Those who got to know Prince Jeremiah Ike never doubted his story about being a prince from Nigeria.
He would only talk about it if someone asked him and would never raise the issue himself. He said he could have been the king of his people, but that was not the life for him so he left for North America in the 1960s.
"You would never know that he was a prince unless he told you," said Dean Peter Wall, rector of Christ's Church Cathedral and a dean of the Niagara Anglican Diocese, who got to know Ike over the past decade.
"You could spend a lot of time with Jeremiah and not ever know he was a prince because he did not crow about it. I don't think he was anything but pleased to be a prince, but he knew it didn't mean very much over here."
Still, he had a princely nature about him. He was reserved, polite and not really known for initiating conversations with people in group settings. He reportedly liked it when people came to talk to him or when someone brought him a cup of tea or coffee.
He was a dapper dresser, known for wearing suits, dress shirts and brightly hued ties wherever he showed up, even while wandering around Jackson Square.
Bryan Schofield, who got to know Ike when he attended St. Paul's Anglican Church in Westdale, said his attire was "just outstanding."
"He had these wonderful clothes," said his wife Diane Schofield. "I never saw him not looking like a prince and he always acted like a prince. He was very proud."
Ike, a longtime member of the Monarchist League and a great supporter of the Liberal Party, died July 1 at St. Joseph's Hospital of cancer. He was 77.
The prince was a member of the Ike Royal Family of Ndikelionwu in Anambra State in southeast Nigeria. The community of Ndikelionwu is about 670 kilometres east of Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria. Nigeria was a British colony that gained independence in 1960, but tribal history was always respected in colonial times.
An obituary poster about his sister, Princess Bridget Ike-Akiwumi (she died in 1995 at age 48) lists his royal lineage. The poster was found in his downtown apartment by his close friend and neighbor Dianne Park, who is helping wrap up his affairs. It looks like something which would have been hung on walls throughout the community in Nigeria announcing her death. Ike never married.
Ike was the oldest of eight children born to Chief Magistrate George Nwokikeike Ike and his wife Chief Elfrida Ike. He is related to professor Vincent Chukwuemeka Ike, who took the throne as the 11th Ikelionwu of Ndikelionwu in October 2008.
According to the Ndikelionwu website, the kingdom was established in the early part of the 18th Century, but fell under British colonial rule in 1896.
According to his passports, Ike first arrived in the United States in 1961 to attend Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He came to Canada in 1963 and became a landed immigrant in 1969. He became a Canadian citizen, which friends said always made him proud. He trained to be an engineer and friends say it appears he came to Hamilton to attend McMaster University.
Deacon Wall and retired McMaster professor Jim Dale, who also got to know Ike through church, sensed he was old-fashioned.
"I think he was from a class and a family that doesn't exist like it used to," said Wall. "I think he would be out of step with his Nigerian compatriots. I think his childhood was in a different kind of Nigeria."
"He was sort of a leftover from colonial days," said Dale. "I don't think he saw much good in modern Nigeria."
Friends say he was always promoting one business scheme or another, from selling cosmetics, fashions, cleaning products, computer parts, importing Nigerian oil and exporting food to developing countries. He also got involved in local causes to help the poor and the disadvantaged, and was known for writing letters to politicians, church leaders and even the Queen.
Wall said every few months Ike would visit him and would "seriously want to talk about what being a Christian is all about. He had a lot of integrity. He took it all very seriously. He never lost his faith."
Park recalls him once telling how he had the opportunity to become king, but stepped aside for his brother. He told her had no regrets.
"I said to him, 'What are you doing here if you could be a king?'" Park recalled asking.
"He said, 'Oh, I don't want any of that. I'm happy here.'"