Legson Kayira, a writer, age 74, passed away unexpectedly on October 14, 2012 after suffering a brain hemorrhage while walking near his home in London, England. His wife, Julie (Robertson), and his daughters Selena and Natasha were at his side upon his passing.
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He was born to Timothy Mwenekanyonyo Mwamalopa Arinani Chikowoka Kayira and Ziya Nyakawonga in Nyasaland.
Many members of the community are familiar with Legson Kayira's incredible story of perseverance. As chronicled in his autobiography, "I Will Try" (Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY 1965), Legson Kayira shares his story, simply, and eloquently.
Legson discovered Skagit Valley Junior College in a volume of American Junior Colleges and then embarked on a 2,500 mile, two-year walk across Africa so that he could attend SVC in 1960.
After many months of anticipation and excitement, Legson Kayira arrived at Seattle-Tacoma Airport on Tuesday, December 20, 1960. Greeting him that day were George Hodson, Dean of the College, Louise Helmer, Advisor to Foreign Students and Communications, Kay Raymond, Counselor, and William Atwood, host family.
Once Legson arrived in the United States and Mount Vernon, he became a national celebrity and was warmly embraced by the local community. While attending SVJC, Legson lived most of those two years with host family, the late William and the late Martha Atwood and their children. Legson fit right in at their Bay View farm, enjoying singing around the piano, helping to milk the cows, and enjoying Mrs. Atwood's home cooked meals. And, during his last two quarters, Legson had the opportunity to live with SVC physics instructor, Robert Green and his wife Jackie, along with their children.
After graduating from SVJC, Legson attended the University of Washington and earned a degree in Political Science. From there, he attended Cambridge in England and earned a degree in History. Legson worked in London in government service for over 20 years, until health issues required his attention.
From UW, Legson scaled the academic heights by going to Cambridge University (St. Catharine's College) where he read History. Legson pointed out, it is unique for an African from one of the world's poorest villages to end up at Cambridge - a sure sign that miracles can happen. Cambridge celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2010 and he was invited to partake in the festivities for an entire weekend, which to his delight, included a seven-course dinner with each course accompanied by a different vintage wine, the whole lot ending with vintage port. Again, after each course, a gong was struck three times and a prayer was said. In Latin, as always. Following "I Will Try," he wrote four novels and was working on a fifth when he passed away.
Legson Kayira is survived by his wife, Julie Robertson, formerly of Burlington and his sister-in-law, Roxanne Robertson, of Burlington. He is also survived by children: Selena, Natasha, Rosamund, and David, along with eight grandchildren.
Just like a gentle stream that begins its journey with one drop of water after a rainstorm, Legson Kayira's journey to Skagit Valley Junior College began with just a single footstep. Without question, his determination has inspired others to greatness; his success has cultivated new seedlings; and his friendship has enriched a college and an entire community.
Services were held on October 30 at the West London Crematorium in the West Chapel, London, England.
Donations may be made to the Legson Kayira Memorial Scholarship through the Skagit Valley College Foundation, www.skagit.edu/foundation
Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company from Nov. 4 to Nov. 5, 2012