My father, Asfaw Feleke Woldetekle , was a man who never speaks loud and never blamed someone for anything. Serving under the Imperial regime of Haile Selasse, he worked at various levels and was in the treasury department, had a chance to travel with King Haileselasse to the Dallol potash mine in Afar region. He retired few years before the 1966 Yekatit Revolution. His father died tragically to separate feast fight when he was a child . As the eldest man of his family among three sisters and one brother he learnt responsibility at a young age and helped his late mother Emayohe Desta Ayele who died two decades ago "one hundred years". Currently he survived by his youngest ailing sister and large extended family members.
His trip to Tigray to collect taxes in the 1940 E.C is my favorite story among many others he shared with us here in New York after the fall of Derg. As a simple clerk he was sent to Tigray to collect taxes. People not only refused to pay taxes but also felt sorry for the "poor" clerk travelling with empty hands in a rebellion area asking for money for the Imperial Treasury.
He has to convince people that without money there can not be school, road and other developmental activities and the choice is theirs to pay or not pay taxes. The people understand very well this "poor man" was sent by big shots from distance and treat him very well as their own.
My father gives credit where it is due. He admired King Haile Selasse for educating poor children from all corners of Ethiopia and visiting them at schools, giving encouraging words. The first family member picture receiving diploma from the king was proudly hang on our home in Addis Ababa as an inspiration for our family.
Education for him was the stepping stone to improve ones life or country's future. No wonder on his stay here in New York he was asking himself, "what were we doing ? " when these people built all these bridges and roads ?. He himself got an informal education in the five year resistance during the Italy invasion.
Working with British ally forces he learnt English and was a translator in the refugee camp in Kenya. Some former students call him as "Gashe" Asfaw and I attended a school, Asfaw Wossen, in Ethiopia under the principal Fanose Tekeleseelase who was one of my father students
As a fighter in the resistance army he lost one eye to save the fallen soldier and capture guns and ammunition from the enemy and for that he received a medal of the King George the Sixth. That story was published on the then British colony of Kenya's news paper. Over all he received seven medals for his service to his country. His late wife, Ejigayehu Yalew, also received two medals.
My father was also a man of justice. I saw it fist hand as an elementary school child when we travelled with him to Nazret to see his few hectares of land. We met the tenant family with two children and there was no Bekele to help us visit the harvest. Harvest was very bad and Bekele had nothing to give and if he gives it was only at the expense of his own family.
Not only my father refused any harvest that time, he asked Bekele's family to adopt the two girls, Belaynesh and Zenebich, to raise them as part of his family. I and my brothers grew up with these girls,sisters, in all legal definition and I am indebted to them for helping our family after the passing away of our mother two decades ago.
My father lived through war, feudalism, communism and dictatorship and also witnessed the historical election of 2005. He was a man who follows the news of the world. He loves radios and I still remember as a child the radio opened to bring German Amharic in the afternoon, "Yehe Ke Igale Rwanda Yemetelalefew Ye German Dimtse Newe". The man who loves information,however, was getting older at the age of Internet and when the Hubble Telescope got additional life thanks to the USA Astronauts successful mission this week, my father has to leave earth maybe to" hear" from the Hubble Telescope closely. He is still alive in our mind as always listening.