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Dec. 26--After 10 years of pain and grieving, Blessing Kpuinen has found a small measure of peace and closure.
Kpuinen, 37, came to Akron as a refugee from Nigeria in 1996. Less than a year earlier, her husband, John B. Kpuinen, an activist for democracy and environmental issues, had been executed along with eight others by the dictatorship that was then running Nigeria.
Last month, she finally laid to rest the remains of her husband in their native land.
"I feel relieved in spirit," she said. "I feel free. I feel happy having been given the opportunity to mourn him and to see his remains."
Still, Kpuinen said she thinks of her husband every day and still mourns his death.
After her husband's execution by hanging, Blessing Kpuinen never got to see his body. But in 2002, the bodies of the nine who were executed were exhumed and sent to Canada for DNA identification.
John Kpuinen's remains were identified and sent back to Nigeria for reburial.
Thanks to gifts from her church -- Peninsula United Methodist -- its members and other friends, Blessing Kpuinen was able to travel to Nigeria in late October for the funeral and burial and to mark the 10th anniversary of the executions on Nov. 10.
Kpuinen said the charges that led to the executions were false.
Those killed had protested environmental conditions in Nigeria and were members of the Ogoni people, a minority group that was persecuted there.
The executions, she said, helped bring about changes that led to the current Democratic government in Nigeria. And even though there are still big environmental problems there, the people now have the right of free speech.
Kpuinen is now a U.S. citizen and received a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix in September. She hopes to continue the work started by her husband. She wants to establish foundations in his name in both Nigeria and Ohio "so people remember what he has done and what he lived for."
Those foundations would promote education for Nigerian children and empower both children and women.
In addition, she wants to write a book about her husband and his life and would like to see a movie made about him so people could "see John and what he believed in."
At his funeral, attended by more than 10,000 people, one of her husband's favorite hymns, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, was sung. It was followed by her favorite hymn, Fading Away Like the Star of the Morning.
Among the lines in that song are these:
"Only remembered, only remembered,
"Only remembered by what we have done;
"Thus would we pass from the Earth and its toiling,
"Only remembered by what we have done."
And in remarks made at the funeral, Blessing Kpuinen concluded with these words:
"How I wish I had a second chance to marry you, but it seems my golden moment with you has eluded me and forever I have lost my greatest treasure."
To assist Kpuinen in her efforts to establish a foundation in her husband's name, donations can be made at any FirstMerit bank to the John B. Kpuinen Memorial Foundation.
To reach Kpuinen, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or e-mail Peninsula United Methodist Church at email@example.com, or leave a message for her at the church at 330-657-2567.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright (c) 2005, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio
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