Kenneth Matiba’s memorial service went down today. His five children gave a moving tribute that brought tears to many.
Matiba’s children, Susan, Raymond, Ivy, Julie and Gitau penned the most heartwarming and honest tribute about their late dad.
“Dad had his flaws. But his flaws like the rest of him were larger than life. He had a famously quick temper and could explode into a towering rage .faster than you could blink. But like a shooting mat; it flared brightly and was gone. He said his piece and it was over No grudges held, no comebacks later,” they wrote.
“Perhaps the one thing we would have changed if allowed to go back in time was the amount of time we got to spend with him. As he became busier, he was not able to be with us as much as we would have liked. However, we always went on vacation together to Diani, even, Easter August and Christmas without fail, always culminating in a grand New Year celebration.”
The tribute continued, “He was also fiercely protective. Woe betide, the person who tried to use us to get to him. He was quite categorical if you wanted to see him you made an appointment through official channels.”
Adding, “It can be difficult to be the child of such a charismatic figure. You perceive that you are being judged to see if you can fit into those outsize shoes. But we recognize that a man like our father comes along once in a lifetime. We can take comfort in knowing that we all contain a little piece of our father in us. A trait that we identify as having come straight from the source.”
To fully understand who Matiba was through the eyes of his children, here is the rest of the tribute that describes who he was behind the scenes.
He was a Model of Courage
Our father was completely fearless. Whether it was a chance meeting with a lion as he walked along the path in a Maasai Mara lodge or standing up to the Moi regime, he never backed down.
Our, father taught us to stand up for ourselves, and, perhaps more importantly, that one should stand up for one’s conviction no matter how unfashionable or unpopular they are.
He was a Model of Discipline
Dad was famously disciplined. He woke up early every day and was out of the house at the crack of dawn.
He was almost religious in his daily exercise routine, when his health allowed, driving to work in Ruaraka on Thika Road to Hillcrest School in Karen to take on competitors half his age in squash, a game he loved.
He never compromised on time allocated for each of the multitude of duties and tasks he undertook, including being a father to his own children, and to many other nieces, nephews and friends.
He did his homework, keeping himselffully informed on matters he was dealing with and following through conscientiously.
He was a Model of Generosity
Money was but a means to an end for Dad. Throughout his life, he was as generous a human being as one could imagine.
If he had some money in his pocket (and he always made sure he had something!) he would give it out to anyone who had a problem.
Not matter how trivial he would say “Here take something small to help you along”. For Dad what mattered was not how much he acquired, but how much he had to give to make a difference in the lives of others.
He was a Model of Community Service
Our father believed in service. He was proud of having been an Eagle Scout and dedicated his life to the cause of serving others.
Last year we had the privilege of hosting the Kahuhia Girls High School alumni who had come to say asante to him for all he had done for the school.
It was fascinating to hear the testimonies of the very real difference he made to the lives of those then young students
He was a Model of Dignity
Dare we say he was a proud man, but he was of the mindset that every single person was entitled to a dignified existence.
No matter what organization he was associated with, whether in government, private sector or his personal residences, he always insisted and made sure that even the lowliest of staff had adequate and clean toilets which he would inspect personally to make sure were up to standard
He associated with everyone regardless of age, gender, or economic status and went out of his way to never belittle a person.
He had this incredible ability to engage genuinely and empathise with everyone he interacted with.
He was a Model of Joy
The signature wide smile says it all. He laughed easily, he laughed long and he laughed loud. Our memories are filled with the laughter of our childhood.
He created so many fun experiences for us as children. He loved to travel and was always up for a party.
I remember one weekend getaway in Naro Moru with the family of his dear departed friend, Dr. Jim Nesbitt.
We sat up till 5 a.m. in the morning, playing Monopoly, even though he had to travel the next day!
He was an avid photographer and we spent hours posing in the garden for his collections.
His essentially sunny disposition resonated, in particular, with small children and dogs.
They warmed up to him immediately, a source ofgreat pleasure to him.
He was a Model of Strength
Dad was physically, mentally and emotionally a strong man. He had immense will power.
There was nothing that he believed that he could not do.
His strength, coupled with the outpouring of prayers for his well-being, enabled him to survive detention, a debilitating stroke, and other illness with good humour incredible fortitude and focused determination.
He was a Model of Integrity
When Dad was the Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Industry in the mid sixties, a businessman came to the family home with a television set.
Before the man could even state his case, he was thrown unceremoniously out of the house and escorted from the compound with his box of goodies.
On his return from his many overseas travels, Dad would declare his custom dues before he was asked and insist on paying.
He was a Model of Excellence
Dad accepted nothing less than perfection. Every towel in the Alliance hotels bedrooms had to be perfectly aligned, the toilet paper facing the right direction and folded at the end, the lawns perfectly manicured, the walls sparkling clean … the checklist was endless.
Ask any of his previous hotel management staff who would tremble as they waited for his approval on his regular inspection tours of the facilities.
He was meticulous in his attention to detail and this standard of perfection carried through to every aspect of his life.
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He was a Model of Hard Work
Dad believed that nothing was earned by taking the easy way. He was, by all accounts, a workaholic.
He was out of the house before seven in the morning and rarely came back before ten in the evening. This was his normal work pattern .from Sunday to Sunday!
He was a Model of the Possibility of Forgiveness
Dad’s incarceration for fighting for multiparty democracy was the beginning of his struggle with his health.
He lived with the aftermath of the stroke for 27 years. Despite the fact that the stroke robbed him of the freedom of independence, he came to forgive the person who ordered his detention.
Lately, he spoke of wanting to meet him and talk with him and this without any bitterness or rancour.
He was a Model of Selflessness
When Dad was released from detention, and had not even left Nairobi Hospital, his concern for his fellow detainees was so great that he sneaked out of the Hospital in disguise and went to see a senior official in the judiciary, to argue for the release of Charles Rubia and Rada Odinga though he was under treatment .for his own illness.
He was a Model Husband
Our father accorded our mother an incredible amount of love and honour He was by no means, a perfect husband.
He could be exasperating, once bringing home the 5 children of a friend who had fallen ill and needed to fly out for treatment for an extended period without consultation or notice. But by his actions we could see the deep love, he had for her He was always looking out for- her, buying her clothes and jewelry, in truth her word was his command.
He never raised his voice to her He used to introduce her brimming with pride and awe, as the daughter of a Reverend, and never ceased to tell us how clever she was. It was his vision to cap his investment in education by building a university and naming it after her
He was a Model of Fatherhood
Dad taught us so much about how to be a good parent. Although he was very firm with his boundary lines, he listened to us and although he may not have always agreed with our point of view he allowed us to express ourselves freely.
He never imposed his choices on us. He let us make our own mistakes. And he made sure we moved out of his house once our education was complete, although he did not want us to go too far.