PHILADELPHIA – Betty Woewiyu remembered her husband, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu at a peaceful celebration of life in the city of brotherly love last Saturday, recalling a man full of conviction and one she remembers as her best friend.
Mr. Woewiyu, who served as Defense Minister for Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front(NPFL) died on April 12, 2020, after falling prey to the deadly Coronavirus pandemic in Philadelphia.
On Saturday, friends, family and loved ones gathered to pay homage to a man whose complexities and link to the Liberian civil war still divides many who knew him from those who may have only heard about the role he played as Defense Spokesman for Taylor’s revolution.
At his life’s celebration, at the Collingdale 1st Church of the Nazarene, Collingdale, PA, Saturday, he was remembered as a committed husband, a loving father, and a loyal friend.
Exemplary, Fearless Leader
Betty recalled: “As Tom and I traveled on life’s highway, the road came to a sudden turn on April 12, 2020. When Tom and I met 30 years ago, our eyes locked and we both realized we were destined to be husband and wife.
Through the years, she says Tom was her partner, her best friend and confidant. “Tom was a man with strong conviction and had a deep love for humanity. Tom was exemplary of a fearless leader who embraced compassion and integrity. In essence, Tom supported strong relationships and human dignity to the highest extent. There are four characters that best describe my husband, my love that I will share with you today, Tom, the king, Tom, the servant, Tom, the man and Tom, the child of God.”
Recalled Betty: “Tom was a king. He was a king and he made me his queen and our home was our palace. Tom was a king who robed himself with royal garment of fiber made of kindness, honesty and wisdom. Tom was a king who appreciated truth and constructive criticisms as a guide through his life’s journey. More than a king, Tom was a servant: In Mark Chapter 9: verse 35 and Chapter 10: verses 43-44, Jesus taught his disciples the link between greatness and being a servant; those verses describe my husband, Tom, the Servant.”
She says Tom was humble and willing to help everyone who needed his service, when no one was watching. “Tom spoke respectfully to everyone; without regards to age, gender, social status or ethnicity.
In addition to being a king and a servant, Tom was a man. We watched him as a man who mourned bitterly when he lost his son and his mother; we saw him laugh when he was happy, and we saw him cry when he was sad. We also saw him dance at our wedding and other joyous social events. Tom was a man who took time to be a husband and brought flowers home on a regular basis in addition to candlelight dinners for two. Tom was a father who knew the importance of being a parent; thus, making it his priority to spend quality time with his children regularly. Tom was a family member and friend who was connected with his relatives, school mates and colleagues near and far; via email, text messages and phone calls.”
Above all, she said, Tom was a child of God. “Tom had a personal relationship with his creator; Tom spent hours praying every day and his hope was built on knowing that his creator lives. Tom had strong faith and did not care whether tomorrow would yield sunshine, clouds or rain. Tom’s outmost desire was to treat others as he wanted to be treated and to please his creator and to be ultimately ushered into the eternal kingdom with the words, “well done, thou good and faithful servant. May the soul of my husband, my love, Tom, the king, Tom, the servant, Tom, the man and Tom, the child of God and the souls of our beloved who have departed this life rest in perpetual peace.”
Mr. Woewiyu was born on December 15, 1945 into the union of Woewiyu Ghia and Hawa Karzorbeh Woewiyu in Dwen Town, Neekreen Township, Grand Bassa County, Liberia. Jucontee’s siblings from father; brothers, David and Sirleaf Woewiyu along with his sister, Wredimah Naanco Woewiyu-Giahquee predeceased him.
Tom was remembered for his humble beginnings and his appreciation for his gift of life. “Jucontee was the seventh of the thirteenth children of his mother and the only surviving child. Jucontee, deeply treasured being chosen by God to be a gift for Ma Hawa and strived to live a life worthy of the blessing; his family name, village and country,” his wife, Betty recalled.
“Tom was a man with strong conviction and had a deep love for humanity. Tom was exemplary of a fearless leader who embraced compassion and integrity. In essence, Tom supported strong relationships and human dignity to the highest extent. There are four characters that best describe my husband, my love that I will share with you today, Tom, the king, Tom, the servant, Tom, the man and Tom, the child of God.”– Betty Woewiyu, Widow
His passion for equity and equality started in his teen years. In 1963, when a bold 17 year old and merely a tenth grade student of Bassa High School, Lower Buchanan, staged his first protest to protect the people of the Neekreen Clan and succeeded in obtaining for his people a change of political status to Township which stopped their forced labor system known as ‘plotor’. “This singular act of a sense of justice at a tender age would define his character throughout his lifetime,” Betty recalled.
