AIR CHIEF MARSHAL TERRENCE GUNAWARDENA This was a born leader Terrence cut a distinctive figure as a tall, well-built teenager at school.  He commanded much respect as the Senior Prefect in 1958. I can still picture him standing by the door closest to the stage at the great hall at Wesley College, the place reserved [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka




This was a born leader

Terrence cut a distinctive figure as a tall, well-built teenager at school.  He commanded much respect as the Senior Prefect in 1958. I can still picture him standing by the door closest to the stage at the great hall at Wesley College, the place reserved for the Head Prefect. As a schoolboy he spoke softly, threw no tantrums and dressed elegantly.

Terrence also was the soccer goal keeper during 1957/58 and his courageous keeping helped the school maintain a successful unbeaten season. Terrence won countless fans on the football field with his skill and sportsmanship. Honourable and modest, he often played hard but fair. His gutsy approach to the game was his hallmark.

He left school to join the Royal Ceylon Air Force where he appeared to breeze through life making new friends and advancing his career with an ease that left others spellbound. No single moment better encapsulated the character, talent and sheer charisma of Terrence Gunawardene than his meteoric rise to become the most powerful Airman in Sri Lanka when the country was at war. We could have predicted he would one day be a high ranking officer of the Armed Forces even while at school as he was a born leader, brave and fearless and had impeccable credentials.

Although a dire necessity, to lead the Air Force during the war was a thankless job. In all this, he did not worry too much about what people thought of him, so long as he was convinced of the correctness of a course of action. Terrence took on the most demanding job when his country needed him most and was ever willing to do it to the best of his ability.

Throughout his career he abhorred publicity and was rarely seen in the media.

He had the guts, determination, stamina and the energy to carry out his mission in life. But his high moral values, ethics and principles made him retire early in 1994 with the comment “I am tired of bloodshed and will seek a spiritual way of life”. Despite a long and distinguished career, Terrence declined a military funeral.

The death of his son Kamal earlier this year was a hard blow from which he never fully recovered.

He will always be remembered for his loyalty, dignity and humanity as one of the finest Air Chief Marshalls we have had.

- Dr. Nihal D. Amerasekera


Devane Perera

Many were the lessons we learned from his life

The Fr. Peter Pillai Memorial Scholarship Fund lost one of its founder members with the demise of Devane Perera. He held the post as secretary at its inception and for almost four decades he served the fund with loyalty and commitment. While the members and the students were the richer for having worked with him, the fund will definitely be the poorer with his passing away as it gained much from his goodwill and generosity.

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s the Catholic Students Federation under the Chaplaincy of Fr. Peter Pillai and its dynamic Vice Chaplain Fr. Kuriacose did much to harness and direct the energies of the young students in the tertiary levels in schools, universities and the higher institutions of education.

An alumni of Aquinas University College, Devane was also an active member.

Years later when these same young men met, the conversation would always veer towards their student days and the benefits which accrued to them by engaging in all the activities like the study camps and holiday camps for underprivileged kids and the work camp in a little village off Chilaw, where they engaged with the residents in village development work. They mooted the idea that they should do something to show their gratitude for what they had received from that great priest of God, Fr. Peter Pillai. Under the committed direction of Fr. Kuriacose who was also a pupil of Fr. Pillai, monies were collected and a fund set up to help young intelligent university student facing financial constraints to achieve their goals in life. This was the Fr. Peter Pillai Memorial Scholarship Fund, inaugurated by Devane and his friends who have helped many scores of students in almost four decades with monthly grants to pursue their studies.

A soft spoken unassuming personality, Devane was always the perfect gentleman. Though he hailed from an illustrious family in Kotte-that of the great patriot E.W. Perera – he never flaunted his wealth or background. One of his ancestral houses was taken over by the then government to set up a museum in Kotte. The only sign of wealth that Devane displayed was his father’s big car which he would drive to take his friends on their jaunts.

