Mary Navboke Lakeru (nee Mowoe)

Mary was born April 25, 1925, in Warri, Nigeria to Chief Mukoro Mowoe and his first wife, Nanovbe. The oldest daughter and third of fifteen children, she grew up in a polygamous family which was also the wealthiest and most prominent household in Warri. Her father, Chief Mowoe, was a successful businessman and pillar of the Urhobo community, active in local politics and respected by Nigerians and Britons alike. A self-taught as well as self-made man, he believed fervently in the importance of a sound education and as a young girl Mary was sent to St. Joseph’s Convent boarding school in Asaba. She found the nuns intimidating, but later believed they helped foster her sense of self-reliance.  Nanovbe’s death, when Mary was only ten years old, affected her deeply and bound her close to her father, her elder brother Moses and younger sister Victoria.

Mary attended Methodist Girls High School, Lagos- proving herself a gifted athlete- before deciding on a career. At the time the only viable options for a Nigerian woman of her education were nursing and teaching. Mary chose nursing. Her father arranged for her to study in the United Kingdom and she became the first Urhobo woman to be sent abroad to further her education. Mary left Nigeria in 1948 to take up a training position in Sunderland General Hospital, England. There she met Akinwande Lakeru, a medical student working through the summer. The couple remained in contact after Akinwande returned to the University of St Andrews, Scotland and visited each other whenever they could. Mary and Akinwande courted for three years and married April 4, 1953. For the next fifty-eight years they would rarely be apart.

1953 also marked the birth of Mary and Akinwande’s first child, their daughter Omoyele. They went on to have Folasade, Akinfemi and Titilola.

Mary qualified as a nurse and midwife, returning to Lagos with her husband and daughter Yele in December 1954. She moved to London briefly with her family between 1960 and 1964, while Akinwande completed a postgraduate degree in gynaecology and obstetrics. In the late 1960s Mary resumed work, this time as sister in charge of the clinic at Nigerian Breweries Ltd. Over the next decade and a half she held daily responsibility for the health of hundreds of workers.  Her considerable diligence and skill were recognized when she became the first nurse to rise to managerial level. Mary’s achievements paved the way for other women to aspire to managerial positions, with all the concomitant privileges and respect. Mary was also an early member of the Nigerian Association of Industrial Nurses.

Like her father, Mary took an active interest in her community. She was Chairlady of the Salem Church Ladies Guild, as well as an Honorary Officer of the Lads and Lasses Brigade and an Officer of the Youth Christian Fellowship. She was also fond of her garden, music, books and films and happiest in the midst of her family.

Gracious, generous and eminently kind, Mary worked tirelessly on behalf of others and was fiercely protective of her family. She was beloved by all who knew her.

Mary Lakeru passed away peacefully on August 4, 2011, with her family by her side in Newcastle, Washington, USA. She was eighty-six years old. She will be lovingly remembered by her husband and devoted companion of fifty-eight years, Akinwande and by their children, Omoyele, Folasade (and her husband Paul), Akinfemi (and his wife Helen) and Titilola. Mary will also be fondly remembered by her grandchildren Akinwale, Nkem, Ikechukwu, Edirin and Ajibola, and by her great-grandson Akintola.


We have received many inquiries by friends and extended family about donations or memorial gifts.

Mary Lakeru’s children are grateful for the kind generosity and consideration of our friends and family members and ask that donations in her memory be made to the Many Lights Foundation, Newcastle, WA

The link to their website is here :

10 Responses to “Mary Navboke Lakeru (nee Mowoe)”

  • jane Marlatt says:

    Your family is in my thoughts and prayers. Your Mother was a remarkable woman. What a wonderful role model.

  • Tim Walsh says:

    Titi – What an inspiring woman and interesting story of her life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  • Barbara Finegan says:

    Titi, Your mother sounds like a wonderful,accomplished woman. You take after her, I am sure. You and your familty will be in my prayers.

  • Dan Ronca says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I had no idea about your mother’s story. I expect that you are very proud of her. I hope that your wonderful memories of her help to carry you through this time.

  • Patty Geiblerq says:

    What a beautiful story and what a beautiful woman. She lived such a rich and purposeful life. You and your family are in my prayers.

  • Doug Chartier says:

    Femi & Helen,

    Your family is in our thoughts and prayers and we know the loss you are all feeling. I did not know your mother, but in reading about her it is clear that she was a truly remarkable lady. It is also clear that she, along with your father, have made you who you are today. You should be very proud and know she has risen to an even greater place.

  • Chima Ejimofor says:

    Beloved Titi,
    The passage of one’s Mom is always a major event. Reading through your Mom’s story I can see you all so clearly took a bit of her. Thank God for the priviledge of having had a peaceful home and family. Her memory is blessed. What really amounts to anything in life is the impact made on others. Please accept our heartfelt condolences at this time. God bless.

  • Yemi Olowu says:

    Dear Daddy, Femi, Yele, Sade, Titi and family, I am deeply sorry to hear of Mummy‘s passing, she will be dearly missed. Thanks be to God for that part of her which lives on in all whom she loved, taught, helped and inspired. May her soul rest with God in perfect peace.

  • Dapo Ajediti says:

    My thoughts are with the entire Lakeru family.May the Lord continue to strengthen you as you go through your loss.

  • Mary MOWOE says:

    My dear Aunt
    What a wonderful life. I did not know and have just seen this article. I am Clifford & Olive MOWOE daughter. Daddy is passed. I remember Yele and Femi well. If you see this message perhaps you remember me. I would love to hear from you.

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