Obituary of Comfort Abengowe
Comfort Ugonma “Bebi” Abengowe
Comfort Ugonma Abengowe, affectionately known as “Bebi” or “Com”, was born on December 10, 1949 in Aba, Nigeria, which is now known to be part of Abia State, to Dickson Onyisi Ekeoma and Mercy Anyanwu Maduka Ekeoma. The second of 4 children, Comfort grew up primarily in Enugu.
Having received most of her schooling there, she was eventually sent to Archdeacon Crowther Memorial Girls School, Elelenwa in Rivers State of Nigeria. She attended Archdeacon Crowther from 1960 to 1964. While there, Bebi met many lifelong friends, like Edith Nwosu (Ikokwu), May Ikokwu, Nwadia De Souza (Okediadi), Gloria Iweka, Isabella Okongwu, Timi Agary, Ebele Okeke, Enuma Okoro Nkacha Mba Kalu (Deceased), Julia Iloka and Daisy Amobi, just to name a few. This was during the 1960s, when economic, ethnic, and religious tensions were building, leading to what became the Nigerian Civil War of Biafra. Comfort had the misfortune of losing several relatives during this time.
Like many other Nigerians at the time, Comfort had a longing for a better life. Her ambition led her to journey to the United States in October 1970, first staying in Oregon. She often remembered how blistering cold it was on her first day in America because coming from hot Nigeria, she had no coat or jacket. Talk about culture shock. While in Oregon, Comfort stayed with her cousin, who was really like her big brother, Dr. Kalu Maduka and his wife Peris (who Bebi affectionately called “Mama”), while attending Oregon State University. Being new to America and a freshman in college, Comfort received mentoring, moral support and guidance from Uncle Kalu and Mama. After just under a year, Comfort relocated in New York City, which was “a whole new world of its own”, in June 1971, settling in the Bronx. While in New York, she attended and graduated from Baruch College with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1974 and went on to attain a Master of Business Administration from there in 1975.
Comfort married Chikezie Uche Abengowe, with whom she had her three children, on March 18, 1974 at St. Paul’s Chapel in Harlem. The family lived at 1655 Undercliff Avenue and later 1520 Sedgewick Avenue. The couple was known to give some parties in their day. In fact, Comfort once mentioned that she didn’t need to do anymore partying because she was part of the generation responsible for the Bronx earning its nickname as the “Boogie Down” borough. In May of 1983, the family moved to Springfield Gardens, Queens.
While she was still as student, Comfort worked full-time for Sears as a Buyer’s Assistant and still managed to make the Dean’s list. She continued to work at Sears after graduation from Baruch and after the birth of her second child Ezinne, she decided to branch off on her own to start her own import-export business, which she named “Bebi International”. As a businesswoman, she imported textile, fabrics, and cosmetics, such as Avon products. She even had her own cosmetics line; Candida. Being in this line of work afforded her the opportunity to travel to various places in addition to her home country, Nigeria. She imported laces from Amsterdam and jewelry from Rome and traveled to other areas like India and France.
After putting the business on hold after having her last child, Ceejay, Comfort eventually secured employment with the Queens Division of Adoption and Foster Care Services Child Welfare Agency, now known as the Administration of Children’s Services, beginning on June 17, 1989 as a Caseworker. While working for ACS, she obtained a master’s degree in Social Work in May 2002, subsequently becoming a second level then third level supervisor (Titled Sup 2 and Sup 3 respectively) and later a Child Evaluation Specialist. Comfort liked dealing with families and children as it was rewarding to see success stories of her foster children who benefitted from her encouragement to stay in school and get an education despite their difficult family circumstances.
Mom was raised Roman Catholic but became Episcopalian after marriage. After moving to Queens, she briefly attended St. Alban the Martyr on Farmers Boulevard. In 1984, Comfort began attending St. John’s Episcopal Church in Springfield Gardens, where she eventually became a member. Comfort fell in love with the “little church” and became involved in several capacities. She served on the Altar Guild, was part of the Episcopal Church Women where she wrote and directed several plays and participated in numerous fashion shows. Comfort often emphasized the importance of having a personal relationship with God and always held God close to her heart.
Bebi loved life and positivity. Her bubbly personality and sense of humor often led her to be the life of the party. She enjoyed partying because it gave her the opportunity to dance and she LOVED to dance. Mom could also cook anything right. From spaghetti and meatballs to baked chicken to Farina (Fufu) and Okra Soup to Jollof Rice or Fish Stew (Ceejay’s favorite). You name it. Once you had some, you’d want more. Comfort also had a broad taste in music. Her favorite artists ranged from Lou Rawls to Sade to Billy Joel and she LOVED Michael Jackson. She was also an avid reader.
Comfort was preceded in death by her sister Lillian Chinyere Ekeoma and her parents. She is survived by her children: Ugonta, Ezinne, and Ceejay her sister: Stella Ekeoma her Big Cousin/Big Brother: Dr. Kalu Maduka and family Her Goddaughter: Tinuke Fadairo and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
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