He listened to positive ideas and made them a reality
Gamini Dissanayake
The late Gamini Dissanayake was a man with great courage, determination and a vision for the country. The determination with which he handled Sri Lanka's entry to the ICC is an example. The writer still recalls the determination in his eyes prior to embarking to the ICC meeting at Lords when one of the matters on the agenda was to discuss Sri Lanka's case for full Test status.

At that time one of the many drawbacks in achieving Test status was the lack of facilities and Gamini Dissanayake's reply was, "give us Test status and we will provide the infrastructure".

I still recall his personal staff being together on the day Sri Lanka's case for full Test status was being entertained at the ICC. True to his words that he would let me know, he rang my residence around 2 a.m. with the good news that we had been admitted as a full Test playing country. Once Test status was achieved, now came the task of providing facilities. The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka did not have its own premises and functioned in a small room with a manual typewriter. Thus Gamini's task was immediately getting the Board Headquarters constructed. This he did in his own inimitable style.

Having spoken to the then President J.R. Jayewardene who himself was an ardent cricket fan and a past President of the Cricket Board, he obtained a piece of land near the Sinhalese Sports Club itself and put up a magnificent building which stands as a great monument surpassing even the Board Headquarters of some other cricket playing nations. Having started the construction of this building, I recall him obtaining the services of Rodney Webster and Sir Garfield Sobers. In fact it was during one of the Sara Trophy matches when seated with the Minister that Sir Garfield quite positively pointed out to Arjuna Ranatunga saying, "He is Sri Lanka's cricketing future". Taking the advice of Sir Garfield, Arjuna was drawn into the squad to play in the inaugural Test match against England and didn't he perform well by scoring a half century. Sri Lanka going places in cricket under the captaincy of Arjuna is now history.

Gamini Dissanayake was a man ever willing to take and listen to positive ideas and conceptualize them. The Asgiriya playground was one of them. Many might not remember the Dambulla Grounds which was part of the development programme. The needs of the cricketers too were immediately provided. An indoor cricket stadium was constructed at the Sinhalese Sports Club. It is unfortunate that he was not with us when Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996. It would have been indeed a proud and an unforgettable moment for him.

Gamini Dissanayake was dedicated and committed to any task given to him. He was no racist. His only ambition was to solve the ethnic problem. This writer limits the appreciation only to certain aspects of cricket and no other task in which he was immensely successful. Speaking to him was an education in itself and his humanity cannot be measured.

One could recall that in the late minister's association with people be they Kings, Heads of State, farmers or anyone else, he treated them all the same. His most enjoyable time was what he spent with the farmer, be it under the Mahaveli programme or any other.

Sir, this is the time not only your family and party leadership but also the country as a whole misses and needs you most.

-Suren Peiris

A little known fragrance that did so much
Blossom Tambayah
It is with a deep sense of loss that we pay this tribute to Blossom who passed away just a month ago. It is also fitting, we believe, that this in memoriam is a celebration of an unflawed, enduring friendship of well nigh 70 years, shared by the three of us. Born of virtuous parents, she lived a life attuned to Christian values and ideals, a disciplined life "far from the madding crowd."

Graduating from University, she did a stint of teaching. Then came marriage and motherhood in the most fulfilling segment of her life. As the wife of a senior civil servant she performed all the social obligations required of her but never did she fit into the elitist class. Elitism was not in her vocabulary. She was a 'private person', simple, but dignified. Remaining in the background, she cared for and supported her husband throughout his official career, whilst at the same time nurturing and bringing her unerring sense of judgement to bear on the upbringing of her two sons, and in the shaping of their lives.

Apart from all this she spared time and thought for her intimate friends. Sober and restrained as she was, she also loved to unwind and share with us our youthful reminiscences.

These indeed were joyous occasions. We were invariably edified by Blossom's frankness and guilelessness and her deep abiding faith in God. We must not however fail to mention that frequent bouts of illness and hospitalization disturbed the even tenor of her life. Although worthy of emulation, Blossom's sterling qualities were unknown to many outside her family. In this context Gray's elegy comes to mind -

"Full many a flower is born to blush unseen and waste its fragrance.." In tribute to Blossom and in tribute to friendship we will continue to imbibe her fragrance.

