Obituary

Lorna Irungu: I blame no one for the life I have lived

We dined with President Clinton; I realized she was my partner for life

Fire Raiser: The late Lorna Irungu, famous as an actress and media personality. When city lawyer Donald Kipkorir learnt of her death, he wept like a small Kalenjin boy from whom a gourd of mursik had been snatched.

By Undercover Reporter

She was married to a man Forbes magazine named among Africa’s Most Influential in 2015. But few could pick Edwin Macharia in a crowd of three. See, this dude could call any president in the world and get an audience. He still does, and was often pissed off when people referred to him as ‘Lorna’s boyfriend.’ He would later pull off a stunt to prove he knew people.

Lorna Irungu, the former actress and media personality famous for shows, Omo-Pick-a-Box TV and Club Kiboko, succumbed to the vagaries of ‘Miss Rona’ at the Karen Hospital, Nairobi. Lorna, who moved from the limelight ages ago, was MD of Gina Din Group at the time of her death. She was 47.

Such are the ironies of life! Bubbly ‘Kui’ as close family called Lorna, her sunny disposition and all, had survived Lupus, a debilitating disease which makes mince meat of the immune system and three kidney transplants. Dealing with infected lungs, liver and high blood pressure readings flying off the charts was common fair. Years of dates with nephrologists and checking her heart rate had ran their course. She survived.

Yet, life for her was not a boulevard of broken dreams. She lived, loved and found love in Edwin Macharia

Money or the box: Kirumburu Ng’ang’a as Lorna Irungu’s co-host in popular television game show, Omo-Pick-a-Box. Lorna polished her love of acting at Moi Nairobi Girls and combined with media studies at Daystar University made her a natural for stage, television, film and radio.

Add too, a TB of the spine, a collapsed vertebrae, a coma. Then came bereavement. Her Old Guy, one of her kidney donors, succumbed to pneumonia in 2007. But Lorna was not one to hide that her dad’s illness was aggravated by ‘the small disease with a big name.’

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“I blame no one for the life I have had,” she said of the time. “All I can do is make lemonade from it.” She was a big name. ‘Friends of Lorna’ raised Sh20 million for her medical operations in 15 years, long before mobile money!

And lemonade, Lorna squeezed from the situation, until the pandemic, which has cut short the lives of ex- TV anchor Winnie Mukami and radioman Robin Njogu, proved a formidable adversary.

But then Lorna, also a famed actress could pull off an act anywhere. Even with the Clintons

Behind every successful woman: Edwin Macharia, Lorna’s hubby was often pissed off when people referred to him as ‘Lorna’s boyfriend’ yet he could call any President in the world. To prove he knew people, Macharia pulled a surprise when former American President Bill Clinton was touring Tanzania in 2015. They had met eight years earlier when Macharia was running for a parliamentary seat in the 2007 elections.

Yet, life for her was not a boulevard of broken dreams. She lived, loved and found love in Edwin Macharia, a partner at Dalberg Global Development Advisors in Nairobi. Deep into their dating in 2015, former American President Bill Clinton was touring Tanzania. Having worked for the Clinton Foundation, it was easy to get an invite for dinner with the Clintons-just to show those who called him ‘Lorna’s boyfriend’ that he knew people.

The Macharias were part of just 10 other invitees and “that’s when I realized she would be my lifelong partner. She is someone who can easily have dinner with a Clinton and easily sit with my grandmother to have tea.

I would never have been half of what I am today were it not for James Falkland

Power puff girls: Zahra Moi, wife of Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, Lorna Irungu and Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Boss Shollei during a girl child empowerment evening at the Lord Errol restaurant in Runda, Nairobi. Lorna had presence, that unexplainable aura, which she employed to good effect while hosting events.

But then Lorna, also a famed actress could pull off an act anywhere. Even with the Clintons.

Lorna made her bones at the now defunct Phoenix Players Theatre along Parliament Road, Nairobi. It was then at the height of its powers under the late director James Falkland-the man who enjoyed uninterrupted afternoon catnaps on the pale yellow bed and hated being called ‘Mr’ and ‘Sir.’

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Lorna had gone to Phoenix for the auditioning of German playwright Max Frisch’s, Fire Raisers in 1992. She would later sayI would never have been half of what I am today were it not for James Falkland.”

But it was during rehearsals for Uncle Vanya, a play by Russian playwright Anton Chekov, that Falkland, the chain-smoking lover of strong sugarless coffee would make Lorna weep on stage and for hours on end.

He made me cry and feel like quitting theatre many times

Life is a stage: Phoenix Players made stars of many thespians including Jimi Gathu above. Indeed, it was Gathu who pulled Lorna to KTN where they both presented Club Kiboko. But Phoenix also made Ian Mbugua, Charles Kiarie, Cyrus Gikori, Edward Kwatch, Tichi Nyasani, Angela Ndambuki, Teddy Muthusi, Misiko Andere and Steve Muturi. Their talents were forged on the anvil of theatre of which Lorna Irungu was part.

Lorna recalled how Falkland “once forced me to look at myself on the mirror with my script the whole day while rehearsing for Uncle Vanya, just to get the mind-set required to project the intensity of the character’s loneliness. He made me cry and feel like quitting theatre many times.”  But he was a wonderful teacher and special mentor. I got the first Performing Arts Scholarship Award in 1996 courtesy of Falkland.”

Lorna, whose love for acting was polished at Moi Nairobi Girls, went on to star in Ray Cooney’s Out of Order and William Shakespeare’s, Comedy of Errors. Gradually, the former media studies student at Daystar University jointed a long list of thespians who transitioned from the stage to television, film and radio.

Just last week, Donald Kipkorir had lunch with Lorna at her home, and now the mother of 12 year old Nancy Mumbi Macharia is being referred to in the past tense. Lorna Irungu-Macharia will be interred in a private family ceremony on Tuesday, March 23.

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