Reunited after 37 years

Angelle in front with Nigerian relatives of her father in the US. Source: Angelle Burrus

Angelle Burrus (nee Udo) was just months old in her mother’s womb when her father Ndubuisi Dele Udo, a Nigerian-American athlete, was killed in Lagos.

With the help of The Nation, Nigeria’s widest circulating newspaper, Angelle reunited with her long lost kin 37 years later.

An interior decoration professional who lives in St Louis, Missouri, United States, Angelle grew up and married without knowing her father or any of his Nigerian -based family.
An international sprinter, her father was in Lagos for a tournament when he was shot by a policeman during an argument in traffic.

Based on all she heard about her father from her mother and what she read from a collection of 32 newspaper articles, stories and pictures, Angelle’s desire had always been to reconnect with her father’s relatives, especially the Udo family back in Nigeria.

Late Udo on the track. Source: The Nation File Photo

A chance meeting in St. Louis Missouri last December with Taiwo Abiodun a US-based journalist who writes for The Nation presented Angelle the opportunity she had been looking for.

Expressing her desire to the paper, she told her story well enough to get what she had always wanted.

“My name is Angelle Burrus (nee Udo). I am 37 years old, please I want to come to Nigeria to locate my father’s family and see where he was buried,” she said in the report titled ‘I Want To Know My Father’s Family in Nigeria, says late Dele Udo’s daughter’ that was published on Dec 30, 2018. “Please write my story. All I want is to meet my father’s siblings and see my father’s grave in Nigeria,” Angelle declared.

Within hours of the publication’s release, the hitherto hard to find Udo family members who read about Angelle reached out to her on Facebook.

In her Facebook post, an excited Angelle wrote about the link she had looked forward to finding for years:
Dec-7th met Taiwo Abiodun in Missouri
Dec-9th interview conducted about the death of my father 37 years ago.
Dec-30th article published in Nigeria.
Jan-3rd FaceTimed w/her, uncle Luke Udo and cousin Oke ( Nkechi’s brother).
On this day I find out Oke lives 1hr away
Jan-5 First in person meeting with cousin Oke and his wife Dami. He’s the first person EVER to meet me in person from my Nigerian family.
God is amazing I am so blessed and happy!”

To help Angelle accomplish her dream, The Nation’s correspondent in South-Eastern Nigeria where the late Udoh hailed from, Okechukwu Nwankwo ,was briefed by the Lagos headquarters and went in search of her family members back home.

After a series of enquiries, he found Angelle’s stepmother, younger brother, close friend and other acquaintances who were glad to know that the baby Angelle’s mother was carrying when she attended her husband’s burial was indeed alive and keen on meeting them.

A second story was published on Jan 13 titled ‘Late Dele Udo: We are eager to receive his American daughter, wife – Family members’.

“When the news about Angelle trying to reconnect with the father’s family members surfaced in your newspaper, we were very happy. You know at that time, it was only Dele that was the breadwinner, but now, his siblings are doing well in their endeavours. We will be happy to receive her,” said the late Udo’s step mother, Joy Okechukwu.

“Please write my story. All I want is to meet my father’s siblings and see my father’s grave in Nigeria,” Angelle declared.

Udo’s younger brother also spoke about Angelle’s interest in meeting the family: “I think her quest to meet with her father’s family is genuine. 36 years of not knowing any members of her father’s family is long. We had expected this to happen before now, but we are happy she is alive and willing to reunite with her family”

Angelle’s mother, Angella who was initially reluctant to speak with Abiodun about her late husband, was eventually convinced to do so. Her interview titled ‘My lasting memories of Dele Udoh’ was published on Aug 25.

She is happy that her daughter eventually found her father’s family. She had always told Angelle that it was up to her to look for her father’s family and she (Angella) could not do that for her daughter.

Angella, Angelle’s mother with the newspaper publication on the late husband’s death. Source: Taiwo Abiodun

While she would be happy to come to Nigeria if invited by the government, Angella who still retains her marriage name, said emotionally “I was (a) bride, a woman, mum and a widow in one year. I am going to write a book on it.”

Comments on Angelle’s social media post on finding her Nigerian family incited excitement amongst relatives and friends as well as highlighted the impact the publication had made on her life.

Some of the comments included:
Janet Burrus: Wow. Angelle this is awesome …exactly what you have been seeking. You know you are part of our family, but now you know your roots, have blood relatives, you can talk with and answers.
Gail Feldman: I cried when I read this article. Finally after all these years- answers, stories, connections- your dad is alive through you and through your relatives. Beautiful
Luke Udo: We’re all excited my dear, it’s just the beginning, you definitely going to Nigeria soon with me to meet the rest, can’t wait for the trip
Lilian Ify Udo: Can’t wait to meet U and your lovely family. Thanks to all my family member’s for their effort and response to the search/media. Y’all did amazing beautiful in reaching out to Angelle. This is the Lord’s doing.

This story is a compilation of articles by Taiwo Abiodun and Okechukwu Nwankwo that was originally published by The Nation from Dec 30, 2018 to Aug 25.

Angelle’s re-connection with her father’s family would not have been possible if not for US-based Journalist Taiwo Abiodun’s article, which enabled the first contact between both parties in 37 years to happen within twenty four hours of publishing the first story. The Nation correspondent, Okechukwu Nwankwo, also aided the reunion’s success as he spent the last days of 2018 searching for Angelle’s family through various contacts.Nation journalist Abiodun had gone with his wife to the African Palace Restaurant in St Louis owned by a Nigerian when she was introduced to Angelle, daughter of late Udo, who was also visiting the restaurant at that time.
With the support of a friend, Lobo Agaun and his wife, Abiodun was able to book an interview with Angelle at a Mcdonald’s eatery after several phone calls.
Convincing Angella, Angelle’s mother, to speak was much more difficult as she initially declined. With his persistence and support of his wife, Ronnie, Abiodun was finally able to get the 74-year-old woman to eventually open up and talk about her late husband. Through the effort of these reporters, Angelle was able to understand the family she had always longed to meet.