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Slain diplomat: 'A kind and gentle man'

By RUTH YOUNGBLOOD   |   May 5, 1982

BOSTON -- New England's honorary Turkish consul general, Orhan Gunduz, was a loner among businessmen in Cambridge, where his shop served as a consulate, and even among his neighbors at home. But the slain diplomat was revered by the Turkish community as a 'father figure.'

Gunduz, shot to death as he sat in his car Tuesday night, feared for his life since his import store was bombed March 22.

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An Armenian terrorist group called the Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide -- which also claimed responsibility for the bombing of Gunduz' Topkapi Imported Gifts -- said it was responsibile for the assassination.

Gunduz, 60, described by friends as 'a kind and gentle man,' was an enigma to the proprietors of businesses surrounding his shop. Neither the bartender of a nearby pub nor salesmen in the clothing store next to Gunduz' establishment even knew him.

Only the superintendent of the building housing his store recalled chatting with Gunduz, and ironically remembered that Gunduz had commented 'about how friendly Americans are.'

Gunduz, distinguished looking with neatly trimmed hair, glasses and a mustache, was not a member of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

A former officer in the Turkish Army, Gunduz emigrated to the United States in 1964 and founded the Turkish-American Cultural Society, chartered in the state the following year. He used an office in the back of his colorful store for consular duties.

Gunduz resigned from the army with the rank of senior captain.

He and his wife, Maral, had two sons, Dogan, an eighth grade honor student, and an older son, Ferdi. They lived in the quiet Boston suburb of Nahant.

Even proprietors of the computer firm one floor above the shop said they had never talked with Gunduz, although the bombing knocked out their windows.

'The day afterwards, his son Ferdi came up and apologized and assured us that a letter would be coming from the Turkish government, but we never got one,' an employee said. The damage was covered by insurance.

Although no one in the busy shopping area personally knew Gunduz, several complimented the beauty of the shop with its windows filled with hand-woven rugs, large brass vessels, intricately carved pipes, exotic jewelry and Turkish dresses.

A member of the Turkish Cultural Society said he had been to the FBI several days ago on behalf of Gunduz, who was so afraid of an attempt on his life he bought a German shepherd to guard his home. The FBI indicated they would investigate.

'Since his shop was bombed it was logical they (the terrorists) would try to kill him,' the friend said.

Another acquaintance described Gunduz as a 'father figure' for the Turkish community. He was 'not a person of activist temperament,' the friend said, and the store served as an informal social center for Turkish immigrants.

Even at home in Nahant, neighbors acknowledged they did not know Gunduz well.

'It's awful,' one man said of the assassination. 'All I can really say is that he was a nice neighbor and a very polite and gracious fellow. I remember him as always being well dressed and formal, the way you'd expect a diplomat to be.'

The Gunduz family moved to a large estate in Nahant eight years ago. They kept mostly to themselves.

'They were a very quiet, very low-key couple,' said Town Clerk Harriet Steeves.

Several residents remembered seeing Gunduz on the way to the beach in the summer for an evening swim. 'He loved the ocean and spent a lot of time down there with his son, Dogan.' one recalled.

Gunduz did not become involved in town activities, but was often seen at Boy Scout or sporting events when his son participated.

The morning of the shooting, Gunduz walked down to the end of his driveway to pick up the trash knocked over by the dog.

'Isn't it a lovely day, Mr. Gunduz?' a neighbor asked.

'Yes, isn't it,' Gunduz said.

That was the last time anyone on Summer Street saw him alive.