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Cenap Kiratli, Turkish consul general for Md. and teacher

Cenap Kiratli, Turkey's consul general for Maryland and head of the modern languages department at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, died April 21.
Cenap Kiratli, Turkey's consul general for Maryland and head of the modern languages department at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, died April 21. (HANDOUT)

Cenap Remzi Kiratli, Turkey's consul general for Maryland who was head of the modern languages department at the Community College of Baltimore County, died of congestive heart failure April 21 at his daughter's Annapolis home. The Guilford resident was 93.

Born in Svishtov, Bulgaria, to Turkish parents, he lived in Istanbul before moving to the U.S. in 1954.

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He recalled being smuggled out of Bulgaria after World War II behind the back seat of a car as Soviet forces occupied the country.

He earned degrees from the University of Svishtov, the Sorbonne in Paris and the Johns Hopkins University, where he earned a doctorate. As a young man, he held Turkish diplomatic posts in Paris, Beirut and at the United Nations.

Family members said he was the last mounted officer in the Turkish cavalry. He served during the Korean War as a translator for the head of the Turkish brigade and U.S. Army officials.

"My father grew up in an era of gentlemanly values," said his daughter, Irfan Latimer of Annapolis. "He thought that every lady's hand was there to be kissed, and then he would respond, 'Thank you, my dear.' He had an easy charisma."

She recalled her father as a courtly, dapper dresser who loved to entertain and would always have a cup of strong Turkish coffee or tea ready for his visitors.

In a 1976 Baltimore Sun article, published when he was named Turkey's consul general for Maryland, Dr. Kiratli said he witnessed "the glamour of officialdom" as a nephew of the former Turkish president, Ismet Inonu, who held office from 1938 until 1950.

"It is not all as pleasant as people think," he said of his experiences in government. "Not if you have a mind of your own. For in the diplomatic service, your own opinions mean absolutely nothing. Only the opinions of your government are what matter."

In the article, Dr. Kiratli said he initially visited Baltimore as the guest of Johns Hopkins professor William F. Albright. On the advice of other Hopkins faculty members, he went to the office of City College's principal, Henry Yost.

"He needed a language teacher so badly that he interrupted our interview and sent me in front of a class," said Dr. Kiratli, who joined City's faculty and taught French, German and Russian.

He later contacted Moses Koch, an educator charged with setting up what was then called Essex Community College.

"I didn't realize it then, but I was becoming a founding father of the school," Dr. Kiratli said in 1976. He went on to head its modern languages department, employing his knowledge of Serbo-Croatian, Italian, Turkish, Latin, French, Bulgarian and Arabic. He retired in 1994.

Mr. Kiratli became established as a diplomat, scholar and adviser to Baltimore's Turkish community in the 1960s. "He was a trouble-shooter, a man to turn to when a countryman was in need," according to The Sun's 1976 article.

"My father actively supported countless young Turks who came to study in the United States, helping them find appropriate programs and supporting them as a mentor and surrogate father," said his daughter. "Our residence was always open to all, and to so many it provided a vibrant and welcoming home away from home."

She recalled her father as "a larger-than-life person who believed in personal connections and responsibilities. He would wake up and ask himself, 'How can I make someone's life better today?'"

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She said he was a letter writer (he retained an old typewriter) who had a wide circle of friends.

"He established a close connection with Johns Hopkins Hospital and served as a tremendous resource to Turkish families in need of medical help." said his daughter. "He then visited the patients and assisted their family members."

She said he took pride in assisting others with traveling abroad, especially to Turkey.

Dr. Kiratli spoke and lectured on Turkish culture and history. He was also a founder of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations.

A memorial service for Dr. Kiratli will be held at 4 p.m. May 22 at the Turkish Embassy, 2525 Massachusetts Ave. N.W. in Washington. (Family members said that the embassy's security protocol requires that friends confirm their attendance by emailing Irfan Latimer, irfanlatimer@gmail.com.)

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 55 years, Zita King, a retired Baltimore County social worker; and a granddaughter.

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