When I left my native Democratic Republic of the Congo in September 2015, I didn’t know it would be the last time I’d see my father in person. I didn’t know that it would be the last time I would get to hug him, to see the wide smile light up his face.

Héritier Nosso’s father, Andre Mansadila, died in December.

When I told him I was going to Maine on a professional networking trip, he surprised me by offering some money. Maybe on some level he knew that I’d need it.

While here, I learned that my work as a lawyer democracy advocate in the DRC had made me a target of the Congolese government. It was too dangerous for me to return home. So, I applied for political asylum.

The money my father had given me, was all that I had. Still, I went on to build a wonderful life here. At every step, I was motivated by the lessons and values my father had instilled in me.

We spoke often over the phone and computer. He always inquired about my work in Maine, encouraging my advocacy and telling me he was proud. My father always showed special love to me. He trusted me to manage his affairs and business ventures, sharing passwords and accounts. I knew all of his secrets, and he knew mine. We hoped that it would one day be safe of me to return home to visit him. Then, in December 2021, he passed away unexpectedly. Because of the ongoing threat to my life, I was not able to attend his funeral services.

This June marked the first Father’s Day since his passing. It deepened the profound sadness I’ve felt these past six months. It’s a loss that many New Mainers carry. We’re often separated from our parents by great distances and can’t be with them if they need us. But I know that many native Mainers share this loss too. The pandemic took far too many fathers from all of us. But it’s not only sadness that new and native Mainers share over these loses; it’s also legacy. The fathers we’ve lost are always with us. They live in our hearts, no matter distance.


My father’s name was Andre. He was a Christian pastor, who spent his days reading, writing and helping others. He officiated weddings and served as a marriage counselor. He would help people from our church pay their bills or even start a business with money from his own pocket. Whatever he could spare. He promoted peace within our community, visiting our neighbors to help them sort out their troubles. He taught my siblings and me that a good life is a life lived in service. We had to be respectful, polite. Greet everyone with a “bonjour.” Receive anything offered to us with a bowed head. Extend both hands, not one.

I’ve always taken those lessons to heart. When I learned I couldn’t practice law here unless I could afford to repeat my schooling, I decided to give back another way. As soon as I got my work permit, I became a certified nursing assistant. Later, as a health promotion coordinator at Healthy Androscoggin in Lewiston, I helped staff group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities, taking care of our residents and essential workers throughout the pandemic.

Now, as a consultant on cultural competence and immigration, and through my community organizing work, I educate Mainers about potential health hazards, from lead poisoning to colorectal cancer, and connect them with necessary services. My goal is to prevent any death caused by a simple lack of information.

I do all of this to honor my father. The name he gave me, Heritier, comes, literally, from the word heir. It is my duty, as it has always been, to carry on his legacy. Everything I am is because of him.

So, while it saddens me to know that my father will never see me get married or meet his future grandchildren, I find strength in knowing that I can pass his legacy of service on to them. To all Mainers who have lost a father these past few years, know that you carry them with you. Every day, you keep their spirit alive.

Héritier Nosso is a health promotion coordinator and community organizer in Lewiston.

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