Adieu Leticia Omanukwue Ume, Dibueze of Obodoukwu

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Ifeanyi Vena Ume

D ibueze Leticia Omanukwue Ume has passed on at the ripe age of 88. Mama was born on May 5th, 1930 to late Chief and Lolo Okoli Okoroigwe of Umu Ezeanyika clan, in Obodoukwu in Ideato North LGA, Imo State. The first of 10 children, Mama came into the world in an era when girls, especially the first-born daughters, were discouraged from pursuing formal education. Instead, Mama was encouraged to dedicate herself to caring for her family, even while still growing into adulthood herself.  She learned farming at an early age, helping her parent plant and harvest crops year-round.  She also developed her trading skills early on by selling excess crops at many markets. She frequented Eke Obodoukwu Market and trekked long distances to markets in neighboring towns, bringing home the profits from her trading to help provide for the family.

Her strong sense of responsibility also carried over to helping raise her eight siblings, Augustina, Catherine, Augustine, Bernadette, John, Caroline, Christopher, Basil and Edmund. She often arose before the sun to complete her farm work and tended to her siblings before and after they attended school, though not being able to attend school herself.
In December of 1950, Mama married late Chief Sir Raphael Onyekaba Ume, Ezenwa of Obodoukwu and Sir of the Catholic Order of Knights of St. Mulumba at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Odoakpu, Onitsha town, Anambra State. They settled in Onitsha and started their married life in earnest. Their union was blessed with eleven children, six boys and five girls. Dibueze was a loving and devoted wife, who supported her husband in everything he did, both in their family life and in building his various businesses activities, including R. Ume & Co. Nigeria Ltd., (distributor, Nigeria Tobacco Co. Ltd (NTC), Nigeria Biscuit Manufacturing Co. Ltd, (BISCO), Patterson & Zachonis Nig. Ltd (PZ), GB Olivant Nig. Ltd (GBO.)

Her children still recall the humbling experience of struggling to calculate as quickly as Mama, and without paper and pencil at that! She had incredible mental agility.
The Biafran War began a new chapter for her, her husband and their children in 1967. Like many other Igbo families, they were forced to relocate from Onitsha to Obodoukwu. In the face of uncertainty, she sought to solidify her family’s wellbeing even during the tragic war. She returned to her earlier lessons in farming to provide for the family and many others in the community. As a result and as the answer to prayers, the household remained healthy and joyous. When the war ended, the children resumed schooling in Onitsha and she and her husband resumed their business ventures, which for her, meant returning to trading in Onitsha.

After the war, she went even more deeply into serving the community and the Lord. Through her involvement with these various groups, she contributed to the building of churches, schools, hospitals, civic centers and meeting halls in Obodoukwu and Onitsha.  She also helped mentor youth in the community.  She shared her life experiences – about family, marriage and faith – and helped guide them in the trading industry.

After her husband passed on in 2002, she was the glue that continued to hold her family together.  For the next sixteen years, she continued to look after her eleven children, steward her husband’s business affairs, and continued her own trading. In recent years, she fell ill and began travelling to the United States for additional medical treatment. Her children and sons and daughters in-law joined in ensuring she had the highest quality healthcare and they also praised her for how she took great care of herself – always maintaining a healthy diet, taking pride in her appearance/attire, and walking for exercise.  Moreover, it was no surprise that her’s faith was a pillar for her during her treatment. She reminded those around her of the importance of prayers and recited the Holy Rosary around the clock, even during medical appointments.  It was not long before her doctors, nurses, and medical staff began to refer to her as “Saint Laeticia,” asking her to pray for them on each visit, as well, which she gladly obliged.

She exemplified strength in many ways, demonstrating the importance of putting her best foot forward, even when undergoing life’s unexpected challenges.  She did so until her very last day on Earth in March of 2018.  She set this example and so many more through her long life.
She was life member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Obodoukwu, Patroness Archdiocese of Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria, Patroness Sacred Heart Parish CWO, Onitsha Member Idinotu Social Club, Obodoukwu and member St. Ann’s Society SHP, Onitsha and Obodoukwu Town Union, Women’s Wing, Obodoukwu & Onitsha Branches.

As a result, her legacy lives on through her six sons, five daughters, five sons in-law, five daughters in-law, and 41 grandchildren, and 18 great grandchildren, who reside in Nigeria and around the United States.
Her remains will be laid to rest in Obodoukwu, Imo State, on Thursday May 17th 2018. May her peaceful soul rest in peace, amen.

– Tribute by Chief Ifeanyi Vena Ume