Mama Tabitha Atieno Okwaro

Sunrise: 1958
Sunset: July 21, 2021

The beginning of an inspiring story

The year is 1958, (63 years ago) the heavens looked down on earth, project into its future and determined that some of the human inhabitants of the planet will need a servant-leader in their midst to nurture them, build them, and teach them the meaning of true love. The heavens conspired and a girl was born. The name given to her was Tabitha Atieno, because she was born at night when the world rested.

Nya Gombe was born into the house hold of Mr. Nicodamus Odera Aol(late) and Mama Christabel Mbeka(late) in Gem Gombe. She wasn’t to be a lone child in the household and God gave her siblings.

She was the sister to: the late Henry, the late Odera, Isaac, Jane and the late Joram. The young girl grew quick and steady. As was the norm at her time of early childhood, she would join Manyatta Primary School.

Her formal schooling was not as elaborate as most of us who knew her in her later years would imagine, but she did her bit in her circumstances up to completion of her primary education in class 7.

Her schooling was not much, but her education was deep as became evident in her adult years.


God in heaven knows how to pair up his creation. While Tabitha was growing up, another young lad was becoming a man in Gem Yala.

Benson Okwaro had lost his father when he was just but a boy. Struggling through school and not having much to lean on but his own mother, Dursila Asuna, and his brothers, he got fashioned into a promising young man in his own right.

Benson soon got a job with the then East African Post and Telecommunication Corporation and was posted to Kisumu, the same town that Nya’ Gombe lived in.

He had a job and a music system so it should have been easy, or so he thought. But when he laid his eyes on the beauty that Tabitha had become, he didn’t hesitate. He expected a straight yes, but Tabitha had been born for a purpose and she was not just going to come easy: “If you don’t come to see my parents properly and do the absolute needful, then you can already forget about me.” It was that simple. Long story. In the year 1976, Tabitha Atieno Aol (Nya Gombe) and Benson Okwaro Okumu became husband and wife.

The principled nature of Tabitha became apparent to the Okumu family from the onset, and the family has been lucky to call her their own. The marriage made her the sister-in-law to the late Philip Omole, Mr Japhath Otieno, the late Grace Akinyi and Mr Henry Okumu of NSSF. ‘Co-wife’ to Mary Omole, Florence Otieno and Lilian Onyango Okumu among others from the larger clan.

God blessed the union with six children: George Otieno who does his farming in Anyiko, Joyce Anyango Munyasia currently at Posta Pension Scheme, Margaret Awuor of PCk Bungoma, Nicholas Odhiambo currently at VIVO Energy, Stephen Okumu of NHIF and the late Christabel.

Nya Gombe has been blessed to watch her surviving children grow into formidable adults in their respective careers and themselves become parents.

Before she exited the scene to go be with her maker, she was the mother-in-law to Millicent Otieno, Gerald munyasia, Franklin Wanyonyi, Valary Odhiambo and Ann okumu. She has indeed tasted the blessing of holding her grandchildren in her own arms and speaking blessings into their lives.

By the time God called her back, she had 11 grandchildren whom she has now left behind to continue her legacy. The grandchildren are: Stefan, Ashley, Lennox, Barbara, Adrian, Shawn, Jeremy, Mike, Janet, David and Derick.

The Story of Nya Gombe

The business lady

The year is 1990. Times have become uncertain in Kericho where the family lived while Benson worked there, the country is going through a constitutional and political moment. Fortunes shift without warning

and now this little town-based family must return to the village in Anyiko. The move finally happens and a new home is built.

The man of the house is trying to figure out what next but Nya Gombe has already decided that things will have to work out one way or the other. She gets to work and soon she is running her own business in Bar Anyiko. A hotel here, cereals there, another farm produce here, a corner shop there and yes, she is good at it. She thrives in it. She knows her craft, she knows her trade and she has a super keen eye on her money!

The money comes in, and straight into the bank. Once the money hit the bank and the balance changed, it would be practically impossible to get her to withdraw it. She would rather work hard for more to put in there than withdraw and spend what was already in. Don’t get the wrong idea here, she was no miser, she just knew how to prioritize her cash and how to plan and grow.

