The inevitable chaser of life has struck again. Nowadays, in Liberia reports of death are almost as uncommon as during the Liberian civil war. It comes unsuspected, and as my brother and political commentator, Winston Kerkulah (KEK 123) would say, “It takes away the good people quicker than the bad ones.” Such is the story of another great son.
The late Omolu Joe Kpangbai Sr., was an athlete, peace maker, social worker and family man. On the basketball court, folks of the 1970 called him “Go inside,” while at home; he is known as ‘’Joe Blow,” and of course between 1984- 1989, officials and players of rival teams in Bong County teased him as St. Martin’s ‘medicine man.’
Omolu died on a happy day. By the evening of July 26, 2014, he had drunk a can of coke to relax and see his kids and neighbors go about the Independence Day’s festivities. Closed to mid-night his pressure knocked him down. Thank God he was not cremated as is with corpses across the country. His case was unrelated to the deadly Ebola Virus.
In his native Bong, he was described as one of the prolific, accurate and distance shooters. He would break any defense and deliver a fast break. If not the all-time highest scorer for Bong County, Omulu would be second.
Coming from Blameyea village, about fifteen kilometers east of Bong County, Omulu is the grandson of Chief Barsie Kpangbai. The Kpangbais has a rich political history since the late 1800’s. Barsee Kpangbai is considered the root of the Kpangbais, he worked along chiefs (Buzzi, Tamba Taylor, Gborzoe Toweh etc) to recruit manpower for Firestone Rubber Company.
As a reward for his loyalty to President Tubman, he was made a member of the True Whip Party (TWP) dominated House of Representatives in 1964 when Central North and Eastern provinces became counties.
Omulu believed in the mind game as a coach and had the ability to build a tactical team that could response to both victory and defeat. He attracted favor from both match officials and spectators, because of his hall mark approach of diplomacy.
As a coach of the ‘Iceman’ (Catholic High), he was soon referred to as ‘medicine man’ because of their disputable winning ways, for those who subscribed to that myth would find their defense in the tales because Omulu’s father was chief of chiefs. Paramount Chief Kpangbai was the organizing chairman of the Traditional Council of Liberia and buddy of the late President Samuel Kanyon ‘Tarnue’ Doe.
It was a fact that Chief Kpangbai was fond of the cow tail morale. It made people think he was such a grand Zoë and that he had transferred some of that power to Omolu. But Omolu refused to yield to the noise in the market.
As a coach, he upped for a unified team and made himself a symbol of victory and stood for discipline. St. Martin’s had a family team built by him such that three of his siblings were not only part of the starting five but strategic to his authority.
As player of Gboveh High School, Cutttington University or Bong County, Omolu made his mark. His game was basketball and not politics as his grand Barsie, his father and Cousins Francis and Mator. Since Chief Barsie Kpangbai death in 1972, this grandson (Francis and son James Omolu’s father) treaded his path by being political as both men became members of the Honorable House of Representatives 1997-2002.
Omulu started on a dusty court at M.V. Massaquoi, then to the Methodist Gym, CU Court and on to the Sports Commission. He never stopped shooting and winning the ball as a smart guide player, then he emerged as coach after an Afro American Harold McGowan tutored him.