Nova Scotia

Hundreds pay their respects to St. FX professor

A memorial service is held for Ottilia Chareka, the St. Francis Xavier University professor who was killed on Wednesday.

A memorial service was held Sunday for Ottilia Chareka, the 42-year-old St. Francis Xavier University professor who was killed on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people were at the university's chapel in Antigonish to pay their respects to the highly respected professor.

"She was just sunshine, and she had an ability to touch people and hearts very quickly," said David Kearns, whose wife Laura-Lee taught with Chareka in the education department at St. FX.

"I was just amazed that this woman from Africa could be so at home here, so embraced by the community ... of Antigonish. She was just lovely."

Originally from Zimbabwe, Chareka came to Canada to teach.

When she arrived, she learned her teaching degree was not recognized. She retrained at the University of New Brunswick, working as a hotel maid in Fredericton to pay for her tuition.

In a documentary about her life called Familiar Stranger, she said it was a big change for her — in Zimbabwe she had owned a house and employed a maid.

She got her master's degree in 1994, returned to Zimbabwe in 2001, then went back to the University of New Brunswick to get her PhD in 2005.

All five of Chareka's daughters, ranging in age from three to 23 years old, were at Sunday's memorial service.

Chareka's husband, Patrick Chareka, has been charged with first-degree murder.