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Mayda Chopjian

January 1, 1930 May 21, 2018
Mayda Chopjian
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Obituary for Mayda Chopjian

Beloved wife of the late Arakel.

Loving mother of Toros (Karyn) Chopjian, Matios (Raymonda) Chopjian, Onnig (Klades) Chopjian, Jack (Garine) Chopjian, Tamar (David) Aguilar and the late Nayiri Terian-Chopjian.

Cherished grandmother of Arakel, Jaclyn, Gregory, Alex, Tro, Naro, Chris, Armen, Michael and Vartan (Amy) and great-grandmother of Madylin and Lucas.

Dear sister of Haroutioun Torossian, Bedros Torossian and Gulen Ter Boghosian.

Visitation Friday 10:00 a.m. until her 11:00 a.m. Funeral Service at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church 19300 Ford Road, Dearborn.

Interment at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens, Novi.

American dreamer Mayda Chopjian dies at 88, leaves behind recipe for life

Mayda Chopjian, an Armenian dressmaker whose quiet strength and boundless devotion to family and friends defined her life and inspired others to follow in her footsteps, died Monday. She was 88.

Mayda was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1930 and grew up as the child of parents who survived genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. She married Arakel Chopjian in 1952 and together they had eight children, who they raised withinin the Armenian enclave near Beirut known as Bourj Hammoud.

Tragically, two of their daughters died at young ages, including one who died as an infant. In March, 1971, Arakel died unexpextedly when their daughter and youngest child, Tamar, was only 2. Suddenly widowed and with no formal education, Mayda relied on her seamstress skills to generate family income within the Bourj Hammoud community, tucking into pillowcases and purses small handfuls of dollars that simultaneously represented her family's next meal and their modest life savings. One dress job at a time, Mayda began slowly repairing her family's suddenly cracked foundation and carefully began stitching together a future for her six surviving children who ranged in age from 2 to 17.

Later, after Beirut already had erupted in civil war, Mayda took a bold chance at giving her family a better future in the United States. But she faced two significant challenges: strict immigration laws that required Mayda to work alone in the U.S. for about a year and meant leaving three of her children behind in war-torn Beirut for extended periods of time; and a cumbersome Lebanese bureacracy that made gathering passports for her three stranded children nearly impossible.

But Mayda pressed on, working and sending money back home, all the while aching for the day when her three missing children would once again be back under her wing. In 1980, with passports finally in hand, Tamar, Hagop and Onnig rejoined their mother in Detroit, where brothers Matios and Toros, along with their eldest sister, Nayiri, already were living and plying what would later become a gold-standard reputation as quality jewelry artisans.

As her children grew and became more successful, Mayda quietly minded their former longtime family homefront in Oak Park. Over countless large-course meals, Mayda humbly presided as family matriarch and counselor, supporting her enterprising children with love and wisdom, while also guiding their futures with a wooden cooking spoon in one hand and an oversized broom in the other.

“You want? I make,” Mayda often would say to hungry guests seated around her well-decorated table that was always resplendantly adorned with color and variety. “This, little bit meat, little bit garlic. Little bit pilaf, little bit hummus. You like?”
Then a pause to wait for her guest's affirmation, like a cat waiting to pounce on an opportunity to feed the hungry: “You want more? Here, more. Take.”

And so it went, over and over again, the never-ending feast of life, always made better when family was accounted for safely around her table. Often it was delivered in her native Armenian language, other times in broken-English that fell upon your plate like warm meat-filled biscuits. Year after year, decade upon decade, like grilled kabob piled high and wrapped warm inside freshly-made pita. The hunger for life was constantly fed by a woman who always ground her own meat, chose her own vegetables and never consuluted a recipe book.
She didn't need a recipe book because she was the recipe book: "How best to feed an army and build a life," by Mayda Chopjian. Loyalty. Love. And longevity. Those were her key ingredients.

“And how do you make this?” naive guests would ask again and again, unaware that such a query meant they were destined for a complete explanation — and another full plate.
“This,” she began coyly, “start with little bit oil, little bit garlic. Little bit. Then ... Cumin. Parsley. Meat. Here. You take ... You like? Here. More. Take.”

Even Mayda’s grimace was fire-tested. Her chin was as solid as her resolve and she would not flinch when those most dear to her found themselves in harm’s way. Meanwhile, her open heart and exceptional cooking is what always returned family, friends and strangers back to her welcoming doorstep.

Mayda spent her later years doting over 10 grandchildren and cooking exquisite meals over a hot stove. Recent years found her in slowly declining health, but her dedication to family and friends never wavered. Her appetite for love never sated.

Mayda Chopjian was an unlikely modern American hero. Tough and soft. Grim and joyous. Battle-tested and ever-ready. The good stuff, that which is supposed to fill a life and feed a soul. That's what she was made of.

Then suddenly, the dull thud of hunger as we realize our plates are now empty. Her passing marking the final course of a life that had always been served with love.
In the distance, a friendly whisper in the wind: "You want more?”

Yes, Mom, we do.

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Previous Events

Visitation

Friday

25

May

10:00 AM 5/25/2018 10:00:00 AM - 11:00 AM 5/25/2018 11:00:00 AM
St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church

19300 Ford Road
Dearborn, MI 48128

St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church
19300 Ford Road Dearborn 48128 MI
United States

Service

Friday

25

May

11:00 AM 5/25/2018 11:00:00 AM - 11:30 AM 5/25/2018 11:30:00 AM
St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church

19300 Ford Road
Dearborn, MI 48128

St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church
19300 Ford Road Dearborn 48128 MI
United States

Graveside

Friday

25

May

12:00 PM 5/25/2018 12:00:00 PM - 12:30 PM 5/25/2018 12:30:00 PM
Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens

43300 Twelve Mile Road
Novi, MI 48377

Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens
43300 Twelve Mile Road Novi 48377 MI
United States
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