At 76, Nelly Obiomachukwunyerem Mgbemena went to be with the Lord on October 12, 2021 at The Ottawa General Hospital. Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria as the eldest of 10 children of Sydney and Patricia Ude, and the first grandchild of Chief Umezuruike Eronini, this natural caregiver went on to become a Registered Nurse. During her time at the University of Ibadan, she met the love of her life, Dr. Benjamin E. Mgbemena, whom she got engaged to, and later migrated to Canada in 1972 to marry. They were blessed with four beautiful and talented girls, Iruaku, Uchenna, Nkechinyelu and Chinenyenwa.
Nelly had a love of gospel music and her strong faith in God led her to be an active member of Holy Trinity Anglican Church’s choir and congregation. A proud Nigerian and leader, Nelly, was very involved with the Igbo Association of the Nigerian Community in Ottawa. She loved nothing more than spending time with her family and becoming a grandmother to baby Zakaiyah was her most treasured role to date. She took great pride in her family and their accomplishments.
Her legacy will continue to be carried on by her husband, children, granddaughter, and her siblings: Juliet, Edith, Galbina, Sonny, Ijeoma, Gloria, Uchenna and her three half siblings Okechukwu, Kingsley and Chinagorom. Nelly is survived by many cousins, nieces and nephews and will forever be remembered for her kind heart, beaming bright smile, her love for sports (Blue Jays and Sens) and her cooking especially her melt-in-your-mouth jollof rice! Nelly was always ready to set an extra plate at the table, opening her heart and her home to all who entered.
Mum, we love you so much and will miss you. Rest in peace with the lord until we meet to part no more.
Link to website and slideshow: https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/ottawa-on/nelly-mgbemena-10399496
A Tribute to our Loving, Caring and Adorable Sister (Nelly)
Ada Adaji, as you were fondly called by your siblings, the news of your demise came to us as a shock on that faithful morning, as we were about to pray. The voice of our sister Ijeoma said “De Nelly anwuona” We stood up and started asking ourselves, “are we dreaming or what? Are we in a trance? Could this be true?” At that point, we became afraid and dumbfounded. We could not believe the shocking story until another voice said “Please it is true. Do not weep because we all were in the hospital when she passed on” (it was the voice of her husband, Dr. Benjamin Mgbemena).
How have the mighty fallen! Why has the Iroko tree fallen?
Ada Nne, why has the cold hands of death snatched you away from us and kept us questioning how and why? Ada Adaji, you filled the gap of a mother in our family. You were a real mother to us. You took good care of us. You never said no to our demands. You were an advisor. You always advised us not to quarrel but love one another and to be united as sisters and brothers, to be prayerful and put all your trust in God for everything. You were peace loving and generous. You touched so many lives with your exemplary attitude. You lived a fulfilled life and you led us to where we are today. Your demise has left an indelible mark in our family, both immediate and extended.
Our prayer is that may the Good Lord grant your soul eternal rest in Jesus Mighty name. Amen. To our dearest in-law Benjamin, may God reward you for the love which you showed to our sister all these years you lived with her. You exhibited the word of God in her life which says, “For better, for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health”. May the Almighty God grant you and your children the fortitude to bear this great loss in Jesus name. Amen. Ada Nne, good night. Ada Adaji, sleep well. Adieu our caring sister. Your twin sisters, Juliet and Edith.
A Tribute to our sister, aunt, cousin and sister in-law, Nelly Obiomachukwunyerem Mgbemena
Dede, Aunty Dede, Aunty Nelly, Big aunty, Ada S.O, Ada Adaji, Ada Ada Eburo-Umezurike, Mama Nnukwu, Mama Iruaku, as you are fondly called by your loved ones, we your family members give God the glory for your life. We thank him immensely for giving you to us. We couldn’t have asked for a better sister, aunty and cousin and sister in-law. Within your 76 years on earth, you touched so many lives but more especially, your husband Dr. Ben Mgbemena and the Mgbemena family, your children; Iruaku, Uchenna, Nkechinyelu, Chinenyenwa and not to mention your siblings. You gave to many without reservation. In the mist of your generosity, you instilled discipline, and encouraged perfection and respect. Many received education, healthcare, and various forms of support from you. You took care of the widows in our family, even as your health was deteriorating, your concern was the welfare of others.