Devane lived his strong Catholic faith. During his residency in Wellawatte, he was very active in the various parish activities. He was a loving son to his parents and he and his wife, Jeevani looked after their two old and ailing mothers in Canada after migration for very many years. This itself is a feat in today’s society where the elders are often relegated to homes for the aged. Always the family man he was a devoted husband and father who found fulfilment in his family. One of his very last words were to congratulate his grandson and express his great delight and pride as he was chosen as a team member to represent his sport at a high level.

In the last few years, Devane was dogged by health problems which necessitated long stays in hospitals. But he would bounce back cheerfully with a smile, making light of his ailments and carry on his usual activities. Of course his devoted wife Jeevani and his family were always at his side through all these travails.

The blood of patriots flowed strongly in him and Canada could not hold him back for long. Once the children were on their feet and independent he would come annually for a long stay in Sri Lanka. He would then be present at the meetings of the Scholarship Fund, pick up the threads and proceed.

The tendency in life is to mourn and bewail death when one encounters it. On the other hand it really should be an occasion to thank the Lord for the love He has shown the world through the life and work of the person. After all as Buddhist culture teaches us, death is the one inevitability we are sure of at birth. All of us who knew and worked with Devane were privileged to associate with him and appreciate the spiritually rich life he lived.

-Audrey De S. Wijeyaratne


Professor Ariyapala Ekanayake

We will try to live your legacy and make the world a better place

You left us during the dawn of the Vesak week , on May 12, when the whole world was ready to celebrate Lord Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana. You lived a full life, 81 years and left the world on this auspicious week.

The last phone call you had answered on your mobile was from a member of the Dhamma discussion group. The next call from Podi Duwa on May 12 at 10.30 a.m. was not answered.

You were our unsung hero; we all looked up to you though we are not sure you knew it as we never told you in so many words….
You had the energy and the determination to complete tasks. You were methodical to a fault. You had a brilliant memory which was admired by all. You did not want to be a burden to anyone, even your own children and wanted to be independent till the end.
You dedicated your life for the benefit of mankind and for future generations until the last moments of your life.

The good times and the bad times we shared are so many.

You took us down a memory lane trip in January 2013 before launching your autobiography so that we all were able to see the places you referred to in your book and relate to them more fully.

When you launched your autobiography on your 80th Birthday, you declared that you cherished this day very much and it was as memorable as your wedding day or even more. It was a unique event as it was the book launch and a milestone birthday celebration. You were surrounded by your relatives, friends, students and colleagues young and old. They were all honoured to be a part of this once in a lifetime event.

We had never celebrated your birthday all these years, we were not the partying sort, let alone in the presence of over 300 guests. It was the best tribute we could give you during your lifetime. We cherish the memory and as your children are glad we celebrated your birthday, organised the book launch and that we could all be present. Your life story is now a reference book for all to read and refer.
We know how much you loved us, your deeds showed it. You were a principled man who fought for justice and for the betterment of the people around you. The sacrifices you and Amma made to make our lives better were many and we are grateful for that. You taught us by example to be better citizens and instilled values that made us what we are today.

You were our hero, our advisor and we looked up to you. Apart from us, your own children, there were so many others who did so and you had time to advise them all.

No one believed you were 81, you looked much younger, even though you were ailing. You were well liked by the Doctors who treated you. Your knowledge and wisdom were greatly appreciated by them. You touched so many lives.

If we did not tell you that we love you in words, we did all we could in taking care of you in your old age! If you had stayed on we would have held your hand until you decided to let go. You died peacefully, watching a movie channel you liked and we have no doubt that you had good last thoughts and you are now enlightened. We can visualize you saying with a pleasant smile “I am now a free man”.
It is not what you have done for us but what you were and how you lived the life that make us happy in celebrating your life despite enormous hardships that you had to go through.

You were translating your autobiography published in 2013 “Pama vu Sarasavi Warama” to English. You named it “Adventures of a Rustic”. You concluded the Sinhala book by saying you have huge expectations for the future because you are expecting the birth of a grandson. That grandson just reached two years of age and we all missed you on that day.

Dear Thaththa, enjoy the niramisa suwaya the enlightenment forever now!

- Chandini, Wasantha, Hemakantha, Nirmala, Nilmini, Priyantha, Kosala and Melani


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