Loved ones remember G. Winifred Kagwa, a social worker, activist, world traveler and mother figure for many in her life
On paper, G. Winifred Kagwa, an Upper West Side resident for 40 years, and former professor at Hunter College, led an incredibly impressive life that would make most people envious. She passed away on September 8th at the age of 92 from natural causes.
A social worker, Winifred lived in and worked for the people of Uganda for several years with her husband Benjamin Hope Kagwa Nsubuga, becoming treasurer of the Uganda YWCA, and setting up scholarships for poor children in her late husband's name. She was a member of the UN and a founding member of the UN African Mothers Association. She received several awards for her social work and service from charity organization and the UN, including the Member of the Year award from the National Auxiliary to the National Medical Association. She spent much of her life traveling the world with her husband.
Just about the only thing Winifred didn't do was have children. But she was known fondly as "Aunt Win" to her four nieces and nephews, Sandra Grayson, Richard Dyer, Joey Garth and Sharon Garth, as well as her cousin Gloria Dyer. She was also a second mother to many of the children whom she helped with her scholarships and through her social work.
"She never had children but she had the world," said her niece San Grayson-Roye. "Even though she never gave birth she had hundreds of children. Students would write her heartfelt letters who she didn't even know. She contributed to a new world vision."
Born in Jamaica, G. Winifred Kagwa vowed to dedicate her life to those around her. She started her career in the Columbia University Mental Hygiene Clinic, where she met her husband, Benjamin. Together, they lived in Uganda, Benjamin's place of birth. Before and after her journey to Africa, Winifred worked as a professor of social work where she received the award for Distinguished Adjunct in 1994. In between all of this, they would travel the world. According to her family, she owned a gigantic inflatable globe, and with mark with a black X, where they had gone.
"As soon as they would walk in the door, she would ask 'okay, where are we going next?'" said San Grayson-Roye.
One of her favorite stories to tell, said her nephew Richard Dyer, was about trying so hard to climb up onto a camel, that really didn't want any part of it in Egypt. But despite her travels, numerous accolades and hardworking nature, she always had time for her family.
"She was inspiring to me," said Dyer. "She was the first one to instill in me the importance of education, and it was because of her that I decided to obtain a masters degree."
Winifred was a woman who always had a joke or an inspiring expression for every occasion like her favorite: "Good, better best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best." She loved puppies and children, and still looked good in a bathing suit as she got older. She loved the opera, especially Madame Butterfly. And she never was sick or fragile. The only thing she suffered from toward the end was Alzheimer's.
"They don't make them like her anymore," said Barb Grayson-Roye, San's life partner. "She was a lady, part of the old generation and an era gone by. You will never come across an Aunt Win again."
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