‘Life will never be the same again without her’: Funeral held for Calgary case worker stabbed to death

Mourners packed a funeral home on Saturday to pay their respects to Deborah Onwu, a case worker who was killed on the job at a southwest Calgary assisted living facility in October.

The pictures in the slideshow showed a woman whose dream was to come to Canada.

Onwu grew up in Nigeria. Friends said when her mother died, she became the caregiver in her family of eight siblings.

“You could always tell her passion was caring for people,” said Williams Ayela-Uwangue, who has known Onwu for over 20 years after they both moved to Canada.

He described Onwu as his best friend and a person he could share secrets with. His brother married Onwu’s sister Nancy.

Ayela-Uwangue said the pair often shared stories about their challenging experiences as social workers.

“When all my car tires were slashed with a knife by one of my clients, I called Debbie and she told me to please be very careful. Strangely enough, I was never afraid for Debbie because if you know her, Debbie is a tough, strong and professional woman,” Ayela-Uwangue told mourners at the funeral.

Onwu was stabbed to death in October, allegedly at the hands of an 18-year-old she was caring for at an assisted living facility.

Mourners at her funeral included coworkers, neighbours and people who didn’t even know her but were deeply affected by her death. They spoke of abuse faced by case workers and implored that their work should not be taken for granted.

“We will not rest until changes are made. We will not rest until your death becomes meaningful to the people in Alberta,” said funeral attendee Charles Odame.

Ayela-Uwangue thanked the people of Calgary who have supported Onwu’s family.

“She was kind, loving and forgiving. She was loved by so many, and a few also took advantage of her. Debbie is gone. My bestie is gone and my life will never be the same again without her,” Ayela-Uwangue said.

Friends are holding a Justice for Debbie rally on Sunday in front of Calgary city hall to seek more protection for frontline workers.

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