Janset Nahum, a registered nurse and neighborhood activist who was known as the "Unofficial Mayor of Sugarville," died March 9 of lung cancer at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson.
She was 79.
Janset Aranlar was born in Adapazari, near Istanbul, one of three children. After her father died when she was 2, her mother was unable to care for her, and she was put up for adoption.
"She was adopted by a wonderful couple who adored and raised her," said her husband of 50 years, Dr. Albert Nahum, a retired internist and former chief of staff at the old Church Home Hospital.
After graduating from high school, she earned her nursing degree with honors in three years from an Istanbul nursing school, Dr. Nahum said.
She taught nursing in Ankara and Istanbul, and while working as an operating room nurse at a hospital in Samsun, Turkey, she met and fell in love with Dr. Nahum, who had just started his residency in internal medicine.
"I was immediately attracted to her charm, wit and beauty," he said. "Although I was Jewish and she was Muslim, we overcame the barrier of mixed marriages at that time."
They married in 1961 and moved from Turkey to Durham, N.C. Two years later, they moved to Baltimore, and for the last 43 years, lived in the Sugarville neighborhood near Pikesville, across from Druid Ridge Cemetery.
"It's called Sugarville because the houses were built in the 1950s by Gordon Sugar," said Alan P. Zukerberg who is president of Long Meadow Association Inc., Sugarville's neighborhood association.
"Janset was a wonderful and warm person, and that's why she was called the 'Unofficial Mayor of Sugarville,'" said Mr. Zukerberg.
"She was head of the association's welcoming committee, and she'd take over a bottle of wine and welcome new residents. She was hospitable to the nth degree," he said. "She always had a big smile and exemplified what a good neighbor should be."
When immigrants moved into the neighborhood, it was Mrs. Nahum who made them feel welcome.
"If they need help or advice or guidance, Janset was the go-to person. She gave them confidence and was a source of strength," said Mr. Zukerberg. "She'd even help them get jobs. She would do whatever she could to help ease their burdens."
Mrs. Nahum was a great walker and regularly made her way through the streets of Sugarville.
"She'd be out there talking to people. She certainly dispelled the notion that suburbanites don't know or talk to their neighbors," said Mr. Zukerberg.
Mrs. Nahum was an avid gardener and was always distributing plants from her Longmeadow Road home to Sugarville residents.
"I remember looking out the window one day and she was planting plants in my yard that came from her garden," said Mr. Zukerberg. "She'd do it without asking and beautified our neighborhood for beauty's sake."
An artist, Mrs. Nahum painted and worked in clay, Lucite and Plexiglas. For a number of years, she owned and operated a business that preserved wedding bouquets in what she called a "memory box."
"She was the most open, warm and loving person I think that I've ever known," said Rabbi Steven Fink, who conducted Mrs. Nahum's service at Temple Oheb Shalom on Monday. It was her wish that she be buried according to Jewish customs.
"She was effusive and affectionate and reached out to people," said Rabbi Fink. "Just recently, she reached out to an Afghan women she had met at an Asian market on Route 40 and hired her to cook for her."
Mrs. Nahum eagerly welcomed her three sons' friends into her home.
"Janset was a second mother to the children of the neighborhood," Rabbi Fink said in his eulogy. "There is an entire generation of boys who grew up in Pikesville, now middle-aged, who have a great fondness for Turkish food."
Rabbi Fink recalled in his eulogy that Mrs. Nahum never locked her front door.
"She did not lock her door because she wanted people to come in and talk. A visit was not complete without having some of her delicious Turkish specialties and taking spinach pies home," he said. "One never left her house without a gift bag of food."
Mrs. Nahum enjoyed traveling to Turkey and Israel.
She had been president of the Baltimore Medical Society Auxiliary and was a member of Hadassah and True Sister Inc.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Nahum is survived by her three sons, Aslan Nahum of Owings Mills, Altan Nahum of Boulder, Colo., and Dr. Elmer Nahum of Pittsburgh; and four grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun