IWAC, Friends and Families celebrate the life of Dr. Beatrice Okwu

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Hartok -- On May 25, 2024, at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Hamden, friends, relatives, and families of Professor Austine Okwu gathered to both remember and celebrate the life of a Nigerian woman icon, Dr. Madam Beatrice Okwu, the 'Onwanetiliora' (the moon that shines for all), who died peacefully in her family home in New Haven in January 2024, at the age of 93.

Born in Enugu, in Eastern Nigeria, though Dr. Beatrice lost her father at age 5, she grew up pursuing her passion of teaching young girls and boys. She was an accomplished teacher with many high-level leadership and administrative posts during her teaching career in Nigeria.

Married to a career diplomat, Professor Austine Okwu, a former Nigerian-Biafran, Dr. Beatrice and her family lived in Ghana, Tanzania, Madagascar, and the United Kingdom before settling in the United States in 1971. In the United States, Dr. Beatrice attended Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, and graduate school at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She taught at St. Aedan's Parochial School in New Haven, Connecticut, and, for several years, was Director of Programs at the Girl Scouts.

Dr. Beatrice's commitment to community service was unparalleled. She was a founding member and patron of the Igbo Women's Association of Connecticut (IWAC), an organization that supported Nigerian women of the Igbo tribe living in Connecticut. She also served as a member of the Columbiettes of Knights of St. Columbus, the Church of St. Mary in New Haven, Connecticut, the Archdiocese of Hartford, and Connecticut's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

According to Mrs. Christina Eneh, a former president of IWAC and one of her mentees, Dr Beatrice would, among other accomplishments, be remembered as someone who, with her calm nature woven with grit, brings turbulent situations under control, someone who proudly loves her grandchildren, someone who dearly cherished the IWAC women, and a wife, who stood by her husband, with whom she was married for sixty fours, and have five sons and several grandchildren.

During the event, one of Dr. Beatrice's children said that with Dad often engaged in diplomatic missions, mother provided the secure base of love and comfort the children needed to grow up. A niece recalled how, when she was a toddler, her aunt, Dr. Beatrice opened her arm to embrace her when she picked her up from the airport. A nephew reminisced how Dr. Beatrice was many things to him: a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a sister, and a confidante.

Adding to the sentiments of all who gathered to celebrate, Dr. Patricia Anekwe, another of the IWAC's former presidents, said, "I know Madam would be proud of us and would be all smiles and pleased today with how we have celebrated her life." She was a woman who gave so much and, therefore, deserves so much in return.

Reflecting on his wife's life, Professor Austine Okwu said, "She was a great lady, a caring wife, a loving wife who, while raising five boys, maintained a calm and peaceful household and family. She was small but mighty. I pray every man has a wife like Beatrice."

In their proclamations, Senator Christopher S. Murphy and the Mayor of New Haven, Justin M. Elicker, outlined the specific ways in which Dr. Beatrice has left an indelible mark on the city and the state of Connecticut.

One of the ways Nigerian women, especially women of Igbo descent, show their love and appreciation in funeral ceremonies is to dress up and dance. What they choose to wear and how they dance is also a measure of their love and enthusiasm. From the audience, all eyes followed the IWAC women as they danced to the left and a little bit to the right before gathering at the center of the dancing floor to pose for pictures.

The link to Dr. Anyoha's Podcasts:

Newspaper publication, pp.6/7: https://issuu.com/advisor-newspaper/docs/untitled_b41b36cd6d5d1c

Source: Anselm Anyoha, MD, Ph.D.

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