It is often said that Liberia and the United States have a historical and inseparable bond. The tiny nation on the west coast of Africa was founded by former slaves from the United States and gained its independence in 1847. More than a century later, Americans of all backgrounds would continue to travel to Liberia for a variety of reasons, and a few ended up making Liberia home. One American who made Liberia her home was Mrs. Elaine Ruth Armour Wolo of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Born to the Union of Rev. Dr. Lloyd J. Armour, Sr. and Mrs. Frances H. Armour, Mrs. Wolo was the second of 10 children. Arriving in Liberia in 1962, as Elaine Ruth Armour, the young educator had earned a bachelor’s degree from Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana in Elementary Education, and a master’s degree from Columbia University Teachers College, New York City,
New York. She began her work in Liberia as a volunteer with Operation Crossroads Africa in 1962 and returned to Liberia as Education Adviser on the Tuskegee University Team, Unites States Agency for International Development, Liberia (USAID/Liberia): Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) from 1964-1966. In 1967, Ms. Armour founded the Child Development Center in Lamco/Yekepa.
While at ZRTTI, she would meet and later marry her husband of 33 years, the Late
Mr. Samuel N. Wolo, Sr., who was also an educator. They would have two children,
Dr. Tanae Elaine Wolo-Acolatse and Samuel N. Wolo, Jr. Mr. Wolo, Sr. earned his bachelor’s degree from Cuttington University, Suacoco, Liberia and a master’s degree from Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana. He would later become Vice Principal of Booker Washington Institute (BWI) 1973-1978, President of Ricks Institute 1978-1980, and Administrative Manager, Bong County Agricultural Development Project (BCADP) 1980-1989.
In 1972, Mrs. Wolo established Armour Wolo Foundation (AWOFO) pre and primary school in Kakata, Liberia while she was an Instructor at BWI. She also taught at Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI) from 1973-1978 and later served as Dean/Registrar at Ricks Institute Junior College from 1978-1980. Mrs. Wolo also served as Asst. Professor of the Education Division at Cuttington University College from 1980-1986 and was the Education Division Chair from 1982-1986.
Throughout her career, Mrs. Wolo touched the lives of thousands of students both in Liberia and abroad. During her time as a Cross Roads Africa teacher trainer, she would come to know a young man in her class named Joseph Nyumah Boakai. The young man would later go on to become Vice President of the Republic of Liberia (2006 – 2017). Vice President Boakai honored Mrs. Wolo in a ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015 where he presented her with a plaque for her service and contributions to Liberia and called her a “teacher, friend and mentor”.
Having a passion for education, specifically childhood education, Mrs. Wolo authored several children’s books including Wilmot, the Canoe Boy, Ministry of Education, Liberia, 1965; John and the Diamonds, Armour Wolo Foundation (AWOFO), 1972; Nippeh’s Fishing Surprise, AWOFO, 1972; and Where is Sumo, AWOFO, 1972. Other writings outside of Liberia include Pragmatic Pluralism for International Unity and Education in Liberia: Literature for Children, Liberian Studies Journal, XX,2 (1995); Folktales and Games From Multicultures of Western Africa, 1996; Things To Do, XlibrisPublishers, 2014; African Images and ABC Sounds, AWOFO, 2017.
Mrs. Wolo was a presenter at churches and schools in New Orleans and Liberia and at international conferences in the United States and Liberia as well as book fairs in Africa and Europe. A lifelong learner, Mrs. Wolo earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) from Tulane University, School of Public Health in 1998 and also studied at Southeastern Louisiana University and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mrs. Wolo leaves to celebrate her life and life’s work her daughter; Dr. Tanae Wolo-Acolatse (son-in-law Joachim) and her son Samuel N. Wolo, Jr (daughter-in-law Toya), and five grandchildren Miaya, Anthony, Cydnie, Kyndal, Anaiya. A true adventurer, Mrs. Wolo’s travels included the continental United States and Hawaii; Africa: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria; Europe: Italy, former Soviet Union; Asia: Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao. Funeral services for Mrs. Wolo are scheduled for March 1, 2021 in here hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mrs. Wolo’s journey through life and her contributions to education in Liberia and the Liberian people are a true testament to the best of what the union of one person of African descent from the United States and the other of African descent from Liberia can achieve if both worlds come together to work toward the greater good of Liberia. As we honor the life of this amazing mother, wife, teacher, minister, missionary, consultant, storyteller, author, guest soloist, retired educator, and trailblazer who departed this earth on February 20, 2021 after a wonderful 85-year journey, it is important to remember that Liberia has and continues to have a special place in the hearts of many people across the globe. Liberia can only be made stronger when it embraces others in the same way Mrs. Wolo loved and embraced Liberia and the Liberian people.