Plus - Appreciations

Loyal and hospitable Old Thomian, hotelier, Party stalwart, and friend

Bodhi Ranasinghe

Bodhi Ranasinghe stood by his principles and what he thought was correct. The sudden demise of my good friend Bodhi on February 24, at a comparatively young age, has left me and many others in a state of shock and disbelief.

I had known Bodhi for more than 25 years, starting with our association at the Mercantile Credit Group, where he served as a director until his demise. Bodhi was a man of many facets. He was a proud Thomian, having had his education at S. Thomas’ Preparatory School in Kollupitiya, and later at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. Bodhi was Vice-President of the Thomian Society, and was actively involved in events for his old school.

The night before his demise, Bodhi celebrated a 50-years get-together with his Thomian batch-mates. Little did his friends realise they would be hearing of Bodhi’s demise only a few hours later. Bodhi was a hotel school graduate and an experienced hotelier. He started his professional career at the Koggala Beach Resort, and later moved to Mercantile Hotels, where he was managing director. He also served as chairman of Ceylon Hotels Corporation.

Bodhi entered politics through his father-in-law, former Lake House chairman Sunil Rodrigo. He was the UNP organiser for Colombo East, a post he later quit. He was close to the Premadasa family, and was one time confidante of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UNP leader. Bodhi’s advice was sought by not only his party members but by the government side as well. He was considered a trusted moderate and a skilled political negotiator.

His house was the venue for important UNP meetings, and many enjoyed his hospitality. Bodhi set up the Bodhi Ranasinghe Foundation, which supported education, sports and religious activities for the under-privileged. He was a devout Buddhist, and was involved in many temple activities around the country.

Bodhi was supported in all his activities by his lawyer wife Chaturie and his doctor sons Werunja and Lamra. He was deeply proud of the boys and their achievements. Bodhi will be missed by all. He was lovely company, with his good humour and that charming smile.

Our sympathies go to his loved ones in their time of grief.

May Bodhi attain Nibbana.

Johanne de Zilwa

Lokumaama of Habaraduwa was a giant father figure to the family

J. D. A. Gunasekara

Albert Einstein said: “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” Lokumaama passed away peacefully at his home on November 22, 2010. During our growing up years, he was not only my mother’s older brother, but also a giant father figure, looming large above us, even when he was not physically around with us. We looked up to him with respect and fondness.

My mother would tell us when we were children, and even now, how she felt about him. She said that Lokumaama was more like a father to her than an older brother. I heard stories about how, as a young man and the eldest child, he took care of the family.

My mother instilled in us the importance of giving back. She insisted we show gratitude and respect to Lokumaama. No wonder she misses him so dearly. He was a source of inspiration to his own children and the whole of my maternal family.

Lokumaama visited his birthplace, Habaraduwa, to attend the “samuluwa” (annual gathering) of the Gunasekara family barely two months before his death. He had a profound sense of belonging to the family, and to his place of birth. Although he lived most of his adult life in Colombo, part of his soul was always in Habaraduwa, where he grew up and studied.

Lokumaama never hesitated to help a fellow human being. And he did so without fuss or fanfare. The last time I visited Lokumaama was two weeks before his demise. He embraced life for all that it is. I could feel his sense of achievement in his life’s work.

My beloved Lokumaama is survived by his loving wife, son and two daughters. They will no doubt carry on his legacy. His demise is not an end. He will continue to live on in his children, and in all who are dear to him.

May Lokumaama attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.

Dileepa Nanayakkara Wasam

He touched and enriched our lives

Ven. Joseph Sarvananthan

The first emotion at his death was a profound sense of personal loss. Fr. Sarva, as he was called by all who knew him, ministered to our parish - Christ church, Galle Face- for five years, but his time with us cannot be measured merely by years but more in terms of memories, of the joys and sorrows in the life of the parish and in the way in which he touched and enriched individual lives.

When reminiscing, we recall his vibrant and thought- provoking sermons, beautiful, meaningful prayers, sparkling wit and intelligence. But what of the man himself?

Few knew the very private person that he was. Fr Sarva had strong opinions formed through astute powers of observation that saw beyond carefully contrived façades. Yet, he did not let prejudice influence his interaction with people, and would speak to one and all with his customary smile and joviality.

He was a larger than life personality and made his quiet presence felt wherever he went. A pertinent remark would bring a long and involved discussion back on track, or a terse observation, present new insights to the dialogue. He had the admirable facility of anticipating dissension and dispelling conflict with a few well chosen words.

He lived his faith in the Almighty, giving generously of himself to the work of the church, even during times of personal adversity. He was also a visionary, and was at the forefront of supporting such controversial issues as the ordination of women to the Anglican church.

We shared a heightened sense for the ridiculous, and enjoyed many a joke on the foibles of people. He was my mentor, confidant, advisor and friend. I laughed with him, cried with him, argued and even fought with him, one stubborn personality refusing to yield to the other. There were times, as vicar’s warden, when I challenged some aspect of his administration, but then the clouds would soon blow over and all would be well once more.

