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Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye funeral: Mourners remember Harlesden’s kind-hearted and generous charity founder

PUBLISHED: 19:37 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:55 30 October 2018

Dame Betty funeral service, Harlesden

Dame Betty funeral service, Harlesden

Jonathan Goldberg

“Kind-hearted,” ”exceptional” and “one of a kind” were just a few of the tributes as a community said goodbye to Harlesden’s much-loved charity founder Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye.

Dame Betty Asafu AdjayeDame Betty Asafu Adjaye

Hundreds filled St Margaret’s and St George’s United Reformed and Moravian Church, in Nicoll Road, for Dame Betty’s funeral on Friday.

The 72-year-old founder of the Mission Dine Club (MDC) had just seen her charity inaugurated in her home country of Ghana as Mission Dine International before she died last month from cancer.

Her coffin draped in traditional Ghanaian Kente cloth, Dame Betty was the first African woman in the UK to be honoured as a Dame by the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller of the British Isles in 1977.

Officiating the service, Rev Edwin Quildan and Rev Edward Sanniez praised Dame Betty for her faith and her humility.

Dame Betty's hear-broken family paying their last respects at her funeral. Picture: Jonathan GoldbergDame Betty's hear-broken family paying their last respects at her funeral. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Tributes were heard from her son, Alex Boadi, who was abroad when his mother died. He thanked his sister Harriet Cofie and his niece for their support during Dame Betty’s illness.

Having come over for a brief stay in August, he told his mother he loved her, the last thing he did say to her before she died a month later.

Tributes included a speech by Dame Betty’s son Alex Boadi, who thanked his sister Harriet Cofie and his niece for their support.

Brent’s deputy lieutenant Mei Sim Lai OBE said: “Dame Betty was one of the the most remarkable and wonderful ladies I have ever met – such a lovely caring kind and generous person.”

Dame Betty's son Alex Boadi carries his mother's coffin which is draped in Ghana's traditional Kante cloth  Picture: Jonathan GoldbergDame Betty's son Alex Boadi carries his mother's coffin which is draped in Ghana's traditional Kante cloth Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Miss Lai, the Queen’s official representative in Brent since 2007, recalled: “After attending the Queen’s diamond jubilee reception, which I invited her to as my guest, she sent the Queen a present. She was very taken aback because the next day she got a reply from Her Majesty in gratitude for her lovely gesture.”

Dame Betty’s club started in her flat in 1985 with two volunteers feeding lunch to the elderly and isolated. She went on to run it as a charity in Fry Road, Harlesden, for 25 years, holding lunch clubs, social events and hospital visits for the borough’s most vulnerable people.

The council demolished the building in 2011, saying the site was needed for a school expansion. Refusing to give up, she travelled by bus to care homes and hospitals. People who thought she was carrying shopping were mistaken, the mourners were told: she was carrying food to distribute.

Miss Lai added: “Even after the centre was bulldozed Dame Betty bravely soldiered on and continued supporting the elderly and vulnerable people in their homes and hospital visits. [...] The world would be a better place if only we had more Dame Bettys around.”

Mourners gather at Dame Betty's graveside at Alperton Cemetery. Picture: Nathalie RaffrayMourners gather at Dame Betty's graveside at Alperton Cemetery. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Lord Paul Boeteng told how he would look after Dame Betty’s children when she was working and travelling.

He said she would be remembered for her “smile and her laugh,” adding: “She was a pillar of the church and of the community. She was inspired by her faith to do good through service, service to us.

“She gave relentlessly of herself. We know that. She sacrificed so much that was important to her for the community. She was never at a loss for words.”

Mark Levin played the harp as the family paid their last respects around the coffin before Dame Betty’s son led the pallbearers out of the church.

Guests made their way to Alperton Cemetery for a burial service where hymns were sung in English and Ghanaian.

Friends and family then moved on to a reception at the Stonebridge Centre, hosted by MDI, for food and music.

Assembled guests heard speeches from the Ghana High Commissioner and charity associates and friends.

Harriet Awuku and Harriet Appiah-Anderson, of the Methodist Women’s Church Ghana where Dame Betty was patron, said: “She regularly came to our meetings to advise us. She always advised us on how best to move forward and how to strengthen the fellowship, empowering us and encouraging us.”

Sarah Eicker, director of Fitzroy House, said: “I feel thankful having Dame Betty in my life. She was an exceptional person who did so much for anyone and everybody. I was very fortunate for having known her and having the chance to work with her.”

Awula Serwah, of BTWSC, said: “She was a people person. She was a very kind-hearted woman who always put other people before herself. Humility and giving were important to her. Her life was about giving to others.”

Photographer Peter Hill added: “She meant a lot of me. She was always saying ‘you’ve got to be humble’ – she was a selfless person, very generous.”

Daniel Addy, executive director of Dame Betty’s charity, said: “I miss her.”

MDI hosts a night of celebration and fundraising on November 3. For a free ticket call 020 8902 0796 or email info@missiondine.org.

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