ForeverMissed
Lady Ori Uko was born on the 20th of December 1924. She was the fourth child of a Methodist Evangelist, Elder Ogan Onuoha of Amukabi, Amokwe Item and his wife Madam Nwannediya Ogan. Her educational career started at Item Central School and Methodist Girls College, Ovim. Thereafter, she proceeded to Amachara Methodist Hospital, in Umuahia, for her nursing training. Encouraged by her beloved brother, the late Professor Okoronkwo Ogan and with his unwavering support, Ori further went for midwifery training at Ituk Mbang Hospital, in the present Akwa Ibom State. There she excelled and gained attention and prominence in her studies. Qualifying as a registered nurse (N.R.N.) from Ituk Mbang in December of 1949 assuredly made her a pioneer, and the first staff nurse/midwife from Item.

Ori met her beloved husband Nelson Igwe Uko while training at Amachara Methodist Hospital. They were married in April 1950 and proceeded to make their home in Enugu, where Nelson was employed in the Civil Service. They were blessed with the birth of their first child Nnennaya Edia, in March of the following year. In April 1952, Ori joined the health and medical services of the government of the Eastern Region of Nigeria and commenced her nursing career at the Park Lane General Hospital, which was known as The European Hospital during the colonial administration. The family expanded with the birth of their second daughter Nkeiru, followed by the twins, Chinyere and Ikechi. Ori and Nelson, now well established in Enugu, turned their attention to building and developing the community in Enugu. They collaborated with many close friends in various impactful endeavours to improve the quality of life for families in Enugu. They were involved in civic education and social entertainment programs for children, programs for the advancement of women and promotion of sports and wellness. Through these associations, Ori and Nelson built a strong community of dear friends who would remain an integral part of their lives' journey.

In the following years, Ori would travel widely, in Nigeria and abroad, working with the Moral Rearmament to promote ethics, Christian moral values and unity across the globe. Besides her work at the hospital, Ori rendered services gratis to her community. She treated a variety of ailments, consulted on medical issues and in many instances, took deliveries at home when it was difficult for a woman to get to a hospital in time to give birth.

The birth of her two youngest children Nma and Uchenna did little to slow Ori down. She continued to make time to remain involved in religious and community development activities. She joined the Enugu Methodist Women's Fellowship and became a lifelong mentor to numerous young women. Her home invariably became the home relatives and friends sent their young daughters, to learn and be groomed. In appreciation of her various contributions to all spheres of religious and secular activities both in Enugu and in her hometown Item, she was continually selected for a wide variety of awards and accolades.

Ori served with distinction and resounding merit in just about every aspect of the health care system in Enugu. She won the extraordinary honour of being accorded the nickname "the Christian Nurse".

At the onset of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967, the family was compelled to leave Enugu for the comparative safety of her husband's hometown in Okoko Item. In Item, Ori continued in her role as nurse and midwife, working at Umunnato General Hospital. As the war progressed, she cared for many refugees, friends and relatives, charitably sharing love, food and medicine, to as many people as crossed her path. She was loved and renowned in surrounding villages as the traveling nurse. She traversed long distances, putting herself at risk to make healthcare accessible to the poor, the helpless and the needy. She would take whatever medical supplies available to her to areas where the needs were greatest. Occasionally, Ori would receive a message late at night to come to one of the nearby villages to deliver healthcare. Fearlessly, she would light a lantern and walk the distance to offer help, never worrying about the danger she was putting herself through. Her faith was rock solid that God would always guide her safely.

In 1970, when the civil war ended, her family returned to Enugu, to begin to rehabilitate and rebuild. Ori returned to work at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, in Enugu, where she quickly rose to the rank of Senior Nursing Sister. Ori relished her nursing career which spanned three decades and ended in April 1981, when she retired meritoriously as a Matron.

