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1938 Rene 2023

Rene Nkanga Bokembya

June 4, 1938 — February 16, 2023



René Nkanga Bokembya, PhD

Scholar, husband, father, Congolese elder patriarch, citizen of the world, humble servant of Christ

René passed away at Faith Presbyterian Hospice in the company of his devoted daughter on February 16, 2023. On June 4, 1938 he was born to Marie Nongo Inkono and Daniel Nkanga Bokembya in the small equatorial village of Iyala along the eastern bank of the Congo River in what was then the Belgian Congo (presently DRC). His mother tongue was a dialect of Lomongo. He was married for 53 years to Basele Bola Bokembya (Alphonsine), the mother of his last three children raised in the U.S., following his previous union that produced three children raised in Congo-Kinshasa (DRC). He is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter: Daniel Nkanga Bokembya of Kinshasa, DRC along with Christian, Fondo, and Biko (Tad) Bokembya of Dallas, TX; his younger brother's daughter and sons: Béatrice Ekofo of Houston, TX; Dr. Claude Nkanga Isofa of Lausanne, Switzerland; and Edmond, Joseph, and Pathy Isofa of Kinshasa, DRC; "grandbaby" Elisabeth Angel Apanda of Seattle, WA along with twenty grandchildren overseas; nieces Sylvie Masimango of Denton, TX and Cathy Bywaters of Olathe, KS; and an extensive family of in laws including his mother-in-law Marthe Bosawa of Kinshasa, DRC and siblings-in-law in Africa and Europe.  He is predeceased by his parents, his sons René and Guy Bokembya, and his younger brother Joseph Nkanga Isofa.

René briefly studied nursing sciences before racial barriers confronted in Europe compelled a transition to the study of social policy and theological ethics. He graduated from the Free University of the Congo (l'Université Libre du Congo) in Kisangani where he served as student body president and traveled extensively throughout Africa, Europe, and North America as a student activist in the mid-to-late '60s. Thereafter he embarked on an academic career spanning several years in teaching and administrative leadership in the Congo. Under the mentorship of his "American missionary father," the late Dr. Ben Hobgood, he subsequently moved to the United States to earn his master's and doctorate degrees from Vanderbilt University, focused on sociopolitical ethics and policy.  Thereafter, he enjoyed a quarter-century career as a scholar of philosophy centering on ethics, religion, and politics in faculty positions at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and two HBCUs, including a stint chairing the Humanities Division prior to retiring from Wiley College in 2007. After retiring he lived in greater Dallas full-time, and was faithfully active in his membership at Northway Christian Church as an ardent servant of the missives of the Disciples of Christ fellowship while aligning with Habitat for Humanity and other global and community support causes, continuing to read avidly, and enjoying local and extended family and friends.

René relished world travel, photography and soccer in his younger years. Throughout his life he perpetually took great pleasure in spirited discourse, humor, the company of others, a tropical summer day under a verdant canopy of foliage, Chinese buffets, soulful gospel hymnals, Bible study, and fond remembrance of his native village whose foods and ancestral lines forged his formation.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration Of Life for Rene Nkanga Bokembya

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Starts at 11:00am (Central time)


Click to watch

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