Renee and Nannette

A down to earth person who loved the simple things in life
Rodney St. John
My association with Uncle Rod goes back 40 years when he made his first appearance in the family circle. One of my earliest memories of him is the day he and Aunty Stella paid us a visit and I was down with flu and confined to bed. He came into my room humming Tony Brent's hit of yesteryear, 'In My Little Room' uplifting my flagging spirits. Since then our relationship grew closer and many a silvery moonlit night have I spent in his company in a National Park of Sri Lanka enjoying a sundowner whilst absorbing the sights and sounds of a jungle night; many a heart-stopping and nerve-wracking adventure have I shared with him such as on our 1½ hour walk to civilisation when our Land Rover broke down in the elephant infested jungles of Wasgomuwa National Park.

He was a person who had time for everyone whatever their station in life and was able to put one at ease immediately with a few genuine inquiries of one’s self and a joke or two accompanied by wholehearted laughter. He was broadminded enough to accept and view in a favourable light behaviour, briefs and ideals of people which might have drawn scathing criticism from another person. Uncle Rod was a man who was down to earth and loved the simple things in life. He had great reserves of inner strength and handled difficult situations with tact and practically.

My memory takes me back to the time that I had not done particularly well at an exam and he allayed my fears and made me aware that life was a greater test than a mere exam and that one was always given a second chance. It was he who was instrumental in setting me up in my first job at Ceylon Cold Stores which company he served with distinction in the capacity of Personnel Manager. I also remember the laid back weekends spent at my maternal grandmother's and uncle's home at Athurugiriya. The weekend wasn't complete without a cricket match. It was a game I enjoyed immensely. I would wait impatiently till Daddy and the uncles who were enjoying their Sunday afternoon siesta would wake up to bowl to me so that I could exhibit my batting prowess. It was Uncle Rod who would be the first person to be put up. He obliged readily, rounding off a perfect weekend for me. He tried hard, though in vain to make me take up swimming, another of his passions, by enrolling me as a member of the SSC.

Whenever the opportunity afforded itself he would try to teach me the rudiments of swimming which I, a born land lubber, found difficult to perfect! Wildlife and jungle lore fascinated him no end, as did the history of his motherland Sri Lanka. He and my mother could often be observed minutely surveying the grave of some long departed imperialist, even tracking him down to his ancestors and place of birth with the aid of that masterpiece, J.P. Lewis' Tombstones and Monuments of Ceylon'.

October 19 marked one year since Uncle Rod heeded his Master's call and crossed the Great Divide into a land where the forests are greener, the waters clearer and the birds sing sweeter.

Viraj Senewiratne

He always saw ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’
Anton H. Puvimanasinghe
A gentleman of faith and peace is how best I would remember Group Captain Puvimanasinghe who was called to rest on All Souls Day, when Christians throughout the world unite in prayer, in commemoration of all departed souls. Uncle Anton, as I more fondly refer to him, as he was my father-in-law, was a person of unquestioning faith. This gave him undying hope, a vision of the scheme of things and a meaning that goes beyond. To use his own words, Uncle could see "a light at the end of the tunnel", particularly in difficult times.

He accorded high priority to education and never ceased his academic and professional exercises. His deep concern for fellow human beings surfaced most of all when they were sick or had any other problem. High rank and office never stood in the way of his association with persons in all walks of life and his deep humility made him beloved by the poor and the downtrodden, the unrecognised and the ignored.

When I came to know Uncle Anton, his days in the Sri Lanka Air Force were already behind him. However, he continued to be a serviceman in spirit to the very end - a man of personal discipline and principle, honesty and integrity, and most of all, a deep fidelity to the country. Even as Uncle spent his last year in pain and illness, he was always well versed in current affairs whether local or foreign, the logistics and the dynamics of military strategies and also the prospects for peace.

