Tale of sorrow on St Valentine’s day

BODRUM - On a day when lovers around the world celebrate their feelings, an American couple living in Bodrum had to part in the most tragic way. Hope Holtzman bade farewell to her ailing husband, Philip, as they were celebrating their 40th anniversary on Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day may be about wine and roses, but there was a sad ending to a love story in Bodrum this year.

After moving to the popular holiday district in Muğla in the Aegean region 25 years ago, American couple Hope and Philip Holtzman’s marriage ended on its 40th anniversary. Historian and sculptor Hope Holtzman bade farewell to her ailing husband, Philip, just hours after he received a special new bed and other gifts.

Philip Holtzman was suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. The Ortakent-Yahşi Mayor Mehmet Kocadon promised to help the couple with medical expenses, much to the happiness of Hope Holtzman.

"When Kocadon called me to say he would donate a bed and help us with medical expenses, I did not know what to say," she said. "I am as much in love with him now as I was 40 years ago and I will do everything I can to help my husband live as long as he can," said Hope Holtzman.

Tragically, Philip Holtzman died just hours after receiving Kocadon’s present to the couple, which was a bed specialized for ALS patients.

"He was really happy about the present and voiced his appreciation," said Hope Holtzman, 60, in grief. "Now he is gone, his bed will be inherited by another ALS patient."

Kocadon’s visit to the couple came after a charitable initiative by Cemile Uygur, the chairperson of the Bodrum Volunteers Association. Uygur said they tried to help the couple after they learned about their problems.

"Two years ago, my husband was diagnosed with ALS and doctors said he would only have three years to live," said Hope Holtzman. "But he did not want to move to a hospital. He wanted to die in his village, where he spent a quarter of a century."

The couple came to Bodrum on holiday and fell in love with the town and left California for good. The Holtzmans bought an old village house in the Dereköy area and settled there.

"We fell in love with Bodrum, its people and the country’s leader, Atatürk, the moment we came here," said Hope Holtzman, wearing traditional Turkish village clothes. "We spent all we had on this house and land to stay here."

Last Valentine’s gift to the husband
On Valentine’s Day, Hope Holtzman gathered flowers for her husband and gave him a huge carpet with 28 famous world leaders on it, including Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.

Unfortunately, Philip Holtzman did not have much time to enjoy his Valentine’s Day presents, as he died only two hours after the interview with the Doğan news agency.

Hope Holtzman wanted her husband’s struggle to help other ALS patients in Turkey.

"There are 8,000 ALS patients in Turkey, but there is no foundation to support them," she said. "I will try to give my husband’s bed to another ALS patient."

She said she would not leave Dereköy after her husband’s death.

"He loved this place so much. I will keep on living here with his memories. I want to be buried next to him after I die," said Hope Holtzman.

Originally Christian, Philip Holtzman was buried yesterday in Dereköy Cemetery in accordance with Muslim traditions, with 300 village residents attending. A member of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, or INA, Israeli Asaf Oron said a prayer in English.

The head of the village, Hüseyin Can, said Dereköy lost a precious person, adding that the Holtzman couple is deeply loved by other residents.

"Philip and his wife, Hope, have lived like one of us since the day they came here," he said. "They learned our language and our traditions. They contributed to our community a lot. They helped the elderly and environmental organizations."

"We, the Dereköy people, are sad to have lost a precious person we loved. He wanted his burial ceremony to be organized with our traditions. We fulfilled his will," said Can.
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