July 14, 1946 – May 4, 2002
Olukemi Adamolekun was born in Iju Akure North Local Government on July 14, 1946. She grew up in a Christian environment and remained a staunch member of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, Iju throughout her life. She was also an active church member in the various places where she worked or visited, notably at The Falls Church (Episcopal) in Falls Church, Virginia and, most recently, at the Baptist International Church, Lome, Togo.
She attended St. Stephen’s Primary School, Iju and Fiwasaiye Girls Grammar School, Akure. She then trained to become a nurse at the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan. After marrying Oladipupo in 1970, she joined him in Oxford, England, where she trained to become a mid-wife at the Radcliffe Infirmary. She practiced as a Nurse/Midwife in England and Nigeria for a few years before proceeding to obtain a degree in Psychology at the Marymount Manhattan College, New York. In 1977, she joined the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria) as a Graduate Assistant. At Ife, she obtained both a Master’s degree and a PhD in Guidance and Counseling and taught in the Faculty of Education for about a decade before retiring in 1992.
Her research and writings at Ife and beyond focused on care-giving issues, with attention to cultural dimensions. Among others, she published on aspects of counseling, including the problems of widowhood and bereavement.
While in the USA with her family from 1992 onwards, she was engaged in volunteer work, focusing on the care for the weak: the elderly in hospices, the sick in hospitals, and HIV/AIDS patients in specialized centers. To deepen her grasp of both the theoretical and practical aspects of the caring professions, Olukemi decided to obtain a professional Master’s degree in Social Work. She received the degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2000. Shortly thereafter, she resolved to devote her professional work to the care of the elderly. Thus, Kaleyewa House was born: a not-for-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) that was registered in October 2001. (Motto: “Ageing with Dignity”)
The preparatory work on Kaleyewa House that began in 2000 accelerated after the registration, and in only eight months, Olukemi had accomplished what could take between two and three years: renovation of a building in the family compound as temporary office for the NGO; completion of a census of retired teachers in two pilot communities (Iju and Itaogbolu); identification and initial implementation of volunteering activities by some of the retired teachers; completion of a baseline research project on the elderly in the same
two communities (with the assistance of two Youth Corpers); acquisition of a plot for the headquarters of Kaleyewa House in a Government Estate in Akure; and the creation of a Kaleyewa House website.
When tragedy struck on May 4, Olukemi was in Nigeria to inform the patron, matron and some members of the Board of Trustees and Advisory Committee on the initial activities of the NGO – the plan for the first-ever Global Embrace (WHO—sponsored Walk for the elderly) in Ondo State, and preparatory arrangements for the formal launching of Kaleyewa House, tentatively scheduled for the third quarter of 2003.
Olukemi’s husband, children, the extended family, her immediate communities and her numerous friends and colleagues at home and abroad will remember her as a care-giver par excellence. They will remember her selfless service to all, her grace, her warmth, her humility, her reliability, her integrity and, above all, her unstinting love. The violent manner of her end was the antithesis of her life of peace and love. This will remain a mystery for us all but our consolation is that she left her footprints behind.