work, John enjoyed many other things. He wasn’t picky when it came to food, but his favorites were always a home cooked meal as well as Armenian foods. He liked both classical music and old western cowboy movies in his down time. He knew geography really well, and he and his wife were well-traveled as they went to Germany in 2009 as well as to France and Italy. In 2001 they went to Yeravan, Karabakh, and Ararat in Armenia, their homeland. This was such a special trip for them as both of their parents had survived the Armenian Genocide. In more recent years, John enjoyed keeping up to date on things on his computer such as Turkish news and Armenian news as well as keeping in touch with his friends. He also collected stamps. Although John had bladder cancer for the past 30 years, it didn’t slow him down and was being managed well.

Although he was taken from his loved ones without warning, John Ohanyan made the most of each and every day he was given. He was kind and generous with a fun-loving spirit that drew others near with ease. John was blessed to share most of his life with the love of his life, and together they were filled with great joy to become grandparents later in life. At times he faced challenges, but his strength, resourcefulness, and resilience always pulled him through. A dear man to many, John will never be forgotten.

OHANYAN – Mr. John Ohanyan, age 88, of Grand Rapids passed away on October 28, 2020. He was preceded in death by his sister-in-law, Madeline Ohanyan. John is survived by his wife of 52 years, Maryam; son, Aram and Emilie Ohanyan; grandchildren, Aidan, Andrew and Alexander Ohanyan; brother, Josef Ohanyan; brother-in-law, Nazar and Hayguhi Aramian; and nephew, Aret Aramian. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 AM on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 at Holy Spirit Parish, 2230 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, with visitation (social distancing and masks required) for one hour prior to Mass. Interment in Rosedale Memorial Park. Contributions in memory of John may be made to Gilda’s Club or Armenia Fund. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to read John’s life story, submit a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.