Her husband says she is the thriftiest person he has ever come to know. And for good reasons, she knows what to do with money and how to take care of her own. In summary “All the wealth that we have as a family, is because she lived” Benson.

The home maker

When the God of good tidings visited Benson Okwaro and he left the village again to go and pursue opportunities in town, Nya Gombe opted to stay back and build the home.

She supported her husband to become the man that we know him to be today. She allowed him all the latitude he needed to become the fullness of his potential. Other ordinary ladies would have insisted on traveling everywhere with him, on tagging along everywhere, not Tabitha. She understood the fundamentals of marriage and family life.

Twenty years of the husband staying in Nairobi while she took care of the home and made sure that there was always a family to return to after battling it out there. “The peace of mind and the support that she gave me has made me who I am” says Ben. “This home is “Ka Nya Gombe” because she built it with her own hands” says the husband.

What is a home without love? Tabitha filled her home with love. Ask the children and you can feel that the loss is palpable. She welcomed all into her household. She fed all who came in, regardless of status, and carried herself with utmost humility though it all.

There are many children who are now adults. They were not of her own womb yet even the children themselves growing up in her house and being taken care of by her would never feel different. The treatment was always the same. The love was always abundant for all. Their eyes only opened later to be told “that is your aunt” not your real mother, and did they care?

No, to them she was and still is “Madhe”. Such is her legacy. The support she gave to all who needed it. The radiant smile that brightened the room at the first instance.

The warm laughter that made everyone feel welcomed, and the abundant serving of food that communicated “I love you my child”. When it came to family, madhe took it personally. Joyce, her daughter captures it accurately. She says “Mum was very kind”.

She was so loving and generous. She always wanted the best for her family and valued education the most. She was involved even in her grandchildren’s education. She was helping me get a school for Adrian before her hospitalization. Mum never liked confrontations; she was a peacemaker. Whenever you took a matter to her for advice, she would just ask you to let go. She also liked development. I remember how she kept asking if we had developed our land in Utawala and she was so hopeful that we would start the project. From the testimonies from our family and friends, you will tell that she was also a very generous giver”

The Okwaros are a happy lot because their mother brought them up well to become responsible, hardworking, humble, prayerful, and respectful to all.

Two statements from Benson Okwaro will sum it up for you: “I don’t know what this home will be without Nya Gombe”, “I don’t know how life is going to happen without her” Every home has a story of points of discord. Ben and Tabitha’s marriage had their fair share of such.

But it is not the moments of discord that stand out, rather it is the diplomatic and empathetic manner in which they were resolved that brings out the true discipline and determination to have her house stand and prosper.

She always found a way to reach out, to dialogue, to reconcile, to forgive and fill the home with love. She was indeed special.

The farmer

Picture this: Someone is sick, like really unwell, hospitalized and yet every time you visit her, and she is worried that her chickens may not have been fed, that her cows may not have been well tended.

That was Tabitha for you. She loved her animals. She loved her chickens, and she absolutely loved her dairy cows. The milk was always flowing, the eggs in abundance and the food was always served in her house.

Her farming went beyond the animals and into horticulture. Her house always had surplus. There was always what to keep in the car trunk when you visited her. She never ran out of groundnuts, there was always bananas to carry back to the city, the cereals were always plentiful. And she gladly shared her abundance with ALL.

If you agreed with her that some parcel of land was going to lie fallow this season, well, it didn’t matter, by the time you got back, it was all tilled and planted.

Tabitha loved her farming and was always proud to stay in the village and get down to it. And she loved her farming even more because it complemented her generosity. It equipped her with what to give and giving she did. It allowed her to express her love and loving she did.

Farming rejuvenated her and empowered her to serve and to empower others. Indeed, even in her very last days, she worried more about her farm than she did about her health. It is sad that the last finally came.

