Plus - Appreciations

From music teacher to military wife, she was dedicated to serving people

Mala Seneviratne

My childhood memories of Mala Seneviratne were of a caring, loving and gentle lady who was a talented and outstanding pianist and teacher of music, yet so kind and patient with her difficult students. I happened to be one of those students who attended her music classes only because I loved my teacher so much. I have never known her to lose her temper with any one of us and it was her patience and understanding manner that yielded good results.

She had a great influence on my life and sadly when I lost my own mother at a tender age, she took me under her wing and showered me with much kindness and affection which I will never forget. She understood my feelings and would often take me out to places that I would enjoy going to, and mother me in my sad moments.

Our relationship grew closer through the years as she married Nalin Seneviratne, a military officer who rose to become the Army commander, and coincidentally many years later I married an army officer too, which made us very close family friends. I watched her only daughter grow up, doted on by her mother, inculcating in her the same love for music that she had.

Mrs. Seneviratne certainly passed on her talent to her daughter Dushy, and was proud of her achievements. She was an equally doting grandmother, who took delight in speaking of the progress of her two lovely grand-daughters.

Although Mrs. Seneviratne became the Army Commander’s wife she remained simple and humble and never lost the common touch. All of us younger Army Officers’ wives looked up to her as a role model and she would give us good advice whenever we needed it.

She threw herself into doing so much good work, first as the President of the Army Seva Vanitha and afterwards as the President of the Prithipura Home in Hendala. Whether it was visiting the injured soldiers in hospital, or getting houses built for the families of those soldiers who gave their lives for the country, or setting up nursery schools for soldiers’ children, she did it all with so much commitment and love. The inmates of the Prithipura home adored her and she visited them regularly and personally saw to their every need.

A devout Buddhist, she practised her religion with great fervour and helped the temple in numerous ways. Her charity knew no bounds and there was no extent to which she would not go to help those in need.

She was a dutiful wife who gave her husband all the support and help he needed when he was Army Commander and later Governor of the North and East.

Sadly, she was affected badly with the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease during the last few years of her life and perhaps since it wasn’t diagnosed early enough, no one knew why her personality had changed so much. She is sadly missed and fondly remembered today on her birthday, by all of us who loved her. I know she is at peace now and, pray that her soul may find eternal rest.

A beloved student and friend.

Larger-than-life Lankan breathed life into all he did, and made his life one long Mercy Mission

Jai Lameer

Jai Lameer came to be seen by all who knew him, in the United Kingdom, and all his relations and friends in his native Sri Lanka, as the embodiment of kindness, generosity and compassion. His recent demise is a great loss to his family and all who knew him. The Sri Lankan community in Greater London in general, and the suburbs of Croydon and Purley in particular, have lost a true friend who was larger than life. He leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.

His loss will reverberate among countless Sri Lankans, especially the less privileged in Sri Lanka whose children were literally saved from certain death through the tremendous work carried out by the Guy’s Mercy Mission to Sri Lanka, of which Jai Lameer was the chief co-ordinator.

Mohamed Zaheer Mohamed Lameer, “Jai” to all those who knew him, was born on July 4, 1944. He was the son of A. M. M. Lameer and Nona Laila Lameer. He was educated at Wesley College, Colombo. The leading Methodist boys’ school was just a stone’s throw from Jai’s family home.
Jai grew up in the carefree Sixties. He performed creditably in studies and sports, rugby especially, and in 1964, after completing his secondary education at Wesley, Jai, like many adventurous youngsters of his generation, set sail for the UK.

He joined Trembath Refrigeration and Air Conditioning as a trainee, and qualified as a heating ventilation and air-conditioning engineer in 1969. He married Jayanthi Kodikara and set up home in Beckenham, Kent. The family later moved to Solihull, in the West Midlands.

Following his stint in the West Midlands, Jai branched out on his own in 1977 and set up with Jayanthi his own climate equipment company, Freezeway Limited, a company that flourished throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Jai had a wide clientele, spanning the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. His clients included prestigious and fashionable establishments in London’s West End. This was probably the busiest time in his life, but he was never too busy to help a friend or acquaintance in need of advice or assistance.

Although a devout Muslim, Jai was one of the leading supporters of the Thames Buddhist Vihara, in Croydon. The time, energy and resources he put at the disposal of the Thames Buddhist Vihara are legendary.

A fiercely loyal Wesleyite, Jai Lameer founded the UK branch of the Wesley College Old Boys’ Association, and served for many years in various capacities, including that of president.

Continuous and gruelling work (he dealt exclusively with high-end businesses) took its toll. In 2000, Jai underwent by-pass surgery. The operation was a success, and that was the beginning of a remarkable and fruitful relationship with cardiac surgeon Conal Austin of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Mr. Austin had a great affection for Sri Lanka, having visited the country during his medical school days. In 2003, he assembled a crack medical team, including his friend, Dr. John Simpson, and anaesthetists, technicians and nurses, to spend 10 to 12 days, on their own time, in Sri Lanka, operating on extremely sick children.

