“Musawo, musawo, please come and see mzee, he is not well. After waiting in vain for hours for a doctor’s attention, nurse and employee Amos Kadahaya watched as his boss gasped as his eyes slowly closed. The nurses came, but it was too late. Francis Xavier Tebasoboke, the managing director of Dove Tours and Travel was gone.
Portraits of Jesus, the Catholic saints, adorn the off-white walls of the living room, and in one corner, a table covered with a flowery tablecloth where a portrait of a smiling man in a kanzu leans against the wall. Three slow-burning candles stand at the foot of the framed portrait and a bouquet of flowers sits enthroned on the same table.
Dressed in kitenge paired with a brown cloak, Immaculate Namakula sits next to the portrait of her soul mate whom they married on May 31, 1970 at Rubaga Cathedral. Namakula is still inconsolable as she wonders how she will cope with the loss of a companion over 50 years old and if she will preserve her husband’s legacy.
Namakula still has a vivid memory of the first time she laid eyes on the man who would spend the rest of his life with her.
“Francis (as she prefers to refer to her late husband) and I first met at the Ugandan Catholic Social Training Center where I worked as a teacher in January 1970. He entered the institute with the Reverend Father James Kabuye, asking if we had any empty dormitories where we would spend the night,” she smiled.
She says that a week later Father Kabuye came back to ask what Namakula thought of Francois.
Namakula then realized that the tour of the various dormitories was a set up by the cleric.
As the priest wished, Tebasoboke who was then a booking agent at East African Airways and Namakula fell in love and in May 1970 Reverend Father Constanta Semakula married them.
The couple started life in a two-room rental just below Rubaga Hospital where Namakula’s workplace was within walking distance. As the family grew, they built themselves a house in Kabusu.
Birth of circuits and trips
In the 1970s, Tebasoboke was recruited as general manager by Air France. It was here that he launched Dove Tours and Travel in 1986.
“Francis told me he wanted to start a travel agency, but his name should be Godly. One night he came home and asked us to come together for a meeting,” she recalled.
Noting that during the meeting, Tebasoboke asked each of them to come up with a name that would be used for a travel agency. Namakula said everyone had a piece of paper and names such as, enjuba and dove were outstanding.
“By analyzing all the names and what they symbolized, the dove which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit won. And initially, its main interest was to take pilgrims to the holy land,” she says.
By faith, he rented a room at Greenland Towers on Kampala Road, where he placed a table and two chairs from his home. Like any other businessman, Tebasoboke had researched the various holy places such as apparition sites he visited before taking pilgrims.
Without any media publicity, Tebasoboke used word of mouth to market Dove Tours. These are the different people who also wanted to market it. As a member of the Catholic Church, he also distributed pamphlets to different parishes.
“He was one of the first members of the Catholic Church to take people on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and that was his greatest contribution to the Church,” reveals Bishop Dr Lawrence Ssemusu, confidant and business partner of Tebasoboke .
The two first met at Rubaga Cathedral in the 1980s. At that time, Ssemusu was a deacon and Tebasoboke was vice president of the cathedral choir from 1982 to 1992. He also served as the catechist of the parish of Rubaga.
Bishop Ssemusu says the latter may not have been a church leader, but indirectly preached the word of God by bringing the Bible back to reality.
“If you’ve ever traveled with him, pilgrims to the Holy Land would set out from Egypt and follow the Book of Genesis to Golgotha (place of Christ’s crucifixion).
Many times he forgot it was business and let pilgrims travel half-paid in the belief that they would complete payment on the way back. Some paid off but many failed, but that never changed his attitude towards humanity. Throughout the year, he organizes numerous tours. There was not a day when he renounced his responsibilities, especially towards the pilgrims.
“You wouldn’t know or hear him complaining of illness. Like Moses leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, Tebasoboke also led many people to the Holy Land. It has always been a vibrant force destined to mark Christianity.
In 2014, while on tour in Israel, his feet were too weak and sore to support him.
“We first learned of his illness when we went to meet him at the airport in 2014. As the leader of the pilgrims, he was always the first on the plane. But this time he came last and in a wheelchair, but he kept smiling as he welcomed each of the pilgrims,” Namakula says.
It took them hours to get home that day, because every time the driver hit a bump, Tebasoboke moaned.
When they got home, the couple thought the pain would eventually stop. But, they were wrong. His health began to deteriorate.
“After a week of medical consultation, we were advised to take him to India before his condition worsens,” she says.
Arrangements were made and together with his wife and one of his children they traveled to India.
Learning that her soul mate had multiple myeloma (cancer that forms in the bone marrow), she was terrified. An operation was done and for the past eight years they have been back and forth to the hospital. But, he kept working until 2019 when he felt weaker.
Everything seemed to be falling apart for Namakula, and she couldn’t do much for her wife who, by this point, had become weaker and had to be taken to the hospital for chemotherapy every week.
“Amos Kadahaya, a nurse, was hired to care for the patient. For every 12 hours of work, we had to pay Shs 100,000 to the company where he was hired. It was a lot of money, but did we have an option? Namakula remembers. But, she points out that Kadahaya was sent from heaven.
For many, he is one of the oldest names in the aviation industry which laid the foundations of many travel agencies and formed many.
David Kivumbi worked with Tebasoboke.
“I joined Dove Tours and Travel in 1996 as an intern and for 16 years I was nurtured into who I am today.”
Kivumbi shares that once you were employed by Dove Tours, you automatically became family. There, it would be difficult to say who was the boss.
“Tebasoboke interacted freely with everyone and was always ready to listen to anyone who approached him. social capital,” recalls Kivumbi.
This travel industry enthusiast strived to bring out the best in each of his employees by talking to them about family, social life, work and treated everyone with respect. He has always believed that the success of a business is based on good personalized customer service and trust in its staff.
Tebasoboke was a father figure to many.
“Although I was new to his family, mzee threw a party to congratulate me on completing the nursing course, but I hadn’t known him for a long time,” says Kadahaya.
For his immediate family, he consulted them on many key points.
“My father never made decisions without consulting his family members. He never said much to me but asked me to always read Proverbs 3:1-8; My child, do not forget what I teach you. Always remember what I tell you to do. My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life. Never give up loyalty and fidelity. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do that, God and people will be pleased with you,” Lourdel Tebasoboke said of his father.
Bishop Paul Ssemogerere: “Tebasoboke used his company to preach the word of God, for all who traveled with him. He was resilient, even in pain, he never complained.
Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa says Tebasoboke had time for everyone.
Bishop Dr Lawrence Ssemusu, says, “Tebasoboke loved humanity and gave money to the poor and needy. He was trustworthy, especially with his job.
David Kivumbi, says “Francis was selfless, humble and hardworking.”
Lourdel Tebasoboke says his father encouraged teamwork and respect for everyone.
Amos Kadahaya: He was compassionate and God-fearing. Many disappointed him, but he forgave them.
Our father never made decisions alone, he always called on all family members. He never said much to me but asked me to always read Proverbs 3:1-8, “My child, do not forget what I teach you. Always remember what I tell you to do. My teaching will give you a long and prosperous life. Never give up loyalty and fidelity. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do that, God and people will be pleased with you,” Lourdel Tebasoboke remembers as he fired his father.