For Dr. Efiong Utuk, caring for others and making an impact were far more important than adhering to cultural norms. He was not only a scholar and community leader, becoming a minister while still in his early 20s, but he also attended to household chores, a rare activity for a man in his native Nigeria.
"We came from a very traditional, paternalistic culture, but Efiong was unique," says Affiong Utuk of her husband. "He believed both men and women should have the opportunity to live the lives they dream of."
The life the Utuks dreamed of was one of faith, family, and academics. The couple immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in 1980. Efiong attended Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for his master’s degree in religion and would go on to earn his Ph.D. at Princeton. Affiong, already a nurse, would advance her degree to become a nurse anesthetist.
Their family grew and they filled their home with four children, lots of activity, and plenty of laughter. Efiong made raising their children his primary occupation. While Affiong’s nursing career supported the family, Efiong managed the household and the family’s finances, while also making the time to write and publish three books.
Agent Euletta Gordon-Campbell met Efiong in 2002. With his children now grown, he had taken a job as the reference librarian in town. Euletta was just starting her career with New York Life and hosted informational sessions for the community at the library. The two struck up a friendship.
"I had a hard time convincing him that even if he was not the primary breadwinner, he was still valuable to his family from a financial perspective," said Euletta. After asking a lot of questions and studying the benefits, Efiong purchased a life insurance policy. Although her husband had shared financial decisions with her, Affiong never paid close attention, believing that he would always be there to handle things.
Sadly, one day in 2006, Efiong Utuk suffered a brain hemorrhage and passed away. In addition to dealing with the emotional turmoil of the loss, Affiong suddenly found herself needing to take on her husband’s responsibilities.
"I felt that I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t even sure how much money we had in the bank," said Affiong.
Euletta stepped in immediately to lend a hand. She assured the family and the funeral home that Efiong’s policy would pay for his arrangements. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
"For weeks on end, Euletta came to my home and helped me go through the paperwork. I relied on her a lot. I felt I didn’t know anything, but little by little I learned," said Affiong.
The benefits from Efiong’s policy helped Affiong maintain her home and purchase her own insurance. All four children finished college. Moreover, she did not have to dip into her savings or retirement fund to pay for additional expenses that emerged. When Affiong found the folder containing her husband’s policy, she saw that he had labeled it "My Life." "His family was the most important thing in his life. And he made sure he could leave us something," said Affiong.
Euletta and Affiong still meet regularly to discuss financial matters, but their meetings these days are more about catching up than paperwork. "She’s part of our family now," said Affiong.
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|A Policy Folder Labeled "MY LIFE"|