By Francis Ewherido
In 1962, a dashing young man met a devastatingly beautiful 15-year-old damsel (the chairman of the anniversary reception last Saturday, Engr. Edgert Imomoh, the couple’s friend for the past 50 years, wondered what he was doing with a 15-year-old girl).
Five years later, on March 12, 1967, the young star, Gabriel Adoghe, got married to his heartthrob, Barbara. It has been 50 years since then and so much water has passed under the bridge: six children, 16 grand children, four sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law. Sir Adoghe, who worked in Shell for decades, has since retired; so also Lady Barbara Adoghe, who was a businesswoman.
They have had many good times and some challenges, some of them enormous, in those 50 years. There have also been many changes, mainly for good. But one thing has not changed: Mrs. Adoghe’s ageless beauty. There is only one word to describe Mrs. Adoghe, who joined the league of septuagenarians this year: Babe. Mrs. Adoghe is a babe; forget her age, it is just a number. Mrs. Adoghe will walk in the streets with Uyi or Aletor (her sons) and people will mistake her for his wife and you won’t blame such people.
Mrs. Adoghe matches her older daughters, Onyemhen and Omon, toe to toe in youthful looks. That is not because the daughters look older than their ages; rather Mrs. Adoghe’s looks simply belie her 70 years.
The homilist during the 70th birthday/50th wedding anniversary Mass last Saturday, Rev. Fr. Anthony Ewherido, said Mrs. Adoghe, without make up looks 50 and with makeup, 35 years. The master of ceremony at the reception jokingly queried the person who calculated Mrs. Adoghe’s age and came up with the 70 years. He said the zero in front of the seven on the birthday cake should be removed and replaced with “1” before the seven to come up with 17 years.
But Mrs. Adoghe is not just beauty; she is BB (beauty and brains). One of her daughters, Oyie, narrated how she ran various businesses to support her husband while they (children) were growing up. She was, and still is, the ultimate biblical helpmate to her husband. Another daughter, Eghonghon, credits her mother for the skills, which have helped her succeed in business.
As retirees, they spend a chunk of their time with the families of their six children. The children say their parents have, by their actions, showed that, marriage is not just about two people, but also about building a larger community comprising children, grandchildren sons- and daughters-in-law, brothers, sisters and friends.
But one thing they have not retired from is church and charity work. Both are active members of their local parish, the Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church, Effurun, Delta State and their home parishes in Igueben and Ewohimi, Edo State. In fact, it was the Bishop of their home Diocese of Uromi, Most Revd. Dr. Donatus Ogun, who was the chief celebrant at the anniversary Mass in Effurun, while the Bishop of Warri Diocese, his Lordship, Most Revd. Dr. John OkeOghene Afareha, was also present. The Adoghes have contributed to the formation of so many priests; they got the sobriquet of Mama and Papa Rev. Fathers.
Even though done quietly, their charity work within and outside the church is an open secret. For a long time, Mrs. Adoghe was also a marriage course teacher in their parish. Many of her former students still speak glowingly of the time she taught them. She used herself as an example, telling her students the challenges of raising six children (including two set of twins) in her younger days. She spoke about the difficult times when her husband was involved in two near fatal accidents.
In one of those accidents, her daughter, Oyie, narrated how her mother, who broke a collar bone in the accident, dragged out her father, who was unconscious, from the wreckage of the vehicle, while going through terrible pains herself. The accident took part of the scalp and face of Pa. Adoghe and the scars are still very visible. In the midst of that, Pa. Adoghe suffered a devastating stroke. Mrs. Adoghe was there patiently nursing him back to health.
As if their travails were not enough, Pa Adoghe was kidnapped and locked in the car boot some years ago after Mass on a Sunday. But God never allows his children to carry crosses beyond their capacity. While the kidnappers were taking him away, the vehicle slowed down at a point. Adoghe suspected they were at a police checkpoint. He decided to gamble and started kicking the boot. The gamble paid off; he was rescued, while some of the kidnappers were arrested.
The Adoghes are a blessed couple. They successfully raised their six children to become men and women of substance. This is no mean feat because parenting is one of the trickiest aspects of marriage and many parents have the scars of black sheep among their children. It is very easy for people to envy them and forget the travails they have been through.
Many people will readily cling to their glamour and joys, but nobody will want to have anything to do with their grind and travails. There are many marriages and people who would have fallen apart with the kind of travails they had, but not the Adoghes; they are made of steel and sterner stuff. Pa Adoghe certainly has physical challenges as a result of the accident and stroke, but his spirit is unbroken, made of steel. He is a cat with nine lives, a survivor.
The Adoghes, who are Knight and Lady of St. Mulumba, focus on the sunny side of life without necessarily forgetting the scrappy aspect. This has shaped the way they live. They belong to the high society by any standard, but they are just ordinary folks, very comfortable both with the high and the lowly, rich and poor, young and old. This disposition to life also necessitated them and their children to roll out the drums, in a simple but impressive ceremony, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and 70 birthday of daddy’s “babe,” Mrs. Adoghe. They have every reason to be grateful to God.
The Adoghes are an inspiration to the marriage institution and that is not only because they have been in it for 50 years, a very monumental achievement. They represent all that is good about Christian marriage: selfless and undying love, patience and perseverance, “for better, for worse,” “in sickness and in health” and “to love and cherish always.”
The way they enthusiastically renewed their wedding vows in church during the anniversary Mass showed what everybody already knew: Like good wine, they are just getting better and better. Happy Golden wedding anniversary to this Warri “boy” and his “babe,” and happy 70th birthday, ma. May you both age gracefully in health of body and mind.
- Francis Ewherido, a friend of the family, is a Saturday Vanguard Columnist