Uncle's acts of faith in Roman Catholicism included his participation in Daily Mass and Communion and in Bible studies to the end of his earthly life. What was even more striking than his faith, was that his works were a reflection of that faith, as he lived a life of kindness, love and charity. I remember how on Christmas day, Uncle Anton would gather the poor to share in the Christmas meal. When a minor employee was dismissed from his job, Uncle was the first to call him home, to listen, console and cheer. His charitable nature extended beyond the material dimension, to his thoughts and judgments of other people, as he was slow to condemn and ready to understand.

Uncle's deep spirituality enabled our young family to remain in close communion with him till the end in spite of our separation in time and space the past few years. When my five-year-old son came to know that his grandfather had passed away, he replied instantly: "I know Grandpa is in Heaven." This reminded me of the popular hymn 'The Lord's my shepherd', so befitting of the life of Group Captain Anton Puvimanasinghe: "Goodness and mercy all my life, shall surely follow me. And in God's house for evermore my dwelling place shall be."

Shyami Puvimanasinghe

Family lost an anchor and friends a personality
Chintamani Sujatha Ratnatunga nee Wijesekera (Mani)
"It is so difficult to accept but it is true. She will never come bounding down the pathway that leads to our front door, carrying as she so often did, a flower pot, some food or simply a gift, smiling irrepressibly," observed a sister-in-law. She was the one the family looked for assistance in any crisis, a health scare, a function, or an event of consequence. She was the strong personality in the family, among friends and even in the many organisations in whose work she participated. Her leadership potential, her talents that were diverse, and the personality she developed was even evident in her younger days. At school, at Ladies College her gregarious tendencies were dominant. She was the centre of so many of her friends.

In post-school studies at the then Heywood School of Art, she came into contact with pioneering artists like David Paynter and Stanley Abeysinghe, under whose influence she developed her artistic talent. Her mother was no mean artist, but essentially a copyist with a prolific output. Mani was an artist with a more creative dimension.

Married to that committed engineer, Chula, they made a wonderful example of complimentary married life. Mani's interest was developed by her husband's dedicated assistance. Her venture into interior decor was complimented by the engineer's skill and creativity in construction, and they kept a beautiful house always.

For a time they lived in Africa, in Zambia at first, and then in Nairobi where their family grew up. The three children, two girls and a boy are professionals and happily married. Mani's paintings show the African influence of the period. As her husband's work as a consultant engineer in Africa meant travel in the continent, Mani developed many friends, both expatriate Sri Lankans and Africans, and they remained their friends even after they returned to the island.

Both husband and wife were in their own way in the workaholic mould. But one of their interests was wild life and the environment. They were ever ready to travel within their own country and within the other countries they lived in. After retirement, back home, Chula found opportunities for consultation work that kept him more than busy. Mani served in organizations such as the Women-in-Need, the Housewives Association, the Mahila Samithi, and women's and charitable interest groups. She gave liberally of her expertise, and those who worked with her appreciated her vibrant personality and infectious enthusiasm. She was never one to grumble and had a philosophy that kept her from losing her balance despite hard circumstances that sometimes came her way. At times she was blunt and critical but never interfering.

In May last, she came and took us for a concert organised by the Housewives Association. Exactly a month later her family physician, concerned with the frequency with which she had "flu", ordered a blood test, and was flabbergasted, by the results. Specialists diagnosed her devastating disease. Scarcely three months later she was no more. Whether the disease ravaging as it is, or the treatment regime, decidedly drastic, finished her off is an academic issue.

Hospitalisation and the severe treatment however, clouded her ebullient personality. She displayed immense courage against adversity, and the terrible effects of the drastic treatment. In the end she could hold out no more and her systems caved it. It was obviously too much, for her loved ones to bear. In the three months of the dreaded disease her husband hardly left her bedside, an example of devotion that seemed in a plane of its own.

He had the mortification of watching her deteriorate, and he struggled against the vicissitudes of strikes that did not help the cause of procurement of blood and getting test results in time. A true religious belief and philosophy held sway.

The family lost an anchor member, friends a personality with charisma and charm, and the organizations she served in a dedicated servant. Her husband believes she is on her journey to Nirvana, and so do the rest of us. She served while she lived.

A sibling

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