Fr Sarva enjoyed rhetoric and would embellish a story to make it interesting and memorable to his audience, often leaving us in fits of laughter or in meditative silence. He had a repertoire of anecdotes and quotations for every occasion. His was a voice that needed no microphone. It would resound in praise and prayer to every corner of the church and even outside, giving life and reverence to our worship.

He revered education and the pursuit of knowledge, and enjoyed being questioned or challenged on aspects of theology or the scriptures, or even on his sermons. This respect for education he took into the Colombo diocese and functioned as Director of the Cathedral Institute, initiating courses on a variety of theological aspects that have proved invaluable to both clergy and laity.

Iris was the ideal helpmate, always concerned that he would overtire himself in his zeal to be many things to many people.

Despite his battle with ill health in his final weeks in our parish, he was quietly determined to carry through his ministry to the end. I believe he felt a sense of disappointment at having been unable to complete his final week with us. Our hearts go out to Iris and their sons in this time of sorrow.
May the turf rest gently on you, Fr Sarva, and the Almighty grant you all the glories of His kingdom.


Politician, horticulturist and dedicated family man – Thaaththi, you were wonderful

Dhanapala Weerasekera

My earliest recollection of my father is of him driving from his Dehiowita Electorate on the High Level Road and crashing into a cow, sending the animal flying over the car, and his describing the incident to me as “Hey Diddle Diddle, the Cat and the Fiddle, the Cow Flew Over the Car.” I was about five or six years old.

Also, I remember being his dance partner at parties and doing the “Kakula” dance for Baila, because Amma never really danced. When I was mischievous, Amma would yell “THAATHTHI!”, and all he had to say was “RUKMALEE!” and everything would be under control. Thaaththi was always there for me when I was in trouble, sad or angry.

He was always ready with sound advice, even if I didn’t want it. He was a totally dedicated family man – a wonderful husband, a great father to me and my two older sisters, and a loving grandfather to my two sons, and his other grand- and great-grandchildren. What was truly great about this wonderful person – dedicated family man, horticulturist and politician – was that he started life from scratch.

With almost nothing, he built up his life. He never idled. His knowledge was vast. He was a highly respected person in many fields, including horticulture. There is an orchid named after him by the Horticultural Society in Britain: Dendrobrium Dhanapala Weerasekera.

Possibly the greatest tribute I can pay him is to say he belonged to the extremely rare breed of “honest” politicians. He was not into politics to make money but to serve the people who elected him. Dhanapala Weerasekera was a true servant of the people.

Thaaththi loved to entertain. Our home was an open house to all. Only a select few knew he was a great cook. Whenever there was a party, he would cook at least one meat dish.

This, more often than not, was the pork curry. His pork curry was considered a culinary masterpiece by all who tasted it. As a cook, he had one weakness: he could never complete a dish without cutting a finger.

I am proud to say that I am Dhanapala and Joyce Weerasekera’s youngest daughter. I am strong-willed and a fighter, like him. I type really long letters and e-mails, like him. I endorse Uncle Sugi who said my father loved to be a family man. Amma and he complemented each other perfectly. Thaaththi, I may have lost many things in life, but you will forever remain in my heart, and the hearts of Rumesh and Dileepa. Rumesh: “Seeya, in my eyes you were my role model and a very valuable walking encyclopedia. You inspired me to become someone with a wealth of knowledge, just like you.”

Dileepa: “Seeya, I remember you calling me Jabber-Jaw, because I wouldn’t stop jabbering as a kid. Also, you will always be a part of my life because we share the same birthday (26 May).”
Dhanapala Philip Ranil Weerasekera, may you attain the Bliss of Nirvana.

Rukmalee Kushanthi Weerasekera

You bore yourself with dignity, integrity and fairness

Gaston Perera

You passed to the beyond
Suddenly and surprisingly,
Leaving family and friends to ponder –
Loved ones inconsolable and friends grieving.
Someone wrote that he spotted you
At a RAS book release just days before your demise.
You loved books and writing which could be bettered only by a few;
Another wrote about your regrets over not knowing Portuguese.

But was that all?
You spent nearly three decades in taxing for the government,
You and I with some others heeded the PSC’s call
To join the Income Tax Department;
From the classics to taxation is a journey of paradox,
Such was the job market for graduates in 1956;
For me it was less perilous: from mathematics to tax –
But Gaston mastered them all:
accounts, law and computation – a strange mix.

What of the man?
Gaston bore himself with dignity, integrity and fairness,
Qualities that present-day assessors could emulate when tax returns they review or scan;
He later trained young assessors for examinations designed to test their awareness;
In retirement, he was too gifted to idle.
The Commonwealth Secretariat hired him to train tax officials in Antigua;
On coming back, he was empanelled on the Board that seeks to review taxpayers in anguish.
I once told him the Tax Amnesty made the Board non-existent, but he sombrely replied that he was appointed by the Minister,
and I, in friendly taunt, asked whether he had fallen from the sky!
Gaston possessed an amiable disposition,
The right wit could make him laugh;
His grandchildren gave him abundant joy;
As St. Paul would say, we rejoiced with Gaston in life,
and grieve with his loved ones in their sorrow.

Tilaka Samaratunga

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