Philanthropist from New York laid to rest near mausoleum

Courteous of Standard Digital by Biketi Kikechi

American Committee on Africa Executive Director George M. Houser, Tom Mboya, Senator Hubert H. Humphrey and William X. Scheinman in the US. [File, Standard]

At Tom Mboya’s home in Rusinga, his mausoleum stands out but what strikes you is the tombstone belonging to William Scheinman.

Born in a rich Jewish family in New York in 1927, Scheinman later befriended Mboya and his family and helped him with the airlifts of students from East and Central Africa.

“He was in our lives for very many years, helping the family and taking me to college in the US where I did my undergraduate, Masters and doctorate studies,” says Dr Pamela Mboya-Kidero.

He was banned from Kenya after Mboya’s death because he claimed the country’s leadership was responsible and only returned after President Jomo Kenyatta’s death in 1978.

Scheinman spent time with the Mboyas and prayed to be buried next to their father’s grave in Rusinga Island on Lake Victoria.

When he died, the Mboya family attended his funeral in New York, before his body was cremated and the ashes were flown back to Kenya for burial by his son in Rusinga.

“All the Jewish burial rights were conducted there before he was buried next to our father at the mausoleum according to his wishes,” Susan says.

It is such an unlikely pairing, that a son from a very rich family in New York now lies next to that of a boy who grew up in a labourer’s house at a sisal estate in Kilimabogo.

“He was in our lives to the very end and that is why we gave him Mboya’s letters to take to Stanford University’s Hoover Library for preservation,” Susan says.

He wanted Mboya’s children to study in the US but two went to the United Kingdom because they wanted to study Common law.

Susan recounts how Scheinman used to take her out for meals while she was studying in the USA and fly her to London during holidays to see her sister and brother.

“During break, we would fly to London where my sister was and stay in very fancy hotels where we ordered anything we wanted. He really spoiled us a lot,” Susan says, adding they felt their father’s presence through his friends and family.

Mboya’s children are grateful that they were taught good values by uncles and aunties. Susan, who works with young girls says it is easier for children to grow up now because society has role models.

She plans to make her father’s mausoleum a scholar’s monument, where students can learn about independence heroes.

“People go there but there is not enough to see. I want them to have half a day or full day there with a place where they can have lectures and learn the culture.

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