Dede, our beloved Dede, we just want to say thank you so much for all that you did for us. To say that we are going to miss you is an understatement; your warmth, kindness, heartfelt laughter, and wonderful sense of humor will never be forgotten. However, we take solace in knowing that you lived a fulfilled live, such that even at your hospital bed, you asked the Lord our God to lead you and have his way with you and he did. Dede, you are no longer in pain, all the pains are gone and you slept peacefully. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah
Go in peace. Jee na udo Ada nna. May the Lord be with you. Onyeweanyi noronye gi Dede obioma. Amen
Signed by Sonny, Ijeoma and Uche Udechukwu For the Family.
Tribute to Mrs. Nelly Mgbemena
Mrs. Nelly Mgbemena was a woman that loved her husband and family, a good mother, and a hospitable, cheerful, prayerful, and God-trusting person.
Relation with the Family My family and I got to know Nelly shortly after she came to Canada in 1972. Dr. Ben visited and introduced her to us as his fiancée. My initial impression was that Ben had made a good choice of a beautiful maiden, who as they say back home in Nigeria, was good wife material.
When they got married that year, our daughter Franka served as a flower girl at their wedding. Also, Lizy and I were Godparents for their daughter, Chinenyenwa, when she was baptized. As well, we recall how Nelly paid tribute to Lizy at Iruaku’s wedding party when she told all in attendance that Lizy showed/taught her how to bathe her first child, Iruaku even though she, Nelly herself was a registered nurse. In short, our families have been close.
Culture Shock I remember at our first meeting the culture shock and astonishment she expressed to see that Benji, as she fondly called Dr. Ben, “a whole doctor” was cooking for himself. This was in contrast to the situation then back home where doctors, other professionals, and senior civil servants had houseboys or maids to cook for them, do housework, and generally serve them. From then, she resolved to cook for Ben and feed him well. She fulfilled that resolution exceedingly well. She did that and turned out to be a fantastic chef for her husband, her children, and guests.
Family Love Nelly loved her husband and children dearly. She calls her husband “Nkem” meaning My heart, my love, or my own. During her illness and despite her suffering, her heart reached out and literally bled for Ben. In Ibo, she would say, “Ebele Ben emegbugomu. Ne ka osi agbakili ani. Chukwu biko debelum dimu” I am deeply sorry for Ben. See how he has been harassed, running around for me for our children, and at work for his patients. May God keep him.
But before I continue with Nelly’s love for her family, let me say upfront that her love was reciprocated by her husband and children, and her brother Sonny, and sister Ijeoma. Ben, we all applaud and affirm you for your love, dedication, and support of your wife through thick and thin, particularly during her illness. We duff our hats to you. Odiro ofele; Ibu Dike! It was not easy. You are really a tough guy. And we join Nelly in praying that the Good Lord will bless and reward you for your faithfulness and dedication to Nelly. Our thanks and appreciation also go to the children (Iruaku, Uchenna, Chinenyenwa, and Nkechinyelu) for your filial love and support of your mom, as well as to her sister Ijeoma who took care of Ben, including his accommodation and feeding during Nelly’s illness at the hospital.
A Good and Guiding Mother Now back to Nelly. Not only did she love her children, but she also taught them with a motherly, gentle, wise, guiding counsel and direction. Whenever we visited her at the hospital, she would often regale us with one story or another about her daughters and granddaughter. She would show us on her cell phone, photos and videos of her granddaughter, proudly giving us a running account of her development.
She narrated how she imparted to her children the disciplines of work in order to earn, saving, banking and frugality. Her daughters Iruaku and Chinenyenwa here will remember the details. She encouraged them at an early age, to work on a farm picking peaches/berries/ so they can earn and learn the value of money. As well, she advised and helped them to open bank accounts to save their earnings.
When one of the daughters (I do not remember which) realized that her bank balance had increased, she asked how? Nelly gave her a simple tutorial about the interest that the bank credited to her account for keeping her money with them. From then on, instead of spending her money on candies and other frivolities she fancied, she would ask that her entire earnings be put in her bank account. But whenever she needed to buy something, she would ask that the parents pay for it, because in her opinion it was her parent’s responsibility. Nelly was very gentle and patient in teaching them.
