Tribute to My Beloved Father, Antoine OMBOLI: Our Model for Authentic Family, Friendship and Fellowship
Mister Antoine OMBOLI would have been 110 years old in 2020 since he was born around 1910 in a small village of Olloua in Northern West Congo. My Beloved Father departed on September 1989 in Brazzaville, the national capital where he resided for most of his adult life.
As this year 2020 continues to push most of us out of our comfort zone, I find it fitting to pay a heartfelt tribute to my late Father. I will do it through the lenses of his spirit of audacity and his sense of family as well as his natural disposition for friendship and his penchant for fellowship.
In terms of spirit of audacity, my father walked over 600 km from his village to the capital after losing his parents at the tender age of 12 years old. He trailed a convoy of unknown travellers for weeks from a safe distance until reaching Brazzaville. He managed to learn French from a young friend who convinced his parents to host his newly-found orphan acquaintance who became his best friend. Over a period of six years, this friend taught my father in after school hours all that he learned during the day. Armed with the ability to read and write proficiently in French (without setting a foot in a formal classroom and despite being able to write only in “PRINT”), my father travelled to Léopoldville in the former Belgium Congo. In this new city, he secured a job to manage stores, farms and other properties of a Belgian colonial owner. He worked in this position for decades before returning to Brazzaville upon the expulsion of foreigners by reigning government in Kinshasa in early 1960s. He settled for a while in a suburb called Maloukou.
Regarding the sense of family, my Beloved Father believed in familial bonds that are really thicker than blood. He went the extra mile to support, aid and elevate friends to “relative” rank. Most of all, he strived to teach me all the things he was never taught but learned from those who cared about him, treated him with dignity and invested in bonding with him at the human level. This translated into a solid family and servant leadership that earned him esteem and reverences.
Concerning the natural disposition for friendship, my father valued people with beautiful souls and mainly those who held his hand the day he needed it the most. He named me after the very youngster who dared to befriend an abandoned orphan without relatives in a new city. He also married my mom to convert his friendship with my maternal grand-father into a family bond. He even advised me to always learn the best from everyone who edifies my spirit and to befriend people who enrich my soul, enlighten my mind and help me blossom to my best potential.
As to the penchant for fellowship, my Father instilled in me the respect for human life and the resolve to be my bother- and sister-keeper in livable communities. He always accommodated his employees and their families with pay advances to help them make ends meet. He also founded and led a mutual aid and solidarity association for his former workers and customers from his “Teke” ethnic group who elected to settle with him in Maloukou on the right coast of the Congo River. He contributed to strong ecosystems filled with praise and gratitude for the many acts of compassion and generosity as well as empathy and kindness of my father and to caring communities where he raised me as a single parent from the age of 5 to 12 years old.
I regret not to be at his side during his last days and failing to provide him with everything he needed at that stage of his life. I would certainly have loved to tell him how much we love him.
He was however proud of me for being the first from his clan to earn an engineering degree and work abroad. He was even prouder of me for giving him two grand-daughters who bear his name, carry his genetic baggage, embrace his human values and uphold his life beliefs.
Together, we thank my Father for the trusted compass he remains to our life experiences and our community services. We are particularly grateful to him for inspiring us to always rebound from adversity and strive to grow into best versions of ourselves.
We commit to sustain his legacy of audacious journeys and durable community-building along with fluency in multiple languages and ability to connect family dots. We pledge to extend his traveling dynamics to amazing frontiers, to amplify our altruistic footprint across neediest living communities the world over, and to sustainably honour his memory.