By Ryan Mauro
Tigrai Online, October 09, 2013
It was devastating news on Wednesday, October 10, 2013, to learn that Ato Bekele Berhane, an alumni and one of the original founders of the Queen Sheba School, Adwa,Tigrai, Ethiopia, has passed away, surrounded by his brothers, sisters, children, and a number of friends. In reflection we relive and experience again how profoundly Ato Bekele Berhane, a man of great dignity, touched the lives of so many graduates of the Queen Sheba School.
A bright and talented student, he graduated from the Queen Sheba Elementary School, and continued his studies at the Commercial School in Addis Ababa. Then, after he graduated from the prestigious Commercial School, he was hired at the American Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After a few years at the American Embassy, he was awarded a scholarship for two years to study business specializing in Export- Import procedures and documentation.
Ato Bekele Berhane was very handsome and had a love of well-tailored clothes, but unlike others who returned with woolens and heavy bottom shoes to Ethiopia after their studies or visits in the United States, he returned to Ethiopia from the United States with his two pieces of luggage bulging and stitched together, filled with English fiction books for primary schools. Because he had such a passion for schooling, it gave him great delight to help people. He donated all the fiction books from America to the primary school students at the Queen Sheba School. One of the recipients of Ato Bekele Berhane’s books, who is now Professor Desta, was then a student in grade three, who gives acknowledgement and appreciation to the late Ato Bekele for his current love of reading fiction.
During his tenure at the American Embassy and later as an important businessman in Addis Ababa, Ato Bekele B erhane served as a tutor, and monitor, and gave assistance and shelter to a number of graduates of the Queen Sheba School.
After the country was liberated from the inhuman and atrocious rule of the military (Derg) in 1991, Ato Bekel Berhane being one of those who was imprisoned for about one year by the Derg for no reason but that he was originally from Tigrai, decided to leave his business in Addis Ababa and concentrate on establishing business enterprises in the place of his birth, the town of Adwa. Ato Bekele Berhane established a medium size marble factory and a gas station in Adwa. His sole aim was to revitalize the war-devastated town of Adwa, create job opportunities for the graduates of the Queen Sheba School and help to reinvigorate the economy of the community.
While at Adwa, Ato Bekele worked tirelessly to restore his former school, the Queen Sheba School which was made a military station by the ruthless Derg. Among other things, while he was the Chair of the Queen Sheba Alumni Association, Ato Bekele Berhane worked day and night to establish alumni associations in various parts of Ethiopia and in the United States. He raised a substantial amount of money to overhaul the torn and ramshackle class rooms at the Queen Sheba School. For example, Ato Bekele Berhane was one of originators of the Seattle Branch of the Queen Sheba Alumni Association. In 2004, Ato Bekele Berhane convinced Professor Desta to finance a building for the Metal and Woodwork Department of the Queen Sheba School Secondary School.
For being a man of great dignity and integrity, Ato Bekele was recognized for more than 60 years of sustained service to the Queen Sheba School and his birth place, the Adwa community. Thus, Ato Bekele Berhane’s accomplishments have touched the lives of many Queen Sheba Alumni. Now, Ato Bekele Berhane has departed from us forever but his great legacy will never be forgotten when we roam the town of Adwa.
With great sadness and sympathy, we would like to extend our condolences to the entire Berhane family and the Adwa community, who are grieving the passing of Ato Bekele Berhane. May God inspire us to keep Ato Bekele Berhane’s commitment and purpose to continue his hard work to further reinvigorate the Queen of Sheba School.
May the Almighty give peace and rest to the soul of Ato Bekele Berhane.
Professor Desta Asayehgn
Engineer Iasu Gorfu