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WHO IS MEHMET OZDUZEN?

(A Short Biography)  



Mehmet ÷zdŁzen, our father, was born in Adıyaman in 1927 during very difficult times for the young Turkish Republic. At the time Adıyaman was a small, backward southeastern Turkish hamlet that was administratively tied to the province of Malatya. Mehmetís father (our grandfather) was a merchant, his mother a housewife. The fact that he was the first born as well as the first male-born child of his family would play a great role in his future education and life. He was a very successful pupil in grade school, now using the new Turkish alphabet that was adapted in 1928.

He finished school at the top of his class earning him free middle-school education in one of the large cities of the country like Ankara. But his father wanted young Mehmet to follow his footsteps and become a merchant. He therefore didnít want Mehmet to get further education. As it was, Mehmet had already more education than his father! Since his father didnít want Mehmet to get further education, the student who was second in his class took up his spot. But our father wanted to get an education so unbeknownst to his father he took the exam for Malatya Teacherís school and registered after passing the test. His father agreed to send his son to school grudgingly. One of the anecdotes of our father, about the school days was the means by which he visited home during holidays. Since public transportation was nil at the time, he and his friends used to transverse nearly half of the distance on foot. This meant walking nearly 100 km.  

Another of his recollections from his teaching school days has to do with the visit of the Turkish Minister of Education. During this visit the minister incorrectly (intentionally) solves a math problem on the blackboard of our fatherís class. Our father catches the mistake, which prompts the minister to invite him to the blackboard to solve the problem correctly. Mehmet, with wobbly knees obliges the minister. The minister is so impressed with this that he sends an invitation to have him continue his education at governmentís expense. This invitation is also rejected by his father.

After finishing teacherís school, our father is appointed as a grade school teacher in the Kahta hamlet of Malatya. Since very few in the region could read or write, or even speak Turkish, Mehmet learned Kurdish to better communicate with his pupils as well as their parents. This resulted in having him establish very warm relations with the communities he was in. After about seven years, he was appointed as a teacher to Cumhuriyet grade school in central Adıyaman. Even after coming to Adıyaman, our father maintained his friendship with the people of the villages he had been in. We, his children, remember many visitors from far away villages.

Roughly seven years later, when he was about 32, Mehmet became the principal of AtatŁrk grade school in Adıyaman where he worked until he took an early retirement in 1971. (Adıyaman became a province center in 1954.) Even after he retired, people who saw him on the streets called him ďhocamĒ (my teacher). In fact, until he died in 1999, this was the term most often used when addressing him.

Mehmet got married to our mother, Ayşehan, in 1947. Finding him a suitable wife became the next priority for our father after he gained a profession, a way of making a living. During those days boys and girls didnít mingle socially, leaving the search for a mate to the father of the male side. (The woman usually didnít have anything to say if her father accepted the offer.) So it wasnít unusual for our grandfather to start the process for our father as well.

As the luck may have it, one day a report comes to my grandfather that there is a very nice looking woman dancing at a nearby wedding ceremony. Our grandfather quickly puts our father into a shador (a black wrap that women wear when going out) to have him watch her from a rooftop. Our father likes what he sees, informs his father, who in turn visits the womanís family to propose, on his sonís behalf, to her father. They get married shortly after.

The marriage that lasted 52 years (until his death in 1999) produced six children, three girls and three boys. The second child, the first girl of the couple died in the village when she was 9 months old. The first male, Ahmet Sabri, who was born in 1949 died in a traffic accident in 1985. We werenít around to gauge his sorrow when our father lost his first daughter, but we were around when we lost our brother. Overnight our father lost a lot of his energy and zest. Seeing his sonís crushed body was a hug blow to him on top of the blow of losing a loving son. One of our fatherís legacies was his tireless effort on behalf his children as well as others, to make life more comfortable for them. This was manifest when he took his dead sonís two children under his wings becoming a father to them as well as a grandfather.  

Doing all that he could for significant people in his life was a way of life for him. Even after he retired, he would take many trips to Ankara on behalf oh his family and friends trying to follow their affairs in the corridors of government. During these trips he met many politicians. It was probably these trips that moved him to become politically active soon after he retired. Actually even before he retired he was involved in social activities and charities. He was a member of the board of Adıyaman Red Crescent (Turkish equivalent of Red Cross), for a period allowing him to travel extensively throughout Turkey.

But his true political life began after he retired in 1971. He was a member of several center-right political parties. Although he was very religious, he got dismayed by the extreme views of religious parties. This may have been the reason why he was much less active politically towards the end of his life. On several occasions he was at high enough position in various parties to be considered as a candidate for the Turkish parliament, however he refused to become a candidate because of family concerns. He did, however continue helping people anyway he could, finding them jobs, placing them in schools, or getting them into a hospitals. This legacy of being a good- Samaritan still remains.

 



Throughout his life his biggest objective was the education of his family. He would do anything in order to fulfill this dream. Of all his accomplishments, probably the education of his children stands out as his biggest achievement. Three of his five children got a higher education, a tremendous accomplishment given the conditions in Adıyaman.

During the latter years of his life our father devoted his energies to two causes he loved. One was building a middle school with private money. He was on the board of the foundation set to build such a school. This was one of his favorite topics of conversation but unfortunately he passed away without seeing this dream realized.

His other passion was soccer, especially Adıyamanís soccer team on whose board he served. In early 90s the Adıyaman team slowly progressed from the amateur league to the Turkish 3rd League, then to the 2nd. He was delighted with this success of the team. The Adıyaman team was recently relegated back to the 3rd division, a fact that, had our father been alive, would have been a tremendous disappointment.

Our father and mother came to visit us in America (their two children Nezahat and Nezihi) in 1997 for three months. Although he was nearly 70, he displayed remarkable energy and social courage during this visit. He would walk several miles to the stores where he would shop and ďchatĒ with the help. This, despite the fact that he knew almost no English. With his cheerful disposition and always smiling face, he brought joy to his circle. To him language barrier didnít matter. In his long dealings with human beings he had come to understand that human connection overcomes any language-related barrier.

Probably the happiest time he had in America was when he worked at the Turkish exhibit during the Festival of Nations. Wearing şalvar (baggy pants) for the first time in his life, he cheerfully stamped the ďfakeĒ visas of school children. When he was reminded that only a handful of children actually knew where Turkey was (or what it was for that matter) he replied that even if he reached one kid that would be enough for him. A teacher all his life, he had understood the worth of individuals; one gets to them one at a time.  

We deeply miss our father not only because of his untimely death, also because he was such an outstanding examples for us to follow. He was an educator, an environmentalist, a person of impeccable honesty, and a lover of people. He loved to travel, he loved to tell stories, but above all he loved to learn new things. His greatest joy in his life was the latest grandchild (he had six before the last one), a girl that was born in 1995. Although our father died unexpectedly, in a traffic accident on December 26, 1999, we think that he still lives in his granddaughter. Our father, a spiritual man, a lover of children, would have wanted nothing better.            



             

 

Who is Nezihi Ozduzen???

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