Members of Nova Scotia’s Ghanaian community are celebrating the life of a leader.
Tony Eghan was born in Ghana and lived much of his life in Nova Scotia. He died in March. Long before Eghan moved to Nova Scotia, he’d made a mark in Africa. In 1978, he coached Ghana’s Black Stars to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
“He was already a celebrity in his own right before he came to Canada,” said Toria Aidoo, a Ghanaian-Nova Scotian who met Eghan after he migrated to Nova Scotia in 1989.
According to his obituary, he was born in Pedu, in the central region of Ghana, in 1944. He graduated from a local teaching school and taught for several years in Ghana.
Africa Cup champion
He was also passionate about soccer, and travelled to Germany to study for an advanced soccer coaching certificate in 1976. Later that year, he was named coach for Ghana’s national team, the Black Stars, and led them to their 1978 Africa Cup of Nations win in Ghana.
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He returned to education in the 1980s and moved to the United States to earn his PhD in physical education at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La. In 1989, he moved to Nova Scotia to teach at Acadia University’s school of health and physical education.
“Tony Eghan is a father figure to most of us Ghanaians here and he’s a well-respected, well-loved leader in our community and elder in our community,” Aidoo said.
After two years at Acadia, Eghan was on the move once again — this time, to teach at elementary schools in the Halifax area.
Anne Johnson-McDonald, the principal of North Preston’s Nelson Whynder Elementary School, said Eghan made an impact teaching at her school in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“He kept in touch with and supported students that he would have taught back in the ’90s, encouraging them and staying on top of their academic progress through high school, post-secondary and even as they started their careers,” she told CBC News.
“As a colleague, I remember him as being a man who placed establishing positive relationships with students, families and fellow staff, and setting the standard for academic excellence, as a priority.”
Aidoo also worked with him at the school.
“The kids loved him because he could come down to their level and he was dedicated to their learning,” said Aidoo.
Eghan helped found the Ghanaian Association of Nova Scotia and the African Diaspora Association of the Maritimes.
She said he dedicated his life to building community and strong families, which he saw as the foundation for living good lives.
“I remember when he was quite new to Nova Scotia, he was always open to visitors coming to his home, and welcoming them and chatting with them, finding out what support they needed to help them navigate their way to having more enriching lives,” she said.
Strong family leads to a strong life
Aidoo said Eghan was a devout Catholic who built his own life on his faith. That led him and his wife, Felicia, to create BOSFAM, Builders of Strong Families and Marriages.
“He believed that for the family to be successful, the parents needed to succeed, they needed to be happy together, and the children also get to be happy. If these things work together, they would have a happy home,” said Aidoo.
Privately, Eghan was an enthusiastic gardener who “painted” his property with flowers, plants and vegetables.
He continued his athletic excellence in Canada, playing on the 2001 King of Donair’s men’s team that won a national title, which earned him a spot in the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.
Aidoo said that even as the man she called Uncle Tony lay in hospital in his last days, his mind was on helping other people.
She said Eghan lived by his favourite quote, which came from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
“He gave his time, treasure and talent selflessly for others to make things work out,” she said.
A funeral service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. AT at Saint Benedict Catholic Church in Halifax.