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Ten years on – missing Onike Sawyerr Twumasi

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his inner mercies never come to an end
they are new every morning, new every morning
great is thy faithfulness O Lord, Great is thy faithfulness
Life History
Mrs Honora Moronike Sawyerr Twumasi
21 November 1946 – 18th December 2006
A full life, a life well lived, a life of fulfilment that has touched all that she has been associated with, a life that must be celebrated by all those who have been left behind and a selfless life of toil that must be an exemplar for all.
Honora, Onike was born to Mr J Ade Sawyerr of blessed memory and Sophia Araba Sawyerr nee Mould of Jamestown.  She was christened Honora as a tribute to her late Grandfather who was then an Honourable member of the Legislative Assembly of Ghana.
She started and completed her primary school education at St Mary’s School in Accra and continued her Middle School at Kotababi Middle School, K1.  After successfully passing her common entrance examination at Form 3 she went on to Aburi Girls School to start her secondary education. After a year battling with frequent bouts of illness living in the high altitude of the Aburi hills, and where her sickle cell condition was discovered she left Aburi to restart at Accra Girls Secondary School, as a proud member of the second set of that school.

In 1966 she sat for what was then the GCE examinations but because she was unwell during that period she did not attain the necessary grades that would get her into a sixth form school.  She spent the next year at home staying with her cousin professor KA Ofosu-Amaah studying at home and she passed with such good grades that she could have been accepted by most secondary schools.  She, however, decided that she wanted to take a different route in her studies and joined the first batch of students to be accepted at the Accra Polytechnic for the Diploma in Business Studies course.  She completed both the secretarial and accounting options with honours and eventually found a job of her choice with Ghana Airways where she worked as an executive assistant to the then managing director, the late Mr Okaitei Ako.
Her decision not to attend sixth form or university in Ghana was because she had a fascination with America and had read so much about the educational system especially the ‘work and study’ system of attaining scholarship to America.  Her dream then was to obtain upon the acquisition of the necessary credits an associate degree whilst she was still working and then subsequently work her way to higher qualifications so in 1972 she left Ghana with a full scholarship to a women’s college in Bangor in Maine.  On her way to the US she stopped over in the UK where she worked for several months.  Maine was a bit too far, cold and very lonely for her to be without any of the familiar support systems.  She made contact with the Jungaward family with whom her late father had stayed with on one of his trips to America, and who invited her to come over to Minneapolis where she enrolled at the university for Economics Soon after moving to Minneapolis she met her husband, Yaw Twumasi and I think in 1974 they got married.  Minneapolis remained their base station whilst she dutifully followed her husband across the length and breadth of America as his work dictated.  Onik spent some time in Austin, Texas, where Nana Konadu was born and they went back to Minneapolis then moved on to Springfield, Virginia, where Ohene Ankama was born.  They then returned to Minneapolis before spending several years in Delaware and finally moved back to Minneapolis where she lived until her untimely demise.

Onik was very industrious and very entrepreneurial as well.  She worked in many job roles and probably bragged her way into various positions along the way.  She always believed in her competence and capability in taking on the challenges of the various job roles that she faced whether in an administrative capacity, technical computing role, in accounting or in project co-ordination where she excelled.  She was very adept at learning on-the-job all she needed was a little assistance and the opportunity to prove her worth.  She worked with the State Department in Austin, Texas, Delaware State University, Control Data Corporation and Intrepid/Becklund Health Care Inc.

Her family was central to her and though she always talked about the beauty of the nuclear family system, she actually lived her life thriving best when she was amongst her extended family.  She was a source of immense assistance to her cousins on both sides of her family, often seeking to bring people together and indeed helping to settle and resettle members of her family in America.

She made time for members of the family often calling to hold very long winding conversations and discussions on issues she felt to be important.  She had a get-up and go personality providing suggestions and options and being rather emphatic on the best cause of action even when she did not know the full background to issues.  She felt that she owed immeasurable gratitude to those who had nursed her and shown concern during the periods of illness as a child growing up with sickle cells disease.  She channelled her energies and spared no expense in caring for our late father and after his death single-handedly took on the care of our mother.  In that sense, she was selfless. She tried to get as many of her nieces and nephews over to America at great cost to her own finances.  On her last trip to Ghana this August, she accompanied our mother and cousin Constance to offer support during the funeral of our aunt who had passed away in Minneapolis.  She stayed on for several weeks afterwards to try and resettle our mother whom she had cared for here in America for the past nine years and ensure that all her needs could be met without any problems. She took the trouble to look up many friends and family whom she had not seen for a very long time – they did not know it then but we know now that she was bidding them a fond farewell.

Onik’s political beliefs were a mixture of nationalism and republicanism, it was no wonder therefore that she became a very vocal member of the Gadangme community in Minneapolis. she had always hoped that the international community of Gadangme in the Diaspora would assist in the development of neglected areas where the urban poor lived in the heartland of Gadangme; in 1978 on an extended trip to Ghana she raised funds to set up the Kwashieman Council for Social Concern, a self help organisation that she used to channel some funds into the development of an urban Ga area.  This organisation sadly folded up when she returned to America.  She wrote extensively on issues on the Gadangme Forum and found time to attend all the conferences and events that were held under the auspices of the wider Gadangme community.  Even during her last trip toGhana she found time to visit the offices of the Gadangme Council in Accra to discuss some of the strategies with executive members after the Congress.

As somebody who had battled with the sickle cell disease from childhood and who therefore visited Ghana a mere five times in all the thirty-five odd years she had been away, she was still very passionate about the country.  Indeed in 1978, she took a year off to go back to Ghana to see whether she could reintegrate into the system.  She took on a job as an urban planner with the Department of Transport in Accra but unfortunately despite giving it her best shot, she felt that she couldn’t stay on and returned to America.  Since then the only other time that she went back home was when she went down in 1995 to bury her late father.  Onik always remarked that she was always taken very ill on her return from Ghana.  It was therefore surprising that on this occasion despite her feeling unwell upon her return to Minneapolis she was more concerned about getting a job rather than seeing to her health.  As ever, her main concern even as she lay on her death bed was about the care and wellbeing of her mother.

Onik always took leadership roles in situations.  She never shied of what she considered to be her responsibilities.  She was a dependable pillar of support both financial and moral to her family and there were many more things that she had intended to accomplish in this rather short life.
Onike Twumasi, mother to all nieces and nephews, dependable pillar of support to all in the family, a true and loyal prop to all friends, especially in their time of need, a faithful consort to your husband and a shoulder to cry on to all acquaintances and colleagues.

Onike Twumasi, you will be missed by all who have been associated with you.
Onike, Rest in Perfect peace in the Lord,
Damirifa Due, damifra Due,
Yaa wo Ojogbann

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The Matters Arising blog is a collection of thought-provoking, thought-leadership pieces sprinkled with some blue-sky thinking on pertinent issues affecting African communities both in the diaspora and at home. It includes articles on culture, politics, social and economic advancement, diversity and inclusion, community cohesion topics. It is also a repository of the political history of Ghana, traditions of the Gadagme people of Ghana, and the Pan-African politics of Kwame Nkrumah. Read, enjoy, like, share, and join!


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