Thursday, July 9, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
July 8, 2009

Dear Big Jey,

I never knew you as Joshua Hardy Okuthe. I simply called you Big Jey. That was the name I knew and you responded so warmly to it. In return, you called me Ondiegono no matter the circumstances.

I remember meeting you for the last time nearly four weeks ago at your favorite corner in Nairobi West. As usual you were in the company of your usual buddies. But as I joined your buddies for our usual nyama choma, you forgot everything and got into our usual secret jokes; jokes about your childhood tit bits.

Now that you are gone, I will for a long time cherish those little moments when we would be ourselves no matter the time and place. I now realize the folly of not spending quality time with friends while they are alive.

As I sat in my house last night, I watched the Michael Jackson memorial.

As I listened to tributes from close relatives and friends who knew Michael; as I listened to their eulogies and watched their tears rolling uncontrollably, my mind raced back home to Kenya to think about you lying in a cold mortuary, still and lifeless. Then I wondered at the meaninglessness of life and the meaning of death. Then I realized that both life and death only have meaning in one another’s existence. If there was no death, life would have no value. If there was no life, death wouldn’t exist.

Like Michael Jackson in your own small way, you aspired to greatness through hard work and became one of the greatest role models of our lives. Perhaps due to your hard work someone made Hardy your middle name.

As we mourn your departure Big Jey, we shall remember the good times we had together, your hearty laughter and your effortless ability to have a string of friends without showing the slightest signs of irritation.

Forty years as a sports administrator is no mean achievement. Very few Kenyans have represented Kenya at the Commonwealth and Olympics and have lived to make a mark forty years later. You belonged to a club of the select few.

Because of your passion for what you did, you accomplished everything that you needed to accomplish and more. The numerous talents you nurtured in your career have no count. The sheer motivation that turned questionable athletes into international icons is without parallel.

In your life, you led an exciting and fulfilled life. You enjoyed life to its fullest. You lived like there was no tomorrow. For this reason, you accomplished what you needed to do yesterday rather than wait to complete the task the following day.
Because of your amiable personality, you radiated positive energy in every one of us who got in contact with. Your positive thinking energized and empowered us beyond our limited abilities. You turned our impossibilities into possibilities.

A man for all seasons and many personalities, you weaved friendship from all walks of life. On the social scene, you were as good as on the sports scene. It did not matter that you were among the clergy, atheists and artists, international and local celebrities. You sampled and accorded them their stations in life. For this reason, each one of them had a soft spot for you, Big Jey.

You taught us how to love and respect one another. Most of all, you taught us how to value friendship at all levels of human society. You believed in one adage; that your friend’s friend was your friend too!

I remember vividly over twenty years ago when you first invited me to your house for lunch; not because I was your friend that much, but because I was with Ooko Ombaka the man for whom your beautiful wife Ruth had prepared lunch together with a few close friends. When I got to your residence along Dik Dik Road in Kileleshwa, you welcomed me even more warmly than the guests that you knew better.

Years later, as I led the media sponsorship of Harambee Stars for the Africa Cup of Nations, you were one of the few prominent sportsmen who gave me real support and ensured I succeeded.

Now that it is all over, it is not for us to question the wisdom of our creator who gives and takes at his appropriate time. He chose to pluck you from our midst when he did. Yet, we must forever be grateful to him to have allowed us to have you for a little while.

Adios my friend. Adios Big Jey.