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|Death place|| Nashville|
Cano Ozgener, Nashville businessman and arts visionary, dies at 81
Jason Gonzales, The Tennessean Published 3:53 p.m. CT June 11, 2018
CAO Cigars founder Cano Ozgener, whose creative vision helped establish Oz Arts Nashville, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer, according to his family.
He was 81.
The prominent Nashville businessman, philanthropist and artist whose immigrant roots guided his desire to give back to the community was remembered for his passion and drive by friends and family.
Ozgener's diminutive stature was overshadowed by his ambition to better the world around him, especially Nashville, said his son Murat "Tim" Ozgener.
"The fact that he was short, people would almost by osmosis underestimate him," Tim Ozgener said. "He always loved to prove them wrong."
Cano Ozgener was a Turkish Armenian born in Istanbul. He immigrated to the United States in 1962 to pursue a master's in electrical engineering at Columbia University.
He later founded Nashville's CAO Cigars in 1994 after a successful career with DuPont's research and development department.
Tim Ozgener said his father started the business after a man asked him for an order of custom meerschaum pipes that he had created.
"The stem used to shove in and pull. If you pull it out, you can damage the meerschaum," Tim Ozgener said. "Being an engineer, he came up with thread that can twist in and twist out."
Tim Ozgener said his dad decided to pursue the request because "Armenians should never refuse an order."
The cigar company grew to international prominence, with its distribution stretching to over 100 counties before its sale in 2007 to ST Group.
In 2012, Cano Ozgener and his son converted the building into Oz Arts Nashville, a nonprofit contemporary performing arts center.
Janet Miller, Colliers International CEO, said the nonprofit was created to better the city through a new avenue for modern art.
"It is a gift to the city unlike anything Nashville has ever seen," said Miller, who serves on the nonprofit's board.
Cano Ozgener was also an artist who took up painting at the age of 70. He produced over 500 paintings and dozens of sculptures before his death.
Miller said Cano Ozgener never wavered in his generosity.
"I told Cano that I'd like to buy (a piece of art), and 16 hours later it showed up at my office with a note that said, 'Art finds its way to its rightful owner,' " she said.
Cano Ozgener also served on numerous community boards, including those for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center and Watkins College of Art.
And he was a beacon in the U.S. Turkish community, said Alp Ikizler, a nephrologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a close friend. Cano Ozgener was recognized in 2014 as one of the "Top 50 Most Influential Turkish Americans" in the U.S. by Turk of America magazine.
"He considered Nashville as his place," Ikizler said. "It didn't matter where he was coming from. He really immersed himself into the Nashville community.
"He was here to make it better. He loved his country, his origins and his religion, but he considered himself an individual that belonged to Nashville.
"Nashville was his priority."
Tim Ozgener asked that instead of flowers, donations can be made to Oz Arts Nashville, http://www.ozartsnashville.org/.
Reach Jason Gonzales at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByJasonGonzales.
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Yesterday we lost a shining star in our world with the passing of the visionary entrepreneur, engineer, philanthropist, artist, and family man, Cano Ozgener. He was not only an exemplary father, but also a loyal husband, a wise mentor, the harshest critic, and my best friend. He taught me via his actions and by a slew of memorable quotes, some original, some recycled. “Make it happen,” “ follow your karma,” “ talk is cheap,” “vision is very important,” “if you can dream it you can do it,” and his most recent one “always reach for the unreachable star, because then you will find a new universe.” He was a Renaissance man who taught us to not be afraid to “think big.” Through him I acquired the habit of, no matter what we engaged ourselves in, to be committed 100% and to improve that medium so that it could be the best it possibly could be. I learned to value hard work, frugality, the balance between analysis and gut instinct, humility, honesty, approaching business and life with integrity, and the importance of family and being a great parent. I was also reminded about the power of the Arts to inspire, invigorate, and change peoples lives — which led to the founding of OZ Arts Nashville as a nonprofit for our beloved city of Nashville. Dad - You always told me that in life there are two types of people: givers and takers. Well you were a great giver. You gave to your family, your dearest friends, your city, and this country. Your hope to inspire other immigrants will and does not go unnoticed. Rest In Peace, dad - you changed and enriched the life of everyone who graced your presence - we all love you, always, and know that your soul will always be in each and every one of us. ( Full Obituary at http://www.ozartsnashville.org/cano/ ) Cano Ozgener