The Reinterment Movement
There is a growing movement among Liberian families to perform re-burial ceremonies for their loved ones who died during the war when it was difficult or impossible to inter them in their ancestral homes.
Among the first to be reinterred was former Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, Rt. Rev. Roland J. Payne, who died in Weinsue, Bong County, and was later reinterred at his home in Gorlue, Lofa County.
Another prominent personality to be reinterred was Paramount Chief Tamba Taylor, who during the 1990s served as President of the State Council of Liberia. He died in Monrovia in 2001. The body was buried in a mausoleum in Paynesville, near the Liberia Broadcasting System. In 2005 his remains were taken to his home in Foya District, Lofa County, where he now sleeps with his ancestors.
Last week the family of former Vice President Dr. Harry Moniba brought his remains back home from the United States, where he had died and was buried several years ago. The body was taken to his home in Kolahun, Lofa County, for re-interment.
Following the demolition of the over ten foot high fence that could not prevent the desecration of the Palm Grove Cemetery, Liberia’s premier burial grounds on Center Street in Monrovia, many families who are able are quietly, quickly relocating what remains of their loved ones they can find. Many other families may not be so lucky to locate and recover from this cemetery any remains which drug addicts, the homeless, thieves and other miscreants have displaced to accommodate themselves.
One of the latest reinterment rites to take place was held last Saturday in Qweinta, near the St. Paul River town of Haindii in Fuamah Chiefdom, Bong County.
There, family members, friends and residents of Haindii and Qweinta gathered to celebrate the reinterment of their two fallen heroes. One was Reverend Byron Zolu Traub, a Lutheran pastor, teacher, pioneer Adult Literacy expert and former Senator of Bong County. The other, Liberia’s first ophthalmologist (eye specialist), Dr. Zolu Dumah Traub.
The celebration was described in tributes as “the interment of great men whose legacies must live from generation to generation, especially by the people of Qweinta, Haindii and Bong County and Liberia as a whole.”
Rev. Byron Z. Traub was born in 1908 and passed away October 10, 1994 while Dr. Zolu Dumah Traub, was born on December 8, 1930 in Dobli Island, Bong County and died of ‘heart failure’ on July 31, 2003 at the Firestone Medical Center at Du Side, near Harbel on the Firstone Plantation in Margibi County.
Because of the Liberian civil crisis and other circumstances taking place at the times of their demise, Rev. Traub and his son Dumah, were buried in the Duport Road Cemetery in Paynesville, a graveyard appallingly desecrated over the years by some residents of the community and others passing through who use it as a public toilet and a dumpsite.
The re-interment ceremony was marked by a new tradition – with family, friends and residents of Qweinta and neighboring villages rejoicing and not crying, as is customary in Liberia. The family expressed joy and relief that their months of planning to remove their loved ones’ remains from a horrendous gravesite and bring them home to lie in decency and dignity among other deceased in the family burial site had been fulfilled.
The occasion was marked by beautiful selections by the local Kpelle choir, solo by Bai Sama Best, grandson of Senator Traub, and by tributes and reflections on the lives of the two departed by friends and family. Dr. Thelma Awori, one of the Traub siblings and Liberia’s Consul General in Kampala, Uganda, expressed heartfelt thanks to friends and family in Liberia and the United States who helped to make the reburial ceremony possible.
Dr. Roseda E. Marshall, a representative of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, stressed the need for the family of the departed men to celebrate their legacies and contributions to society. There was no need to cry, she said, because their lives were richly spent and highly meaningful to society.
“I have come to celebrate great people whose memories continue to exist and not to cry anymore. Let us celebrate people whose lives deserve celebration,” Dr. Marshall said.
“Blessed is the child who dies in the Lord,” declared Rev. Edith Ricks, a longtime family friend and sister of the Traub daughters, Mrs. Joyce Traub, Dr. Thelma Awori, , Mrs. Mae Gene Best and her husband Kenneth Y. Best, Publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, and Mrs. Juanita Bropleh, Deputy Minister of Transport.
“It was time,” Rev. Ricks said, “to begin the celebration of the Traubs’ heritage and the contributions which both Senator Traub, his wife Margaret and their son Dumah Zolu made to my life.”