Hospitable Entertainer As I said earlier, Nelly resolved to cook for and feed Ben well. She accomplished that and more, feeding her husband, children, and guests. She turned out to be a good cook and chef. She loved to entertain and feast her guests with her own homemade dishes. And when she hosted large guests, she did not rely on caterers alone but loved to participate in and/or supervise the cooking, particularly of our native cuisine. Thus, when Iruaku got married, she organized and supervised the preparation of Nigerian dishes served at the wedding.
A Helper and Doer My son, Martin observed that Nelly was a helper and a doer. He remarked that when Liz, his mother, teamed up with Nelly and ordered goat meat from a farmer in Pembroke, that Nelly, a perfectionist and a lady of action, undertook to take care of the transaction. She made sure that her order and his Mom’s were perfect – overseeing every aspect even going to the farm to select the actual goat. That’s the kind of lady she was, always going the extra mile to help others.
Manager and Supervisor Another attribute of Nelly that my son Fred observed is that she was a wife who astutely managed her family affairs. She demanded competency from those who worked for her. She had no patience for ineptitude.
Thus, years ago, when the Mgbemena family was moving from their previous residence to their present address in Pembroke, she asked my son who at that time, had a cleaning business, to come and help clean the houses – the one that they were moving from and the one they were moving into. In addition, she had also hired someone else, a young man from an agency for the job.
While supervising them at work, Nelly noticed that the young man from the agency was not working diligently and that for all intents and purposes, Fred was doing most of the work. She observed that the young man was perpetually taking short breaks and complaining about how much work there was even though she would be paying the agency. She remarked that at the rate the young man was working, it was a good thing that Fred was there, otherwise, the job would not have been completed in time.
She not only expressed her impatience with the young man’s incompetence, but did so in a very authoritative manner which made the young man buckle up. Fred said that it reminded him of how our elders in Nigeria spoke when they detected ineptitude in an individual and it made him smile.
Prayerful Woman of Faith Nelly was a prayerful and thus a powerful child of God. She prayed for others. When Liz, my wife was ill, she prayed and lighted candles for her even though she herself was not well.
She was profoundly grateful to and appreciative of those who prayed for her, and especially the priests who visited and gave her holy communion at her sickbed. She bore her illness and pain with incredible equanimity and cheerful spirit, and with complete trust in the Lord, accepting His will no matter what. She believed and often said so, that the prayers that people offered on her behalf contributed to sustaining her.
Now, that she has passed on, we pray and trust that her soul rests in perfect peace with the Lord.
And, for you Ben, Iruaku, Uchenna, Chinenyenwa, Nkechinyelu, Ijeoma and Sonny, and all the Mgbemena family and Nelly’s relatives and friends who bore with Nelly the cross of her illness and suffering, we pray that the Holy Spirit will comfort you in your grief, and give you the strength, wisdom and wherewithal to move on. God bless.
Michael O. Adibe, Ottawa, Ontario, 23 October 2021
Tribute to Nelly Mgbemena
Words fail me today as I contemplate the passing of a friend, mother, mentor, matriarch, our own Nelly Mgbemena! Beloved wife of my lifelong friend Benjy Mgbemena, you came into my life when I moved to Ottawa from Toronto in 1973 to begin my graduate studies at the University of Ottawa. You opened up your home to me and my brother Ben, insisting that, as bachelors, we were not able to feed ourselves properly, and made sure that at least once a week we came to your home for a “proper” meal.
How could I forgot how you almost single-handedly organised and orchestratedmy wedding to my late wife in 1975, all this while nursing your 3-month old baby Uchenna. Such devotion could only come from our own Nelly.
When my family arrived back to Canada in 1989 after a 10-year sojourn in Nigeria, you welcomed us once again with open arms, with the same generosity that had exemplified your love and devotion to my family.
During the protracted period of your illness, you strove to cheer me up whenever I visited you at the hospital or called you on the phone, not minding that you were the one that was sick. Your selflessness was totally exemplary, always worrying more about others than about yourself.
Dear Nelly, I have the fondest memories of you. I know that your arrival in heaven has brightened up the place and now you have re-connected with my darling wife Joy and other friends that have passed before you.
It is no wonder that there was a big round of applause from the angels, when St. Peter announced the arrival of Aunty Nelly at the pearly gates; in the knowledge that, with her arrival, no one in heaven will ever go hungry again!
Adieu, dear Nelly, and may you find peace and solace, as you sit on the right side of God.
Godwin Ifedi 20 November 2021