Celeste Veronica Nri was born on July 16th, 1932, in St Andrew, Barbados. She was a proud student of the Alleyne school. She spent her early years in Barbados as a teacher. In the 1950s, she went to England with her sister Joyce Charles (Franklin), where she was a student at the Regent St Polytechnic. It was there that she met her husband, Cyril Onuora Nri. Cyril was a good friend of her brother, the late Claude LeGay Franklin. After their marriage in September 1959. Celeste lived in Fulham, London, and then in Chelmsford.
In 1959, Celeste embarked on another adventure travelling on the Elder Dempster line ship, the Aureol, to Nigeria with her husband and her 6-month-old daughter, Monique Ngozi Nri.
Celeste travelled with her husband and children to Kaduna in the north, where her children Mary and Cyril were born, and to Lagos where her daughter Debbie was born and as well as visiting her mother-in-law in the ancestral village of Nri. Celeste broke with tradition for Nigerian wives of the time by working for the shipping company Elder Dempster and for the Lufthansa airline as ground staff. This job allowed her to travel back to Barbados to see her parents accompanied by one or more of her children.
Celeste was also a quiet activist, integrating the company pool in Ikoyi by sitting in it until everyone else got back in.
During the Biafran war from 1976, she helped with the war effort while her husband was often abroad. She ran with her children from Lagos to Enugu to Umuahia and finally Owerri as the war advanced. She was often alone, a stranger or Oyinbo, struggling to feed and keep her children safe, but she was also well-loved, as the outpouring of tributes from the Nri family demonstrates.
The last straw came when she learned that her beloved father had passed away 6 months prior, but the news did not reach her because of the war. She left Nigeria with her children and went first to Portugal and then to England, where she initially stayed with her sister, the late Gwendolyn Best. She also reunited with her brother Claude Franklin.
During her years in England, Celeste worked in accounts for many organizations ranging from the Barbados High Commission, Milos, to the oil company Texaco. She found her mission as Executive Director of the Wandsworth Black Elderly Centre, which she built into a formidable institution with the help of Eric Smellie, MBE, Earnest Browne, George Simmons, Mary Hargreaves, and others on the management committee. She was a skillful fundraiser once, prising an airplane ticket from a guest at a concert to raffle for her center. Members of the center were treated to delicious Caribbean meals, dominoes, choir, health, wellness information, and trips to the theatre, cruises, and holidays to Tunisia, Jersey, Cuba, and Barbados, to name only a few places. She was the recipient of numerous awards, but the most prized was an Order of the British Empire for her work and services to the community in 1977.
Celeste prided herself on her family and their accomplishments. She made sure that her children travelled to Barbados and knew all their cousins. In her later years, her daughter Mary was her devoted carer and companion. She will be missed for the joy she took in the family and her raucous jokes and laughter. She is survived by her children, Monique, Mary, Cyril, and Debbie and grandchildren: Chigozie, Chioma, and Tara; her nieces and nephews: Sandra and Joan; Cheryl; Brian, Christopher, and Michael and their families; Alison and Richard Franklin, her goddaughter Andrea, her beloved son in law, Ahmed and a host of family and friends.