Nya Gombe and God

Throughout her stay in Anyiko, Nya Gombe loved God. She was a dependable member of the larger St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Anyiko. She was always there during the church services and participated actively in the activities of the St. Barnabas Anyiko church before joining the St. Luke’s Anglican Church Tatro when it was established as part of the growth plans for the St. Barnabas Anyiko Parish.

Tabitha was tight member of the Mothers Union at the church and her contributions and service while there will be missed. As a member of the Mothers Union, she kept to her true values of non-confrontation, dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

As one member, Mrs Mary Oriwo puts it “Nya Gombe did not engage in these petty talks and gossips most women like to engage in. She was also focused and played her part diligently.

Her contributions were always on time and every time we had a fundraising, she was one to depend on. We will dearly miss her”. Tabitha walked hand in hand with God for many years.

Her journey with God came to a climax on the 10th July 2021 when God paid her a visit in her hospital bed and she made the verbal and public declaration that she had surrendered her life to the Lord.

Nya Gombe goes to rest a born-again Christian and that gives all of us the peace that we shall meet again when the last trumpet sounds.

The Last Days

Nya Gombe lived a healthy life free from illness. Her medical history file was largely empty as there was nothing major to record there. There were occasional headaches and sometimes joint pains which were easily managed from the nearby hospital.

Things changed in early June 2021 when she complained of fever, flu and consistent joint pains. She sought treatment at Olympus hospital Yala and Royal Victoria hospital but the condition persisted. The thing with people who rarely fall sick is that they never really know how badly they are doing until very late.

By the time Nya Gombe was flown to Nairobi on 20th of June for further medical checkup, she was already on the downhill trip. She was at metropolitan hospital Nairobi on 25/06/21 where she was diagnosed with COVID 19.

Her oxygen saturation levels were low at the time. She was later taken to ICU isolation and later to HDU. During her time in hospital, she experienced varied manifestations of the situation. First was the rush to stabilize her oxygen saturation levels, then the battles with rising and falling respiratory rates which at some point went too prompting the doctor on Wednesday the 14th of July evening to consider intubation lest the heart got fatigued and slipped into cardiac arrest.

The intubation was shelved as her respiration normalized and her oxygen levels rose. One of the best days in hospital was the 17th June. She was ok, spent most of the day on the oxygen mask as opposed to the ventilator. She was visited by her husband that evening and they talked a lot and she even talked to her brother and some friends over the phone.

At around 19:00pm she was transferred from HDU isolation to the general ward since she was free from covid 19 and the family left the hospital when she was very happy and jovial and kept on asking what everyone had eaten.

On Sunday the 18th, the situation took a turn for the worst. Her heart was overworking, she was back on the ventilator and only exhibiting minimum motion such as waving. The doctors were working really hard to save the situation, but the maker was already closing the chapter on our beloved mother’s sojourn on earth.

On 21st night the hospital called the husband informing him to go to the hospital because her condition had changed and that they are trying their best to save her life.

Unfortunately, at around 22:30pm she took her last breath. We are grateful mum lived a full life to the ripe age of 63 and we bless the name of the Mighty Lord for her life.

You have fought a good fight you kept your faith, may you rest in eternal peace Nyar Haraka, nyar gi Tabu gi Demba.

There will be a memorial service for her on Thursday 5th August, 2021 at All Saints Cathedral from 12:00 noon.

Her body will leave Chiromo mortuary on the 6th August, 2021 for an overnight stay at Sagam hospital mortuary.

Her burial will be held on Saturday, 7 August, 2021 in Gem Yala, Anyiko village.



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Genesia marechoh
Genesia marechoh
5 months ago

Rip Mum. You were such a blessing to all.

Elijah Koskey & Family
Elijah Koskey & Family
5 months ago

Our sincere condolences to the Okwaro and the family, may God continue to give you strength as you lay to rest your loved one. Elijah Koskey & Family

5 months ago

Such a beautiful soul!
Rest in eternal peace Mum.
More grace to the whole family.

B. Osumba
B. Osumba
5 months ago

Sincere condolences to the Okwaro family for this great loss. May the Almighty God divinely grant comfort to the family.

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