More than 700 people attended a memorial service on Saturday for Derick Lwugi, a Calgary man who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10.
Friends and family joined members of the local Kenyan community at a southwest Calgary church to pay their respects to a community leader who devoted his life to his own family and to his church family.
“He made a person feel special and wanted and needed,” said longtime friend Stephen Amadala in a tribute. “Derick was very outgoing and he was able to connect with people and to bring them together around a shared purpose. He was blessed with the gift of creating communities.”
Lwugi, a City of Calgary accountant, was remembered as a devout Christian who served his city, church and community — in Calgary and in Kenya.
“Derick was a great man and a dear friend and a dear brother. I will miss him terribly,” Amadala said. “He was a man of the people, a man who had a servant’s heart and a man who served others and went out of his way to make sure that those he met were OK.”
Kenya’s high commissioner to Canada offered condolences to the family. Last week, John Lanyasunya was at the memorial service for a family from Hamilton who died in the plane crash.
Lwugi’s sister recalled the agonizing moments hoping to get a message from her brother after hearing that the Ethiopian Airlines plane had gone down. She had hoped he missed the flight.
“I sent him a text and I was a little bit annoyed,” said Rose Ingnasian, who travelled from her home in the Netherlands to attend the Calgary service.
“I told him, ‘You know, with the news that is going on and you can’t even confirm to us that you were OK?’ When the passengers’ names on the plane were released, it was breathtaking to see Derick’s name on the list.”
Lwugi’s wife and three children plan to travel to Ethiopia this week to visit the crash site. Friends hope their journey will help them work through their grief.
“Your husband and your father was loved by everybody he knew,” Ingasian said. “He was warm, he was welcoming and he cared for many. We will always remember him and cherish his memories.”