Prof. Samuel Otu Gyandoh

Tribute to Uncle S.O.

Nana Ama, Egya, Lulu, and Abeeku

He has achieved success, who has lived well, who has laughed often and loved much:
who has enjoyed the trust, respect and love of people;
who has filled the niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it;
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others and given the best he had.
Whose life was an inspiration; Whose memory a benediction.

By Bessie A Stanley

Uncle SO abooooo!!!!” (Uncle SO is here!!!). We’d all stop what we would be doing and rush outside to meet him at the gate. Uncle would land in his sports car, with Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ or ‘I Love Sweet William’ playing in the car. He’d get down and we’d all gather round him excited. He’d then look at our faces and wave us to jump in the car, not missing out using the word ‘ntoonoo’ and would take us for a short spin and then back home. Our Mr. Cool Uncle with style!

Uncle visited regularly his aunt, our grandma, Dorothy Gardiner, and our mothers, Esther and Frieda, sometimes with relatives like Uncle Nana Banyin de Graft Johnson or Uncle Fiifi Moore or even his visiting foreign friends/colleagues. Anytime he did visit, we would be always thrilled. He was one of those uncles who had time for all of us, not just the grown-ups but all the children too. When he was around, the nicknames and slogans were often heard – ‘Corzin’, ‘Nkubus’, ‘Saasa’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Constitution – Special Advisor’, etc and his roaring laughter too. Besides talking about family history, law and politics, the jokes also followed with teasing and more laughter. Cherished reminiscences!

We would often visit Legon and no doubt there would be a family gathering and a feast, whatever the occasion. When he had a chalet by the beach, he would take us all for a picnic by the seaside or even sometimes take us to the then Kingsway Shop to buy books for us. Nana Ama always recalls her trips with Uncle SO to Abakrampa, anytime we drive on the hilly roads there. He would even sometimes cook spaghetti bolognese for us at Ayido Crescent. On our birthdays, uncle would insist we ate ‘ɔtɔ’ and eggs (mashed yam with palm oil), in addition to our birthday cake and if he had time, he would join us to celebrate our special day. Fond memories that will forever remain in our hearts!

When we went off to boarding school, he would visit and always sought after our welfare. As we grew older he would write to us. He would always send a postcard from the country he visited or write to us in his beautiful joint script writing. Uncle once travelled to Israel and sent a postcard from Jerusalem. As children, we thought Jerusalem was in heaven so you can imagine the surprise on our faces when we received the postcard. On his arrival, when we told him we thought Jerusalem was in heaven. He burst out laughing and as usual explained to us and then came up with ‘Wɔ yɛ mbɛlɛ papa!’

The time came when the family had to sadly part during the Rawlings’ regime. Uncle SO settled in exile in the US. I recall our grandma Dorothy, would shed a tear or two because she was worried Rawlings would pursue him in the US and harm him. She would wake up every morning praying for her beloved ‘Ekow or S.O.’s’ safety. Thankfully, all was peaceful and even though Uncle couldn’t travel to Ghana during that time, he continued to write.

When some of us moved abroad to study or live, Uncle SO would always check up on us, write to us and visited when he was in the same country. He had a way of bringing us all together – both relatives and close friends. When he was in London, he would take us all to Bayswater for Chinese food. If not, he would make sure we’d all meet up, at Ego’s, Karen’s or Val’s house. The gatherings were always full of memorable stories and laughter. This trend didn’t change when he moved back to Ghana as we would always meet up, and what joy we had with him!

Uncle took everyone under his wing – our spouses, children, friends, colleagues etc. He stretched his love and support beyond boundaries. Egya has been part of his household since he moved to the US. Abeeku had the privilege of spending last Boxing Day with him and Nana Otu.  Our children had the benefit of enjoying a grandpa’s love and presence with him.

Karen recalls the day Greece was bombed and Uncle SO happened to be in Athens lecturing. He called her to tell her how scary the experience was. He said, ‘I was so scared I dressed up in my best silk pyjamas before going to bed so that should there be another bombing at my hotel, I would go in style.’ Such a great sense of humour he had. Then he added ‘Ah, at my age, I guess I’m heading for the departure lounge. I will soon be waiting for the final call to board so if it’s my turn to go, then, I might as well prepare and go in style.’

Since our mothers – who were more sisters to him than cousins – passed away, he automatically stood in as a parent, always seeking our wellbeing, giving advice, guidance and assurance of life matters. He was the father figure in our lives. Not a day would go by that one of us wouldn’t say we’d spoken to Uncle SO. It certainly feels really strange not having him around to speak to or be with. We now have to come to terms with him no longer being around. However, we will always be extremely grateful for all that he has done for us, including giving us the lovely memories, care and laughter which will forever stay with us. 

Dearest Uncle SO, you will be sorely missed. God be with you till we meet again, and just like how you would always say when we were parting, ‘Bye bye oooooohhhh!!!’ 


Much love from Nana Ama, Egya, Lulu and Abeeku.  

‘In the world you were just one person but to us you were the world’

Rest peacefully in the Lord’s bosom dear Uncle SO