Hers was a journey through the mosaic that is just life itself Viola Welikala 100 years is a time period of significance. In the last century people have seen world war, slavery, colonialism, apartheid, nuclear bombs, the emergence of technology, mobile phones, the internet, and most recently a global pandemic that shuttered the world and [...]




Hers was a journey through the mosaic that is just life itself

Viola Welikala

100 years is a time period of significance. In the last century people have seen world war, slavery, colonialism, apartheid, nuclear bombs, the emergence of technology, mobile phones, the internet, and most recently a global pandemic that shuttered the world and will soon have claimed the lives of over two million people in the last year alone.

The world has changed so much in the last century, and few people have been lucky enough to bear witness to this transformation with a sound mind. One of these fortunate individuals was my grandmother, Viola Welikala. Her elegant soul made it to the age of 100, made it through the tumultuous year 2020, and peacefully departed this world on January 1, 2021. Through the century that was her life, her mind was as sharp as a nail, and she took in all that life had to offer. It was this way right up to the last few days of her life.

Hers was a life that was not noticeable by the public at large, but it was notable indeed to almost everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. It was a life of much tumult and much joy, but most of all, it was a journey through the mosaic that is just life itself. My grandmother lived life to its fullest. She gave it all she had, enjoying the heights and soldiering on through the lows.

She saw death. Her husband Dr. A. H. N. Welikala dead at the age of 41, leaving her with four children under age ten to raise on her own. Living lucidly to the age of 100, she saw the death of all her siblings, contemporaries, and even a son-in-law Raju Rasiah.

She saw illness. Aside from seeing the illness and deterioration of many people she loved, she was herself always battling with her heath, and what a battle it was. Too many heart attacks to count, several heart surgeries, and diabetes where she maintained a level of discipline to regularly inject herself with insulin, regulating her blood sugar right to the very end. Sudden illness would often hit her and she kept fighting it back. This medical fight was there throughout her life right to the end, aided by a daughter who is a doctor, and by the first class professional nursing assistance of her eldest daughter Nirmala, who she resided with during the latter years of her life. Without all of her daughters, she would have never lived so well for so long.

There was never a shortage of drama. From the sudden death of her husband, to her own heart attacks, one of which I recall she mistook for the effects of eating a bad pol sambol, to the ups and downs of running a farm shop for her son on Duplication Road where she came into contact with all of Colombo. From a burglary where she was hit on the head with an iron by a rogue, to being in the box at court and being lambasted by a young advocate named Romesh De Silva. Conflict and commotion seemed to follow her, and as an old lady I remember her driving fast and occasionally airborne in an ancient Toyota Corolla which like her, seemed to never die.

She was the centre of gravity for family and friends. She had four children, six grandchildren, three great grandchildren, in laws, nieces, nephews, and other relatives. She had many close friends and became close to their families as well. She had interactions with all across the age spectrum. She was engaged with whomever would open themselves to her, no matter the strata. Many resided under her roof under all sorts of circumstances.

She came to America and raised me in my earliest years. I recall stories of her scowling when my parents would come home from work and noisily awake their baby from sleep. When it came to me at that time, she was in command. I can relate as I do the same thing when someone disturbs the sleep of my babies. She wanted to matter to her family by doing things and lending a much needed helping hand. She had to be useful and was frustrated if she couldn’t be.

She was a matriarch stewarding the lives of two grandchildren in Colombo, Asthika and Sheyanthi. She watched over them like the proverbial hawk as she saw them through Ladies and Royal College, while their father Nissanka was a planter living on the estates. Many of their schoolmates know her well as they were in and out of her home. She loved the two schools, and all students who went there she looked upon fondly.

She helped many people. Her door was always open. Many leaned on her during their time of need. She took joy in being able to help, and would give the most to those who needed it most. There was a boy without a family named Anura who she informally adopted, providing for him and his children as she did her own. She used all her resources to do this, and did not have concerns over having anything for herself. She didn’t care, as she valued her life by what she could do for other people.

She saw the world. Born in Sri Lanka, she was a subject of her contemporary Queen Elizabeth II, and her father before her. She lived through Sri Lanka’s journey to independence to see its first Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake take over from the British. She was always a UNP voter, it didn’t matter who was on the ballot. However, she would have been very pleased when Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister as he was someone she had observed as a young boy, and was a close school friend of her son-in-law Mousie. Down the road from Ranil’s family, she also grew up on 5th Lane.

In her 90’s, after living with her daughter Nimi for many years, she took the oath and became a citizen of the United States of America. She was a careful observer of the Trump, Obama, and Bush Presidencies as she was keenly interested in politics. She would watch Fox News as avidly as she would have read Sri Lanka’s Daily News. She was a voracious reader who consumed volumes of written material up until her last days.

