It is the end of an era after Taita-Taveta County laid to rest the last of the World War 2 veterans at his rural home at the scenic Lushangonyi village in Wundanyi on Saturday.
The event was marked by joy and sadness as hundreds of local residents came to bid farewell to Mzee Herman Mwandighi; a man many considered an unsung hero due to his incredible feats and unparalleled exploits. Overshadowing these mixed feelings was a quaint sense of fulfillment in honor of a life that had run full circle.
The old man, who died a week ago aged 101, Mzee Mwandighi was the last of the 27 veterans who served in the Second World War.
Born in 1920, he attended Kabete Technical College in 1940 for a carpentry course. It was while he was there that he was recruited to join Her Majesty’s Forces in 1941. He would be deployed to Abyssinia, modern-day Ethiopia, to serve alongside other fighters for four years. He was given honorable discharge on November 25, 1945 and his contribution for the empire had seen him promoted to the rank of a sergeant.
By the time of his discharge, he had served for four years and 299 days. His life at home was marked by many firsts. His carpentry firm is credited with having built the first coffee factory in the region.
Mzee Mwandighi was also hailed as the first man in the district to hoist the Kenyan flag at Wundanyi after the Union Jack was lowered.
Mzee Mwandighi also had a checkered political career. He served in the African District Council before Independence. He was also the first Mwanda counsellor and served as Taita-Taveta District KANU chairperson.
Speakers during the burial ceremony hailed his extraordinary life and termed it as a hallmark of a man who had displayed true patriotism for his country.
Former Wundanyi MP Thomas Mwadeghu said Mzee Mwandighi had lived his life to the fullest and left behind a legacy characterized by a track record of development projects.
“He has left a legacy that everyone who knew him can be proud of,” Mwadeghu said. He added that his political acumen made him to be a much sought-after figure especially by local leaders who wanted advice.
The family members eulogized him as a dependable man who always stood with his children and friends. As a staunch Catholic, Mzee Mwandighi was given a full celebratory requiem Mass characterized by laughter as his speakers recalled his favorite anecdotes.
Mr Ephraim Kitimo, a retired Senior Chief and an ex-army man, led other members of Defense Forces Comrades Association (Defoca) in staging elaborate drills in honor of a fallen comrade. The ex-soldiers, all of them aged and creaky, paid their last respect by the graveside as the crowd watched in awe.
“He was the last of the generation that fought in the Second World War,” said the ex-chief.
By Wagema Mwangi