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Kofoworola Abimbola Ozoemena: Volunteer. Insurance broker. Wife. Friend. Born Feb. 15, 1962, in Nigeria; died May 30, 2018, in Mississauga, of breast cancer; aged 56.

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Kofoworola Ozoemena.

Passages are usually marked publicly for reasons such as great inventions, fame or wealth. However, here I mark the passing of a woman who brought love, joy and kindness to all those whose paths she crossed.

Kofo grew up a quiet and reserved young girl in Ibadan, Nigeria. She enjoyed school and earned a BSc in sociology and an MBA consecutively from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria.

She married her long-time boyfriend, Franklin, at 28. They loved exploring different countries and cultures. During her travels, she would spend every cent on gifts to bring back to Nigeria for friends and relatives, often forgetting to buy something for herself. Kofo was always selfless and thoughtful: She volunteered with spinal cord research groups and advocated for human rights in Africa. And once, in Lagos, Frank remembers she gave all her money to a group of beggars, only to realize she had no money for bus fare to return home. Even when entertaining, she loved cooking and was a great host; it was not uncommon for her to apologize when she only had one dish to serve, which, to her, meant her guests had less choice.

Kofo fell in love with Canada during her first visit in 1995. She was blown away by the warmth of its people. She returned many times and the couple decided to seek permanent residency in Canada, finally arriving in Mississauga for good in 2010.

Once settled, she started the process of getting back into her profession. She passed all the exams to gain her Insurance Brokerage licence in Ontario. Just as Kofo was settling down into her new country and a new job in her field, cancer came calling in 2015. It became one of her biggest regrets that after obtaining her citizenship, cancer did not let her enjoy the full experience.

Kofo had no children, but her nieces, nephews and friends’ children had the full benefit of her mother hen instincts. When illness stopped Kofo from attending her niece’s wedding, she sent her a text: “Whatever happens today, don’t get upset and don’t apply too much make up, because it ruins pictures.” Her niece said it felt like Kofo was right there with her, and helped set the tone for a happy wedding day. Even on her sick bed, Kofo worried more about what her visitors would eat than the pain she was going through.

Frank often said his wife “was the nicest person I have ever met.” Kofo Ozoemena was distinguished principally by her limitless kindness, simplicity and forgiveness of all who wronged her, no matter the immensity of the hurt. She taught her friends not just how to live but also how to die. Almost a year before she died, doctors told her that there was no way back in her battle against breast cancer, but she still remained hopeful and preoccupied with the needs of others to the end. She lives in our hearts forever.

Gloria Chukwu is Kofo’s friend. Frank Ozoemena is her husband.

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