Plus - Appreciations

A born leader my dad was one of life’s extraordinary men

Dr. Sunil R. De. Silva

If my father had lived he would now have surely been enjoying his retirement here in Sri Lanka. On January 13 this year he would have celebrated his 69th birthday with friends and family, just like he had been celebrating his birthday every year when he used to visit Sri Lanka around the Christmas holidays. Though the end of April will mark ten years of his having suddenly departed this world at only 59, I will always remember his birth date and the plans we had of celebrating his 60th year in grand style here in Sri Lanka.

My mother and I had planned to move to Sri Lanka with my father on his intended retirement in 2008. He was well established in his field of powder technology in Porsgrunn, Norway. Our world fell apart when he suddenly died in 2002. I was working in China, my mother in Sweden and so only my brother in Norway was with him at his sudden end. He normally worked so hard, that his idea of a holiday would be lying around leisurely reading a book or simply taking long naps. When he was awake, everybody would enjoy his joking around with them. They in turn would tease him, especially about his enjoying his daily whisky (they would for instance occasionally replace it with tea!), and everybody would have a good laugh. He spread joy and happiness, whether among his colleagues at work or when with servants, friends and family. He used to have apt and affectionate nicknames for everyone.

He had started a campaign to increase student numbers in his field at the college where he was working as a professor. He was also still heavily involved in research in the private sector. He had planned to put Sri Lanka on the map by starting to organise an international conference in powder technology here. He was already helping students from developing countries to come to Norway to do their doctorates under him and his colleagues. Ten years on most of his ambitions have come to little because he was the driving force behind everything. When he died there was no one who could follow in his footsteps.

He was a born leader with an exceptional brain. I never attempted to participate in the arguments he used to love. He was a master of persuasion through logic. He once persuaded somebody of the merits of apartheid for the fun of it though he was heartily against it. I will also miss his amazing cooking. He loved to cook and share with everybody. Whilst a student in England he won third place in a curry competition.

He left his beloved country to study in England in the sixties. He continued working abroad because of not being able to work in his field here. But he never forgot he was a Sri Lankan and always promoted our island whilst abroad. He was always writing to the newpapers to set them straight about what was happening in Sri Lanka if they got something wrong. He never carried anything but a Sri Lankan passport even when it once caused him to be denied access to the UK (where he was to give a lecture).

We still miss you, da, but hope you are having a grand time discussing issues with God and surrounded by other family members who enjoy a little heavy liquor. I hope you are able to see that we are still striving to make you proud of us. As long as we who were privileged to have known you are alive you will be missed as one of life's truly extraordinary men.

S. T. de Silva

Exceptional engineer who did much for the country, and devout Catholic respected by the Buddhist clergy

Aldrich Lodewyk

The sad news of the untimely demise of Aldrich Lodewyk was received with shock and profound sorrow. A victim of a severe attack of pneumonia, he breathed his last at the National Hospital, Colombo.
Soft-spoken, genial and unassuming, Aldrich was popular and highly regarded by the residents of the Bloemendhal Flats, Kotahena. A long-standing resident, he was much sought after for his wise counsel and advice, which he gave happily.

He was an outstanding student of St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena, and achieved his dream of becoming a Mechanical Engineer, in which capacity he served until his final days.

Sincere, hardworking, persevering, dedicated and determined, he was the architect behind most of the massive state-sponsored development projects, such as the Randenigala, Rantambe, and Kotmale projects. He took great pride in being honoured as the first and foremost Engineer responsible for putting up the Call Link Tower (the first if its kind in Sri Lanka) at Bellangala, Hantane.

I am sure all those who served under him to make this project a reality bow their heads in silent prayer and pay homage to a man who strove to achieve his cherished objectives.

Aldrich subsequently joined Samuel Sons, Colombo, a private engineering firm, and served as the company’s Mechanical Engineer for a substantial length of time. A devout Roman Catholic, Aldrich was a regular churchgoer and rarely missed Sunday Mass at St. Lucia’s Church, Kotahena. He also attended to the religious affairs of Buddhist temples all over Sri Lanka. He was closely connected with some of the leading Nayaka Hamuduruwos, and rendered them yeoman service.

Aldrich did not allow notions of caste, creed or nationality to stand in his way. He went out of his way to help those who sought his assistance. His last act of mercy was visiting several backward villages to care for the disabled, the sick and the deformed, in the company of the Most Reverend Professor Makarippa Dhamida, Sectional Head of the Kelaniya Campus.

It is a strange coincidence that Aldrich was born on a 27th and passed away on a 27th. His funeral took place at the Kanatte Cemetery, in the midst of a large gathering of relatives and friends and distinguished members of the Buddhist clergy.

