Obituary for Carol Cecile Spahr Bogdasarian, Dec. 17, 1922-Feb. 17, 2020
Carol was the elder daughter of Dr. Walter E. (PhD. Economics) and Beulah L. Spahr. Her siblings, Kenneth and Jean, passed away a number of years ago.
Carol was born in New York City, but her parents moved from there to Bellerose, N.Y. when she was 4 and remained there until their deaths. Carol attended local schools until entering Oberlin College to study music. Not quite 17 when she started, she decided after a short time that her interests were different and that Oberlin wasn’t the place for her. Oberlin appeared to agree and Carol transferred to New York University in 1942, graduating with a degree in Economics in 1943 at the age of 20. One of her classes was given by her father! This particular achievement was not matched by any of her offspring, though some came close.
She began work in a biology laboratory at NYU but developed mononucleosis and had to take time off. She never revealed how she contracted the “kissing disease”, one of the few events in her life which she appeared to guard closely. After recovery she landed a job as a desk clerk at Presbyterian Hospital in upper Manhattan. Her cousin, John Lowery, was in his Otolaryngology residency there, and he just happened to have a friend named Robert Bogdasarian, from Binghamton, New York. Since Carol also had a friend, Caroline Anderson, it seemed “natural” that a double date would occur and indeed, after a short time, John Lowery married Caroline. Carol married Robert on July 3, 1943. Their friendships lasted until everyone passed away. Indeed, during one summer visit that the two couples made to Seneca Lake in upstate New York, two of their offspring met each other and later married. Even that did not break up the friendship!
After Bob finished his residency he brought his young bride and their first born son, John, to Binghamton, his home town. Considering the differences between New York City and Binghamton in 1943, such a transition could have strained any relationship. To add to what many think would make it even more difficult, their first home was next to Bob’s parents! Bob had to arrange for a hot water heater and furnace to be present when they arrived.
Carol proved more than equal to the challenges. Not much of a cook at the time (she had trouble boiling water and one later episode earned her considerable teasing from her children), she not only learned much from her mother-in-law but from the Armenian community with which she became associated deeply over the years.
The follow-on children, Ronald, Michael, and Barbara, kept Carol more than a little busy, but she also found time to paint, play the piano, read, and patch up the damages the siblings inflicted on each other. As they grew up, Carol took the reins of guiding their educations. Partly to improve their knowledge and partly to keep the mortality rate within acceptable limits, she got them off to exceptional educational opportunities from which each gained important skills.
Once the nest was empty, admittedly with a sigh of relief, she shifted her attention to local matters. She joined a number of organizations such as the Junior League and the Monday Afternoon Club and served on several city boards including Beautification, the Housing Code, and Urban Renewal. She immersed herself deeply into the Armenian Church, playing the organ, establishing the first Sunday school, and later, when finances were tight, helping organize and lead church services when a visiting priest was unavailable.
Still not content with these activities, she went back to school to study mathematics. Being somewhat older than the usual student, she captured the attention of some of the educators and was asked to teach! The experiences she had were fulfilling as well as challenging. Having suffered through raising three rambunctious sons the shenanigans her students offered in trying to throw her off-stride were suppressed quickly, and they and she enjoyed and benefited from her time at the front.
Because the home in which she and Robert raised a family no longer suited their needs, Robert turned over to her the issue of moving elsewhere, challenging her that if she could figure out the financing and the myriad of other details, he was agreeable. Carol scoured the area and found a remarkable property on which to build their new home. She designed the home herself, and although an architect was required to approve the plans few changes were made. She indeed arranged all the financial matters, including living for a time in the Stair Tract while the home was being built. She and Robert loved their new hillside home with its great views of the valley and plenty of property to engage them, and the many critters which prompted Robert to buy a gun (which he never used).
Throughout her life Carol planned many trips, occasionally with the children, which admittedly was a trial for everyone especially as one child had terrible motion sickness. This exposure for the children was complemented by summers at Seneca Lake, first at a rental property (where a niece met her future husband: seems like that lake had something special in the water), but later on a property where she designed and built a summer home. The entire family enjoyed it for years although bob often had to return to Binghamton on weekdays for work.
Bob retired in 1989, but Carol refused to let time simply slip by. She encouraged him to gather other retired physicians together for lunches, an activity which continues to this day, as spouses get their underfoot husbands OUT! She arranged for longer residences in Hawaii and Florida, where eventually they bought a condominium. When Bob died in 1993, Carol bought a home in Florida and moved her residence out of New York.
There she settled in with an engaging group and kept busy with bridge, reading, hosting numerous family visitors, and continued her life-long interest in climate. She gave a series of lectures on the subject while in her 80’s.
Another life-long interest culminated in a series of self-published books on her family’s genealogy as well as a cookbook and a couple short ones about her dogs. Each of the family members received these. She wrote her own text and filled the books with photos and documents. She mustered a huge bundle of archival material, accumulated over nearly 50 years of research.
As she aged she began to plan for the next stage of her life. At nearly 90 years old she took to the road, traveling several thousand miles (with the children calling various police departments along the way to watch out for her!) and investigated a number of places where she might live near her children. It would be pay-back time! She chose a great assisted-living facility in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, close to her eldest son and her daughter, but, as importantly, close to her daughter-in-law, Sophia who treated her like her own mother (in a good way!). There she continued playing bridge, often winning, reading, doing some local traveling until she gave up her car of her own volition, and still taking tours to foreign countries with family. She served on the Residents’ Council to keep a hand in and on the administration of the facility. She monitored her finances carefully, often making good suggestions and choices about investing and protecting her assets from poor budgeting.
Throughout her life, she managed to read a book nearly every day! She accumulated a vast collection on a variety of authors, communicating with some of them over the course of their lives.
Ever in charge of her life’s decisions, she realized that she was unable to continue even semi-independent living and with the help of her daughter and daughter-in-law found a special hospice unit at the Rose Monahan in Worcester, where she stayed until her death.
Nowadays many disparage the accomplishments of “stay at home moms”, but the training, discipline, intellectual stimulation, and freedoms she gave to her children have been of immeasurable value. Three of them have become physicians, well-respected in their own communities, and her daughter not only became a nurse but moved into senior administrative positions in her career. Her grand-children have done well, a carry-over of what she taught her children.
She added to the spirit of the communities in which she lived, from Binghamton itself, to the Armenian Church, and to the many places and gatherings of friends and family over her 97 years. In her family’s view her greatest accomplishment was that she left the world a better place.
Her immediate family includes her son, Dr. John R. Bogdasarian, his wife Sophia, their children Robert (m. Haley), Alex, Dr. Ronald (m. Mercy), and Michael, her second son Dr. Ronald S. Bogdasarian, his wife Mimi, their children Caroline Szocik (m. Steve), and John (m. Lindsay), her third son Dr. Michael A. Bogdasarian (Jean Marie Montanye), his children Peter (m. Valerie Mirko) and Laura Jansen (m. Michael), her daughter Barbara B. Haydon, and her children Matthew (m. Ruth) and Elizabeth (m. Robert) Smith. There are many great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Burial will be attended by family members only. A memorial celebration of her life will be held at a different time. At Carol’s request, please make any donations to Doctors Without Borders.
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