Published: 00:01, 09 February 2018
A talented nurse killed in a three-car crash has been described as a pillar of strength who dedicated herself to helping others.
Mother-of-two Mildred Matete Hlabi, 43, was a passenger in a car travelling to a wake when it collided with a van in East Peckham near Maidstone.
The Beaver Road, Ashford, resident – who had worked at the William Harvey Hospital and at numerous care homes in the town – was pronounced dead at the scene on December 13.
Her family has now paid a glowing tribute to the Zimbabwean, who was a respected deaconess at the town's Fountain Church near Leacon Road.
Her husband Moses said: “I first met Mildred in 1986 and we have been together ever since.
“I really miss her and she was very compassionate and a kind lady.
“She leaves a big void because she was a pillar of strength – Mildred was not only well known through the church, but also through her nursing as she cared for so many people.”
Mrs Matete Hlabi worked as a nurse at the Park View Care Centre in Kingsnorth after moving from Zimbabwe to Godinton Road in 2004.
She later lived in Church Road in Willesborough and joined the Ashford Nursing Home in Hythe Road before switching to the Harvey.
Last year, she got a job at the private KIMS Hospital in Maidstone while living in Beaver Road.
Mr Hlabi, who is studying mental health nursing at university after being inspired by his wife, says she had a natural affinity for nursing after caring for her blind mother as a child.
“She was an only child and she did really well looking after her mother,” he said.
“Mildred loved moving around because she wanted to get a lot of experience in different jobs – she was very talented and intelligent.
“When we met, the love she showed my family was just tremendous and she really wanted to be part of it.”
A born-again Christian, Mrs Matete Hlabi, from Harare, was a leading figure at the Fountain Church.
Around 700 people attended her funeral there last month.
Mr Hlabi, a former machinist, said: “She is really missed at the church and she was a great influence to all of the children there.
“As she knew all about health, she educated them and used to teach them about how to keep healthy.
“It did blow me away how many people went to the funeral.”
Mrs Matete Hlabi, who qualified as a midwife in Africa, earned a degree at Canterbury Christ Church University after moving to Britain.
Her 18-year-old son, Leroy, plays for Gillingham’s youth team as a striker while her daughter, Lenuecha, 25, is studying at university.
“She was very proud of her children,” Mr Hlabi said.
“Mildred was a hard-working person, very bubbly, intelligent and always very willing to learn.
“She will be sorely missed by the whole community.”
Mr Hlabi thanked Gillingham Football Club for paying for flights and helping with a visa application so Mrs Matete Hlabi’s mother could attend her funeral.
He also thanked the Fountain Church, KIMS Hospital, Ladies of UK (LUK), Mrs Matete Hlabi’s friends she trained with in Africa and her aunties for their support.
Mrs Matete Hlabi was one of three women travelling in a black Toyota Cruiser on their way to a wake in Tunbridge Wells at the time of the accident.
The Toyota was pulling out of Martins Lane in East Peckham, at the junction with Seven Mile Lane, at about 8.20pm on December 13 when it collided with a Renault Trafic van.
The car was then hit a second time by a Nissan Micra, pushing it on to its roof.
An air ambulance and a hazardous area response team rushed to the scene.
But Mrs Matete Hlabi, who was in the front passenger seat of the car, was pronounced dead at the scene at 8.50pm.
The two other women in the Toyota, who were her friends from the church, were taken to hospital with serious injuries, as was the driver of the Nissan.
A post mortem gave the cause of her death as multiple injuries.