Post-war devastation meant that most students returning to secondary school, no longer had the option of housing in boarding schools. Ori's hospitality and capacity to help others knew no bounds. She opened her home to family friends as well as several relatives who needed a place to stay to continue their education in Enugu. Her home became the 'boarding home' for so many. She had the God given ability of making people feel at ease, comfortably relating and bonding with all people of different ages, so much so that it was sometimes difficult, to tell which of her many 'children' were her biological children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. She was fondly called Mommy by all.

At home, Ori enjoyed entertaining guests. Her cooking was legendary. Her 14 Awolowo Street abode was always a place where family and friends, especially nieces and nephews, and friends of all her children, convened for good food and great company. The up-and-coming young Item folks who moved to Enugu for employment or graduate studies found welcoming-arms and a comforting home at 14 Awolowo Street. Many simply showed up for Oha or Edikaikong soup and carrot cake!

Nelson and Ori enjoyed traveling and taking road trips with friends when their children were younger. After retirement, Ori enjoyed spending time with her children and helping with her grandchildren. Always the proud, loving mother and grandmother she took great pleasure in preparing lavish meals for the kids and went to their schools, for extracurricular activities, whenever she and Nelson traveled to be with them.

In her family of birth, her husband's family and the larger community, Ori was considered a Grand Matriarch. She was a pivotal figure in her family, and in return she was adored and extolled. She was dearly beloved and greatly respected by her in-laws who held her in exceedingly high esteem. They loved her with fierce loyalty. She was their champion in every sense of the word.

In the larger community, Ori was involved in many community developmental projects both in Item and Enugu. She was a former President of the United Church Women and a Proprietor of Lady Ibiam Secondary School Enugu. She also held different leadership positions in Okoko Item Progressive Union (Women's Wing) Enugu Branch, where she rose to the rank of Grand Patron. Her community, Eziufu Okoko Item, motivated by her unparalleled contributions to the advancement of the community, honoured her with the title "Nneoha" – Mother to All.

In appreciation of her various contributions to her chosen profession, the Department of Nursing Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences and Technology, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Enugu Campus, bestowed upon her the distinguished and highly prestigious award of "Doyen of Nursing Profession" in April of 2009. On September 13, 2020, in recognition of her invaluable, pragmatic, selfless unwavering services to humanity, the Excellent Service Award was also bestowed upon Ori by the Most Reverend C.N. Ede, Archbishop of Enugu, through the Very Reverend Joel Okorie – Presbyter, City Central Circuit.

Ori was a force of nature! She lived her life benevolently with wisdom, grace, faith and courage. A devout Christian, Ori lived her Christian values out loud and expressed her vision through love. Her devotion to God and her love of Christ was evident in the dignity with which she treated her fellow human beings, and in her acts of service to the church. She and Nelson ardently supported the Methodist Church in Enugu and in Item, contributing to the growth of both. Ori consistently opened her home to Methodist Church Women Groups to hold their meetings. She was not only a highly regarded leader in the church, but she was also a mentor to many in her church family. Unsurprisingly, the church conferred on her many honors, a few of which included “Elder,” “Ezinne,” and “Lady of John Wesley.”

Ori was a devoted wife and mother. The relationship she and Nelson shared was an inspiration to all who knew her family. From the inception of their marriage, through their twilight years, Ori cared for her husband lovingly with utmost dedication. She supported him loyally and unequivocally in every venture he undertook. Consistently attuned to his needs, she diligently ensured he had the most nutritious meals, and the best healthcare. The love they shared was so incredible and true, it motivated others to live life well. Together, Ori and Nelson raised their children with love and faith. They built a home where any who entered, was embraced with affection.

Ori departed this earth on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. She joined the love of her life, the late Sir, Chief Nelson Igwe Uko (Ikenga Item) of Ndi Igwe, Umuokoronwo Okoko Item, and daughter Nnennaya Edia who preceded her in death. She is survived by five of her six children and their spouses; Nkeiru and Nnamdi Onuekwusi; Chinyere and Onyebuchi Ukabiala; Ikechi and Nnenna Uko; Nma and Markson Igwe, and Uchenna Uko. As well as twenty-one grandchildren; two grandchildren-in-law; two great-grandchildren; two sisters, and a host of other relatives and in-laws.

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