The venture was co-ordinated by Jai, who was assisted by Dr. Mohan Jayatilaka, a consultant cardiologist in Colombo. Jai did everything he could to make the team’s work and stay in Sri Lanka as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

The Mission continued. The medical team paid another seven visits to Sri Lanka, saving the lives of more than 100 babies and very young children, all of whom are leading healthy, normal lives. The work of the Mission has reached legendary proportions, especially in and around Galle and the Karapitiya Hospital. Jai was busy behind the scenes, organising the Sri Lankan side of the Mission’s work. He wanted to ensure that Mr. Austin and his team were never unnecessarily inconvenienced. The Mission was Jai’s passion.

Jai started to show signs of failing health in 2008, but he tried not to let this affect his life and work. By this time, he had down-sized his air conditioning business, although he continued to serve his long-standing clients.

He persisted in all his activities, including one of the most important things in his life, the Mercy Mission to Sri Lanka. Jai was not in the best of health when he coordinated the last Mission, in September 2010. But he was determined to see it through, and nothing would stop him. That Mission was, as always, a success.

Jai never troubled anyone but was always ready to put himself at the service of others. He loved, looked after and protected his family passionately. Equally important to him were his friends and their families. His joy and happiness at the success of his friends’ children was overwhelming, and had to be seen to be believed.

The presence of a number of young people – Jai had many young friends – at his bedside in his last few hours at Brompton Hospital, London, was proof of how beloved and popular he was.

The large gathering that assembled at the Thames Buddhist Vihara barely 24 hours after his death, and the even larger gathering at his funeral, was evidence of how highly esteemed was this larger-than-life man, with an equally large heart, boundless energy and enormous enthusiasm.

Jai Lameer died peacefully on January 8. He leaves behind his wife Jayanthi, daughter Soraya and son Shahan, and grandchildren, Ayesha and Cyrus.

Harish Nilaweera

A life of sweet and simple ways – that was our beloved sister

Gladys Merlyn Amaratunga

The demise of Gladys Merlyn Amaratunga, after a brief illness, was received with deep shock and dismay by her family, relatives and wide circle of friends. Her first death anniversary falls on March 15, 2011. She was the beloved sister of Rev. Fr. Canon Douglas Amaratunga, Lesley, Doris, Irene, Nita and Marji.

She is no more with us, but we are consoled by the knowledge that she is now with her Maker, Our Lord, enjoying everlasting happiness and glory in His Mansion in Heaven.Gladys was unmarried, and lived with her brother, Father Douglas, at Pagoda Road, Nugegoda. She looked after her brother until his death, two years ago.

She served as matron at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, and at Hillwood College, Kandy. An active person all her life, she suffered from chronic arthritis towards the end, and was bed-ridden in the last two months of her life.

Kind and helpful to friends and relatives, Gladys never troubled anyone, although she underwent much pain and discomfort. We, the members of her family, miss her greatly. We will remember Gladys for her stoic calm, pleasant smile, simple ways, and sweet demeanour – qualities that endeared her to family and friends.

May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Nita Silva (sister)

Gentleman and Good Samaritan will be remembered for his generous heart

Bobby Fernando

Bobby Fernando finally lost his battle with cancer in the early hours of Sunday, February 27, 2011, just over two months after he was diagnosed with the deadly disease. Soft-spoken, easy-going Bob had a tremendous personality and a very kind heart. He was ever willing to help someone in need, whether with cash or in kind.

He was a doting husband to his beloved Teckla and his five children – Gweny, Rozaine, Clifford, Sherine and Cheryl. And he was a beloved father figure to his extended family, including his four sons-in-law, Vijith, Kenham, Prasanna and Adrian, and daughter-in-law, Enid.

Cheerful by nature, and always ready for an adventure, even at the ripe old age of 73, the Bob I knew loved his work, and he worked to the very end, thus earning the respect of all staff, wherever he went.

When I last visited him at his home at Raddoluwa, Seeduwa, Bob had just returned from a stay at a private hospital, where the doctors had informed the family that he had just two months left to live.

Bob was not told about the true nature of his illness, and strong man that he was, he was determined to return to normal at the earliest.

In a bid to cheer him up, I suggested a trip to the hill country, which he loved to visit. He had spent much of his childhood in this region.“Let’s see, let’s see,” he said. “First, I must get rid of this wretched feeling in my body, but I will be back – promise.” He spoke with that quiet smile, not knowing the curtain was slowly but surely descending.

Bob never had a driver. To the end, he drove his own vehicle, demonstrating his strength and grit.
A devout Roman Catholic, Bob treated the domestic helpers at home as family members. He maintained that all humans were alike, regardless of differences. Discrimination, of domestics or otherwise, was not for him.

Bob was also very generous, and spent lavishly when he thought the situation called for spending.
His generous spirit was reflected in the large crowd that came to pay its last respects, many of the mourners not even known to the family. We later heard how Bob had helped numerous people in their times of difficulty. He never mentioned any of this at home.

But these people had not forgotten. Silently, they walked past Bob’s coffin, paying their last respects to a Good Samaritan and a gentleman. Bob will be greatly missed by his family, relatives, friends and neighbours. Be brave, Teckla, and take heart that Bob is now safely in the arms of Jesus.Let the turf lie soft over the soul of this good man. Rest in peace, Bob.

A Family Friend

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