She said her family will always remember the Traub family, adding, “These great people’s legacies must never die, because they lived rewarding lives even for friends and those who needed them.”
The Rev. Isaac Dowah, Monrovia’s St. Peter’s Lutheran Church Pastor-in-Charge, lauded the family for taking the decision to relocate their fathers, uncles and brothers to their place of origin.
“This is an honorable and worthy initiative you have taken and God will bless you all for it. We will always miss the Traubs, but the best thing is not to worry about them anymore,” Dowah encouraged the family.
He called on them always to celebrate the deaths of their fallen heroes and not to engage in anything contrary to the exemplary lives they lived.
“I can see why the family decided to relocate these great men here…they took the responsibilities for their children, and their children also listened to them. So today is a renewal of the faith and trust in God,” Priest Dowah added. Among the officiating clergy were Rev. Dr. Eric M. Allison, a nephew of Rev. Traub and Rev. Wuo Laywhyee, Pastor of the Kpolokpele Parish at Haindii.
Fatta Yarsiah, Clan Chief of Zeweakormu Clan in Fuamah District, who spoke on behalf of Korpo Barclay, Representative of Fuamah District, Bong County, lauded the family for such initiative, extending the lawmaker’s compliments to the family and friends.
“We are happy to celebeate the reinterment of the Traubs with you,” Madam Yarsiah said.
All the speakers recounted the contributions and legacies of the Traubs, and called on family members to continue to produce such great people that will seek the welfare of others in need, and not just their own children. Among the speakers was Mr. John T. Woods, whose godparents were Rev. and Mrs. Traub.
The occasion was graced by several personalities, including Mrs. Zoe Traub, widow of Dr. Traub and son Vaani Traub and his family; Dr. Wvannie Scott-McDonald, Chief Administrative Officer at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center; Mr. Joseph P. Keller of the Liberia International Ship Register (LISCR) and first cousin of the Traub offsprings; his younger brothers Ezra and Yarkpai Keller; whose father’s remains have also been removed from the Duport Road Cemetery and will be reinterred later this month at his farm near Haindii. Rev. Ezra Keller was the first President of the Lutheran Church in Liberia.
About the Deceaseds
Rev. Byron Z. Traub obtained his early education up to 4th grade at the Kpolopkelleh Lutheran Mission in Haindii near his home. On graduation from elementary school, he became an evangelist, a vocation that he developed and remained committed to for the rest of his life.
He was then taken to Muhlenburg Boy’s School in Millsburg, Montserrado County, where he completed the 8th grade. It was at Muhlenburg that he found the Lord, was baptized, and took a course in catechism while still an elementary student.
Rev. Traub graduated from the College of West Africa (CWA) with honors. Eager to continue his education, Byron matriculated to Liberia College (Now University of Liberia) where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He later returned to Muhlenburg where he taught at his alma mater for many years. It was there that he met his future companion, Margaret Stewart.
Rev. Traub also did a postgraduate course in Theology at the Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut, USA.
Rev. Traub devoted much of his life to teaching, which was his lifetime profession, serving in the classroom in many places throughout the country for over forty years.
Dr. Zolu Dumah Traub commenced his education at the Kpolokpelleh Lutheran Mission at Haindii, near Dobli Island. At the age of ten, his parents gave him to Rev. Byron Z. Traub and his wife Margaret, who adopted him.
Dumah was sent to Muhlenburg Boy’s School in Millsburg, Montserrado County, where he completed his elementary education and later entered the Lutheran Training Institute (LTI), graduating in LTI’s first class.
He attended Cuttington College and Divinity School (Now Cuttington University), graduating in 1954. That same year, Dumah was among a few Liberian scholars who received scholarships from the World Health Organization to study medicine in Spain.
He received his M. D. degree in 1961. Dumah later received another scholarship to study Ophthalmology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and its sister institution, Hebrew Hadassah University Hospital at Mount Scopus in Israel.
The eye doctor of the late President William V.S. Tubman, Dumah is fondly remembered by many patients he treated and also for getting along with his colleagues, friends and family.