Throughout his life, 92-year-old Ozdemir Karatun has worked through thick and thin to achieve his goals.

He went from serving in the Naval academy for 25 years to become a father, to moving from Turkey to Lawrence, Kansas, to receiving his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Kansas, to finally attending a Kansas men’s basketball game.

“My dad. Goal-driven and tremendous discipline - even now at 92,” said his daughter, Gamze Shidler.

Despite being a huge Jayhawk fan, Shidler said her father never had the chance to attend a basketball game due to working full time and being a full-time student and father during his time in Lawrence. 

Shidler decided to surprise Karatun with Kansas men's basketball tickets for him and his granddaughter, Cathleen Shidler.

“It was on his bucket list,” Shidler said. “And so I just wanted to get that done before - before it was too late.”

Karatun and his granddaughter attended the season’s last men’s home basketball game on Feb. 28, 2023. 

“I was very excited to see the Jayhawks play, especially since they are National Champions,” Karatun said in an email with the help of his granddaughter.

He said the 62-67 game against Texas Tech was a good challenge for Kansas, “I was very happy for the win.”

Not only was Karatun thrilled to attend the game but also to see his dissertations on cardiac interval training and rehabilitation on the University’s library shelves.

“It was so wonderful to see both my dissertations on the shelf and to see how many different students have checked them out over the years to learn from my research,” Karatun said.

While visiting, he also got to thank his adviser, Wayne Osness, for his words of encouragement during his time at Kansas.

Karatun said one of his favorite memories is when Osness told him he was the first person in Osness’s department to receive a master’s and doctorate degree with honors.

“When I heard that, I could not hold back my tears,” Karatun said. “I felt great pride and happiness.”

After he finished his doctorate, his dissertation was published in May 1975.

Karatun said he believes cardiac rehabilitation is one of the best things to happen to cardiac patients in the last 50 years.

“I was very happy contributing to this field both during my doctoral study and then in practice by starting cardiac rehabilitation centers in hospitals across this country after graduation,” he said.

Shidler said her dad has a soft spot for the University, even though he almost attended a university in a different county.

After retiring from the Naval academy in Turkey at the age of 40, Karatun wanted to go overseas to get a master’s degree.

Karatun had to choose between attending the University or a university in Australia.

Shidler said one day, her mom, Meral Karatun, and her dad drank scotch on their ocean-view balcony in Turkey, “‘Let's flip a coin,’ mom said. And that's what they did,” Shidler said. “They ended up at KU.”

When Shidler was a preteen, she said they took only what could fit in their luggage and sold everything else they owned.

The family lived a lavish lifestyle in Turkey, Shidler said.

“She [Mom] had a very luxurious life, you know,” she said. “She wore fur coats, and they traveled the world to just about every country you can imagine.”

Even though the University’s international student tuition funds swallowed up their life savings, Meral Karatun continued to support him till the end.

“That man ended up cleaning floors, living on Spam, fixing an old car and having hand-me-down furniture in our bedroom apartment,” Shidler said. “And it didn't seem to bother him at all, and I was amazed by that.”

Shidler said she didn’t know when her dad slept. He was a fencing coach, worked full-time, took over 20 credit hours a semester and remained a caring man.

“I would sleep on the hide-a-bed, and mom would have the bedroom. He would be in this tiny little bathroom with a bathtub, toilet and a 24-inch sink,” Shidler said. "He closed the door and put a piece of plywood over the sink, and that's where he'd study so that he wouldn't disturb us with the lights and everything.”

When Shidler came to the United States, she said she knew no English.

“Not a word,” she said. “It was a rough time. I have vivid memories of just looking at the blackboard and at people while their mouths were moving, but I didn't know what they were saying.”

Ultimately, Shidler said she is beyond grateful to be in the United States.

“I wouldn't trade it for the world. But it was a rough transition. I think for all of us,” she said.

Shidler said it was hard work, but the journey was an adventure.

After working in one of his clinics, Shidler saw the effects her father had on others’ lives.

“It was well worth it because he did a lot of good with it. He helped people save a lot of patients. I know several times people went down, and he brought him back. He did good with his life.”

Shidler said she wanted to do something for her father since he did so much for others.

“My whole life, my dad was next and behind me in every single stage,” she said. “He did this to get a higher education to better himself and help cardiac patients. He deserved this treat and many more for his incredible accomplishments.”