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Kenyan scholar succumbs to Covid-19 in Minnesota, US

Saturday May 23 2020

Yonkers Fire Department EMTs, clothed in full personal protective equipment (PPE), assist to transport a patient with Covid-19 symptoms to a hospital

Yonkers Fire Department EMTs, clothed in full personal protective equipment assist to transport a patient with Covid-19 symptoms to a hospital on April 14, 2020 in Yonkers, Westchester County, New York. PHOTO | JOHN MOORE | GETTY IMAGES | AFP 

KEVIN J. KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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NEW YORK

Dr Thomas Nyambane, a retired professor and a leader of the Kenyan community in the US state of Minnesota, died from Covid-19 on May 17 aged 69.

He is the first Kenyan in the state known to have succumbed to the coronavirus, Minnesota's Mshale newspaper said in an obituary.

The virus has claimed the lives of at least 818 Minnesota residents. As of May 22, the nationwide US death toll in the pandemic exceeded 94,000.

“He had a very generous heart to everyone, and it did not matter who or where you came from and whether you were a kid or a grownup,” Dr Nyambane’s eldest son, Cyprian Kambuni, told Mshale.

Through fundraising efforts and other acts of generosity, Dr Nyambane sought to assist Kenyans in Minnesota and in his native land, Ms Kambuni added. He regularly raised money for books for Africa through the Minnesota Kenya International Development Association, the son said.

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“He loved working for Kenyans, loved to be involved, loved to serve the community — not seeing himself as a leader, but as a uniter of us all,” said Daniel Monari, a friend of Dr Nyambane’s.

After moving from Kenya to the US in the 1980s, Dr Nyambane earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas, as well as two Masters' degrees and a doctorate in philosophy from universities in Minnesota.

He taught for many years at Hennepin Technical College in a suburb of Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota.

Mr Kambuni noted that his father had undergone four back surgeries and had an underlying condition of diabetes that made him particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The family is trying to respect Dr Nyambane's oft-stated wish to be buried in his homeland, Mr Kambuni said. But the closing of Kenya's airspace due to the pandemic is complicating that quest.

In addition to Mr Kambuni, Dr Nyambane is survived by Alice Nyambane, his wife.