Kofi Essieh, at 49; united Ghanaian immigrants

By Boston Globe
By Boston Globe

7/3/2004 -

Ghanaian families in Boston and Rhode Island expected Kofi Essieh at birthday parties, wedding celebrations, and cultural events. As president of the Ghana Association of Greater Boston, he was an enthusiastic community builder.

Mr. Essieh, who worked as a banker, died June 22 after battling liver cancer for a number of years. He was 49.

A funeral will be held today at 5 p.m. in the American Legion Post in Waltham.

As head of the Ghana Association, Mr. Essieh was instrumental in creating the Sister City program between Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana, and Boston, after a trip to Ghana with Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey and other officials in 2000.

Mr. Essieh helped new immigrants understand American culture, find housing and jobs, and aided individuals in crisis. "He lived and breathed that," said co-worker Esther Schlorholtz.

Tony Amoah, a friend and former president of the Ghana Association, said, "Kofi is the type of person who reaches out a great deal. He has not only done a lot for the Ghanaian community. Whenever there is a function for an African organization and the invitation is extended, he makes sure as many Ghanaians come as possible."

Mr. Essieh grew up in Ghana, where he met his wife, Angelina. After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Cape Coast in 1976, he taught economics at Peki Secondary School in Ghana and at Mount Mary College in Nigeria. When he moved to the United States in 1985, immigration officials accidentally changed the spelling of his last name from Essien to Essieh.

He received a degree in business administration from Suffolk University in 1989. Before joining the Boston Private Bank and Trust Company, where he worked on financing affordable housing and commercial projects that would create jobs, Mr. Essieh worked for the Bank of Boston and BayBank.

As a credit officer for Boston Private Bank, Mr. Essieh asked to work on community reinvestment projects. "He had all kinds of other market deals he was working on, but he chose to work especially on these," said Schlorholtz. "It's a rare, special person who cares that much."

Mr. Essieh prepared the bank's financing for the renovation and expansion of the Roxbury MultiService Center.

Once, during an obstacle in the financing process, Mr. Essieh visited the center. "That was the sort of guy he was," said Schlorholtz. "He could have sat back in the office, but he wanted to meet the people who were actually providing the service."

The dedication ceremony for the project was held on Tuesday. "I had planned always to take him. He had already passed away," said Schlorholtz.

Mr. Essieh was also a devoted family man. Before his brother, Kwame Amoah immigrated to America, he would visit Mr. Essieh, traveling to the Six Flags amusement park, as well as to museums, parties, cookouts, and Ghanaian functions. "He made sure we went together," his brother said. "He made it possible for me and my family to join him here in the United States in 2000."

In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Essieh leaves two daughters, Paulina and Jennifer; and three sons, John, Emmanuel, and Fred, all of Waltham; five other brothers, Justice Acquah of Columbus, Ohio, Kobina Doughan of Roslindale, Matthew Davidson Cudjoe of Los Angeles, Francis Fynn of Worcester, and Tony Eshun of Raleigh, N.C.; and four sisters, Mary Essien, Joana Essien, Mary Otoo, and Mary Amoah, all of Ghana.

Burial will be in Ghana.