Biography of Mrs Theresa Aba Kufuor

Theresa Mensah was born on October 25, 1934, in Kumasi, to Joseph Henry Mensah Snr (also known as Paapa), a colonial civil servant from Elmina, and Rose Mensah (nee Maame Abena Tabuaa), the daughter of Nana Kofi Amoah, the Banmuhene of Sunyani Domase, and Obaapanyin Yaa Donkor.

Her mother, Maame, sold textiles supplied by the United African Company. Theresa, popularly known as Aba, was the seventh of ten surviving children in the close-knit family. They resided in a spacious house in Kumasi’s Adum business district, where they spoke Fante, practiced devout Catholicism, and fostered a warm and supportive environment.

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Theresa, or Aba, began her primary schooling at St. Benedict’s and continued at Our Lady of Apostles (OLA) girls’ boarding school in the Volta Region. Despite encouragement from her elder brother, J H Mensah Jnr, to pursue further education at OLA after Standard 7, she chose to work as a staff nurse at Komfo Anokye Hospital, initially without her father’s knowledge. Eventually, her father, Paapa, supported her decision, leading to her enrollment in a nursing training course in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, facilitated by her brother.

During her time in Edinburgh from 1958 to 1961, Theresa trained as a registered general nurse at the Edinburgh Southern Hospitals School of Nursing. She embraced the social life and made lasting friendships, including one with Emma Bentil, who later became her sister-in-law by marrying Dr. Peter Mensah.

In 1962, Theresa completed her Midwifery (Part I) at the Nuffield Maternity Home in Oxford and Part II at Paddington General Hospital in London. She furthered her education with a course in premature baby nursing in 1963 and obtained a certificate in advanced nursing administration from the Royal College of Nursing in 1980.

Theresa’s life took a turn when she met John Agyekum Kufuor, a young man at a Republic Day dance in London. They became friends, met again in Oxford, and eventually got engaged. Their wedding took place at the Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge, London, on September 8, 1962.

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Returning to Ghana in 1965, the couple settled in Kumasi, where Theresa worked at Tech Hospital on the University of Science and Technology campus. The family expanded with the birth of their five children: John Addo Kwabo (Chief), Anne-Marie Nana Ama Ampomah, Helen Nana Saah, Edward Kojo Agyekum, and Victor Kofi Owusu Afriyie Mensah.

Theresa’s life took a challenging turn in 1972 when her husband, John Kufuor, was detained during the overthrow of Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia’s government. Pregnant at the time, she visited her husband regularly in prison and navigated life with four young children.

In 1972, Theresa gave birth to her last child, Victor Kofi Owusu Afriyie Mensah. Her resilience, coupled with the support of family and friends, helped her weather this difficult period. Upon her husband’s release after 15 months, they focused on rebuilding their lives.

In 1973, Theresa became the first matron of the newly established Cocoa Clinic. The family faced further challenges with the overthrow of the government in 1981, prompting them to send their older children to London for safety.

Throughout the political changes, Theresa supported her husband’s career, attending rallies and campaigning. After her husband became President in 2001, she became the First Lady, emphasizing issues related to women and children, such as vocational training for young women, community-run crèches, pre-school facilities, and micro-enterprises.

Theresa established the Mother and Child Community Development Foundation, a non-governmental organization supporting women and children in deprived areas. Her advocacy extended to HIV/AIDS awareness, and she worked behind the scenes to influence government policies on education and healthcare.

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After her husband left office in 2009, Theresa continued her advocacy and support work through her foundation. She received the Papal Dame of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great award from the Vatican in 2010.

Theresa retired from public life due to health reasons but continued her advocacy efforts. She passed away peacefully on October 1, 2023, at the family house in Peduase, surrounded by her family. She is survived by her husband, John Agyekum Kufuor, one sister, all five of her children, and 14 grandchildren. Theresa Aba Kufuor, born on October 25, 1934 (officially 25 October 1935), left a lasting legacy in Ghana through her dedication to healthcare, education, and community development.

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