There is much to learn from her life. What I have observed is that for many, life is a long journey full of intoxicating highs, gut wrenching lows, and much in between. Everyone can not rise to heights of power, success, wealth, or fame. However, even a simple life can matter so much to so many people. Life is meant to be lived, the good taken with the bad. All things should be taken in stride, just like my grandmother took them, pushing forward and doing good things in her own way.

Viola Welikala died at home. It was Christmas 2020, and she was happy to be able to gather with all of her children in Las Vegas, despite the COVID restrictions that kept them apart for so long. She was alive and well, and almost poetically, after the joy of Christmas she slipped into the end. She passed away a few days later on January 1, 2021. It was a great death and a great life, to be celebrated and not mourned. She would have wanted it that way.

Ranjan Hulugalle

‘Master’ was compassionate as he was wise

Master Weerasingham, Tiddy Wijeratne (partially hidden ) and Beryl Dias Abeyasinghe in line to light the oil lamp at the 70th Independence Day celebration in 2018. Don Abey had been called to rest by then.


The new year greetings of hope for 2021 were marred by the news that “Master” Weerasingham, an English teacher of excellent repute at Royal College who subsequently  settled in Canberra had passed away at age 92!

Tiddy Wijeratne, Don Abey, Beryl Dias Abeyasinghe (widow of a former High Commissioner ) and “Master”, as he was fondly referred to, were the Canberra   seniors who graced all our Mission functions regularly inspite of being handicapped by mobility issues that are normal for those  beyond four score and ten !

They graciously lit the lamp to celebrate  events and their blessings stayed with us throughout the year.

Don Abey, a mountain of knowledge, Tiddy a cricket connoisseur and gentleman player in his time, and Beryl, gracious and elegant right up to her 99th birthday, have all passed on to the heavens  above and with “Master” joining  them, our  community in Canberra will  bid farewell to  yet another of its  much respected elders.

To me “Master” was more than a teacher. A very dear friend whose deep affection was shared mutually to the extent that we spoke on the phone almost every weekend after my return home in May 2019.

He was compassionate as he was wise and a meal at his home was always a joy because he insisted on cooking for his guests.  On such evenings the Master Teacher not only excelled as a Master Chef but was also the perfect host to his guests ranging from grateful students to prominent members of the community.

His dedicated physician Dr. Sivakumaran was often a special guest !

Rest in peace dear Master. You have more than fulfilled your purpose on Earth and your legendary legacy as a teacher, counsellor, and a deeply caring friend will I am certain, live on in Canberra and in the hearts of all who knew you. Needless to say there will be his students the world over who will be paying their respects in an appropriate way to a Guru they loved and respected very much.

A final word of appreciation for his daughter Sulochana and son-in-law  Saravanan for their unconditional love and care of Master at their home even though they had the option of placing him in elders’ care in his final challenging years. Bless them both.

Although a familiar weekend voice has been stilled for me, the happy memories will remain.


We led a life of ‘sink or swim together’ for 47 long years


This is a tribute to my beloved husband, Trevor Felician Fernando on his 81st birth anniversary which falls on January 18, 2021. He passed away on September 8, last year, causing a great vacuum in our hearts. He was a person with a heart of gold, who never said ‘No’ to anyone who stretched out their hands to him for help, whether they were kith or kin. This was his nature. It was not for nothing that his mother at times called him “God’s cheerful giver”. I am thankful to her for having brought forth into this world a son of his calibre.

One among his most meritorious and generous deeds was building the ‘Aloka Elders’ Home’ in August 2019 in Sadharama Mawatha, Panadura for homeless and helpless elders. This was the biggest ambition of his life.

He led a moderately healthy life, always keeping a low profile. His simplicity was a remarkable feature in him; his doors were always open to everyone, rich or poor. He treated  all alike.

He was a practising Roman Catholic never missing a Sunday Mass at All Saints Church, Borella until the very last stages. He made very generous contributions to the Catholic Church. He also had the good fortune to seek the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the very miraculous Velankanni church in India a few years ago.

Although he was a staunch Catholic his destiny made him seek a Buddhist as his life partner in marriage, and he and I led a life of ‘sink or swim together’ for 47 long years. He was a very accommodating husband and had tremendous confidence in me.

Though we belonged to two different faiths, being a Catholic never prevented him from participating in Buddhist activities which included a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya), India where he took part in Buddhist rituals.

He was a very simple and a humble person with a genuine character,  extremely honest in all his dealings. He was never avaricious or revengeful but never failed to call a spade a spade. He may have had his failings, but no human being is perfect.

In sickness and health, he was a source of strength to me, supporting me in every respect.  He was the cause for my living. Now I am like an anchorless boat because he was my whole world. May he reach eternal happiness in the world beyond.

He leaves a grieving wife, sorrowing brothers and sisters, a godson and other family members.

May he find peace in God’s keeping and may his Merciful Lord grant him eternal rest.

He remains in our hearts forever.

Leela Fernando
(nee Dharmabandu)



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