REMEMBERING AMBASSADOR THÉRÈSE STRIGGNER-SCOTT
Elizabeth Abena Asabea Turkson
I was highly blessed to have known Ambassador Thérèse Striggner-Scott (‘Auntie Thérèse’) since childhood. My first recollection of her however, was in the early 1980s when I accompanied my late parents, Ambassador Yaw Bamful Turkson and Attorney Albertine Turkson, to her daughter Geta’s university graduation reception at her flat in London.
My parents first met Auntie Thérèse in Washington DC soon after they were married in the autumn of 1964. She was accompanying her first husband, Ambassador Kodjoe Dadzie, Ghana’s Ambassador to Romania, who served on the United Nations 6th Committee (its legal body), to the annual General Assembly of the United Nations. My father, then deputy Ambassador to the United States, and Ambassador Kodjoe Dadzie had been career diplomat colleagues and close friends at Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the late 1950s. So now, both friends’ wives were meeting for the first time, and quickly found common interests. Auntie Thérèse and my mother were both lawyers with a keen interest in politics, art, and culture.
Auntie Thérèse enjoyed a prolonged stay in Washington DC whilst, for the first time in its history, the UN General Assembly went into recess for Christmas to reconvene in January 1965. She was hosted by a relative, Ambassador Miguel Ribeiro, Ghana’s Ambassador to the United States, whilst her husband returned to his ambassadorial duties in Romania during part of the recess. This prolonged UN recess afforded the friends additional time to cement their friendship.
When my father’s duties required him to return to Ghana from 1970 – 1972, after his Ambassadorial postings to Brazil, with concurrent accreditation to Argentina, my parents were delighted to be living in proximity to Auntie Thérèse. Her second husband, Australian architect Winkie Scott, was commissioned to design a house for them and was given charge of its construction as my parents left for Ethiopia, from where they remained in touch.
It was when Auntie Thérèse was appointed as Ghana’s Ambassador to France, the Holy See and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), some 7 years after my father held those posts, that their paths crossed with more frequency.
My father, who had recently retired from the Ghana Foreign Service, had accepted the position of Special Advisor on Universality to the newly elected Director General of UNESCO, Federico Mayor. We lived at number 13/15 Boulevard Suchet, Paris XVI, a stone’s throw from the Ghana Embassy Residence which was located at number 6 Boulevard Suchet. This meant we became Auntie Thérèse’s neighbours and could visit each other regularly.
I recall my father saying that he always had constructive discussions with Auntie Thérèse on issues, in particular matters of relevance and importance to UNESCO’s programmes for Africa in general, and particularly Ghana such as “Priorité Afrique”, UNESCO’s programme for Africa, which in around 1994, many thought had lost its way for lack of resources. In her characteristic modesty, Auntie Thérèse would later state in her tribute to my late father: ‘…If later I was to be elected the first African woman to serve on UNESCO’s prestigious Executive Board, I would like to think that in all probability, it was thanks to the briefings received from Yaw in my early days at the organization.’
I remember visiting the Ghana Embassy residence at No. 6 Boulevard Suchet several times during her tenure as Ambassador, as I pursued my legal studies in France. She had completely redecorated the downstairs, second floor residence flat in her trademark exquisite taste. I also recall she invited me to accompany her to Giverny in France, to visit the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s residence, which inspired his famous Japanese bridge and water lily garden paintings. Up until then, I had only viewed his works at the Musée Marmottan Monet, the world’s leading collection of works by Monet, which was just around the corner from Boulevard Suchet where we both lived.
It was with sadness that her tour in France came to an end, and she went on to become Ghana’s Ambassador to Italy. However, we all kept in touch.
Years later, when I visited Ghana more frequently, I would see Auntie Thérèse at Ridge Church, which I first attended when I lived in Accra as a child.
In May 2019, I stayed with Auntie Thérèse for several weeks in her beautiful Accra apartment. I will never forget her generous hospitality, and I always touched base with her during my subsequent visits to Ghana. Just in June 2021, I was in touch with her regarding some old photos dating back to the 1960s, asking her if she recognised any of the people in them, as she would have known the early politicians and diplomats. She was very helpful as ever.
Auntie Thérèse was a special person. She was extremely kind-hearted. I always think of her as modest, effortlessly elegant, universally cultured, and her taste in art and decoration was exquisitely tasteful. She was one of my parents’ few true friends and I am deeply saddened by her loss.
I extend my deepest condolences to Geta and the family.
Auntie Thérèse, sleep peacefully. You shall ever remain in my thoughts, selon Khalil Gibran, ‘Avec une larme et un sourire’…’With a tear and a smile’.