A tough, Balancing Act
Before coming to the United States, Tom worked at the Liberian-Swedish American Mining Company (LAMCO) in Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County as Sergeant in the company’s Plant Protection Force (PPF). In addition, he attended and graduated from the Liberian Police Academy. Tom came to the United States in 1969 with high expectations to change his economic circumstances through hard work and education. Because he was the only child of his mother, he wanted to ensure that he would establish a family that included the blessing of children; he promised himself that even though he was born on banana leaves, his children will be born on silk blankets.
Tom’s early life in America was very challenging, a balancing act to say the least. He worked full time, pumped gas part time; while driving a taxi on weekends and going to Brooklyn Community College.
Eventually, he entered Rutgers State University of New Jersey-Newark, where he graduated with high honors, specializing in Labor Studies. Tom would later use this knowledge to work and invest in businesses; one of which was European Wheels, his first owned car parts business in Manhattan, NY; later opening his own Getty Gas station in Newark, NJ. Also, owning a transport business for the clothing district of NYC and his most prominent business ventures, Gbezohn Enterprise, Inc. & Shire International, the real estate acquisition and management companies.
Tom’s vision for economic stability never wavered and stayed on course no matter what obstacles he faced. Yet, his greatest love was for his family, he kept his promise to birth as many children that God would bless him with and to provide the best living, education and unconditional love that a father could bestow. He was married to Ms. Virgina Bass and then Mrs. Maude N. Woewiyu (deceased). Tom met his current wife, Mrs. Betty Sundaymah Karmoh Woewiyu, when she was 20 years of age; they got married on March 17, 2003 in Arlington, Virginia, USA. The death of his son, Saemahn T. Woewiyu in 2005, broke his heart and he only found solace in his faith.
Tom’s family commitment had no boundaries; whether you were a cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, in-law, or family friend; he saw everyone as valuable and if he could make a difference in anyone’s life, he would. He devoted most of his personal resources and passion in helping to educate extended family, friends and many young people in need. So many see him as a dependable big brother, father, the most loving Grandpa (PaPa), mentor, a forever friend.
Change Agent, Revolutionary
Tom truly saw himself as a change agent, a revolutionist, a social and political advocate for the voiceless. He “LOVED” Liberia with all of his heart and was a very proud Bassonian, there was no sacrifice too small or great for his people.
In 1972, Tom founded the Bassa Progressive League in Brooklyn, an advocacy organization for social, political and economic change in Liberia. The League’s name was later changed to the United Bassa Organizations in the Americas (UNIBOA). Tom is a founding member of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), Inc., and its tenth president (1988-1990). In addition, he served as Chairman (1988-1990) of the Board of Directors of ULAA. He is also a founding member of ULAA Council of Eminent Persons (UCEP), Inc.; an organization that consists of past Presidents and Chairmen of the Board of Directors of ULAA, Inc.
Woewiyu served as the first spokesperson and Defense Minister of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (1989-1994). Honorable Woewiyu diligently served the Republic of Liberia in the capacities of Minister of Labor (1994-2000); Senior Senator of Grand Bassa County (2000) and subsequently as Senate Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate (2003). Later appointed (2014) to serve on the Board of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA). In the wake of keeping his promises to the people of Bassa, he established Gbezohn Lumber Corporation and the Tropical Lumber Corp. to alleviate unemployment problems faced by the people of Grand Bassa. Hon. Woewiyu also demonstrated his commitment to resolving political problems of Grand Bassa by enacting into law an act granting Neekren Township a statutory district status. In addition, he also advocated and passed into law through the Senate, educational changes that would grant Grand Bassa County the opportunity to open its very first university.
A Big Vacuum Left
Woewiyu, a dedicated Christian and the founder of Rock Church International of Liberia, established a church that many Christians, especially youth, found as a place of hope. Under Elder Woewiyu’s leadership, Rock Church established: Rock International Christian Academy, humanitarian services, medical missions, and Liberian Christian Broadcasting Network (LCBN). More importantly, he aimed to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Most recently, he joined the First Church of The Nazarene of Collingdale, PA and was appointed a Board Member.
Woewiyu leaves to mourn the Woewiyu, Kaneboh, Dousuah, George, Karzorbeh, Karmoh, Thomas and Dahnsaw families. Honorable Woewiyu also leaves the legacy of his beautiful family; his lovely wife, Betty Karmoh Woewiyu, children; Boyd G. Woewiyu, Hawa Zoe Dahnsaw, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, Jr., Monconjay Thomas Woewiyu, Naanco Tomaudina Woewiyu, Kayma
Nuokay Woewiyu; his eighteen grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and a host of relatives.
For Betty, Tom’s sudden departure from the world has left a big vacuum and an irreparable damage to the hearts and souls of his family and friends. “Words alone cannot describe how deeply the many lives he touched and will miss him. May his soul and the souls of his relatives who preceded him, rest in perpetual peace!.”