He leaves behind his ever sorrowing wife, Shiyamala Welihinda, son Shelake, and daughter-in-law Roshini. “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in eternal peace.”

Rowan Aniff

May a thousand angels sing her praises

Erin Pillay (née Jayasinghe)

I write this short memoriam, a first year remembrance, with very fond memories of Erin, who entered glory on February 6, 2011. She was diagnosed with cancer in August 2009. Fond memories of her will remain in the hearts of all who knew her. She was one of the most admired and loved persons in her family, a devout Roman Catholic who lived a very simple life. She was a most genial and lovable person, and yet very shy.

Erin Valarie Sherva (three noble names) was an exemplary person –humane and gentle. She led a very unassuming life and was very simple in her ways. She was also a devoted and caring wife and mother to husband Bryan and children Neelan and Neeliya.

With Erin, there was never a dull moment. She touched everyone’s hearts and minds. Her funeral was attended by mourners from far and wide. I am sure a thousands angels are singing her praises. We thank God for her noble and fruitful 55 years with us.

Helen Keller once wrote: “The most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or touched, they must be felt by the heart.” This was how Erin lived her life. May God bless you and keep you in Heaven with His cherished ones.

Ex-Rector (SJC)

Giving was second nature to Kunchu Aunty

Julia Aruljothy Selvadurai

Julia was my mother’s younger sister, and the fifth in a family of six. To her siblings she was simply Kunchu, meaning “dear” in Tamil. To us, her many nieces and nephews, she was Kunchu Aunty. My association with Kunchu Aunty dates back to 1995, when she came to live with us, following my uncle’s sudden death.

Although sickness and hardship robbed Kunchu Aunty of her youthful beauty, they did nothing to dim her love for pretty things. Whether at home or out, she made sure her jewellery matched her clothes. She loved to look good. I recall how she would sit by the window and paint her long fingernails. As the years wore on, wheezes and joint aches became her constant companions. She was as frail as she looked, but this did not stop her from making herself useful in thoughtful ways.

With both my parents working and my sister and I in school, it was quite common for books and clothes, spectacles and wallets, to go missing all the time. While we flapped around the house, frantically looking for our belongings, Kunchu Aunty would lift herself out of her chair and, without being asked, join in the hunt. In the end, it was always she who found our missing things.

Kunchu Aunty devoured the newspapers from cover to cover, her favourite being the sports section. Her interest in sports knew no bounds, and she was an encyclopedia on cricket. Every World Cup and cricket series saw Kunchu Aunty glued to the television, cheering the Lankan players and occasionally hollering words of encouragement and advice. I dare say she was the best armchair cricket coach ever!

She could have continued to live with us or with any of her siblings, but she chose instead to move into an elders’ home. While this decision of hers created quite a stir and set many a tongue wagging, Kunchu Aunty’s reason was simple: She wanted to be independent and live life on her own terms.
Looking back, I realise her last seven or eight years in the elders’ home were the happiest of times for her. She made friends easily and always referred to the residents of the home as “girls.”

She enthusiastically took part in all activities and enjoyed herself immensely. By then her joint aches were quite severe and most days saw her hunched and bent in double. However, at the sound of music she would be up and dancing, only to fall into her chair, panting and breathless. Whenever she became quite ill, my mother would bring her home to recover.

Each time, she came laden with gifts, not just for her children and grandchildren, but also for her brothers and sisters and their spouses, her nieces and nephews, and later for our children as well.
Her gifts were one of a kind and unique, simply because she made them herself. Hand-made cards and bookmarks, colourful rugs and table mats she painstakingly sewed, newspaper and magazine articles she had thoughtfully cut out for members of the family, seeds and medical herbs for those with green fingers, all neatly wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string. Family members living overseas were not forgotten. She wrote them long letters, songs and prayers. These, no doubt, are treasured by the recipients.

Giving to others was second nature to her. This was simply her way of showing how much she cared. When I joined my family in unwrapping Kunchu Aunty’s gifts under the Christmas tree last December, I little knew that this was to be the last time.

In her unassuming way, she had done her final round of giving, excluding none. She even managed to visit a few relatives. Once again, she had given to all who mattered, and two weeks ago she died peacefully in her daughter’s arms. Did she know her time on earth was up? Were the brown paper packages her way of saying a final goodbye?

The world may have known her simply as Julia – a quiet and frail woman who endured life and quietly passed away. But to me she was like her brown paper packages – simple and unobtrusive to the eye until you peeped in and discovered the treasure within.

Nirosha Navaratnam

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