It is almost four years since the passing away of Lionel Mendis. It is timely to reflect on this very special person’s private life. He mentored a countless number of students some of them are well known public figures. He loved them all as if they were his own off-spring. Out of all these, his favourite undoubtedly was none other than Arjuna Ranatunga.
Lionel left a void in his family which can never be filled. I remember going to Ambalangoda for Vesak celebrations and staying at his ancestral home. The wonderful times we had with him and his close Ambalangoda friends. K.M. Nelson and Lionel’s brother Nelson were among them. His younger sister Indrani lives in the old house now. There is a special room there dedicated to Lionel’s life. It is a mini-museum with countless photographs showing various events involving Lionel.
He was best known as a cricket coach. He had a life outside the world of cricket. He was devoted and loyal brother to his siblings and doted on his nieces and nephews.
My association with him lasted nearly six decades. He was my best friend and mentor and we were more like brothers. He guided me to become successful in my career just by speaking to me on a regular basis on the phone while I was in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years. He had that rare ability to inspire those who had the fortune to know him
During his long and outstanding teaching career, he never resorted to earning money by supervising at examinations or by giving private tuition. He devoted his entire adult life to teaching and cricket.
"He guided me to become successful in my career just by speaking to me on a regular basis on the phone while I was in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years"
Most people are not aware of his strong religious beliefs. His devotion to the teaching of Gautama Buddha was known only to his family and close friends. As a non-smoker and teetotaler and a vegetarian, one would have anticipated a very long and healthy life for him, but we lost him in what would have been the evening of his life.
Getting together with old friends and enjoying a sing song was for him the ultimate pleasure. He was a very talented singer and would imitate some well known singers to perfection. His sense of humour was legendary and could make his friends laugh at the drop of a hat. Lionel’s favourite song was “DURA PENENA THANlTHALA”. Few days prior to his passing away, I visited him with my brother Gamini and sister Chitrao. We asked him whether he wanted anything and what he mentioned was for us to sing that song with him. Lionel was a very active member of a group associated with his Maharagama Government Teacher Training College friends.
I was fortunate to attend some of these events and thoroughly enjoyed being with these friends. Some of them reached very high positions in the field of education.
Despite several invitations from me, he never visited me in the United Kingdom because he did not want to abandon his responsibilities to his charges. His number one priority was to carry on his work and decline a free holiday in England. That was Lionel the dedicated professional
He was a man with a vision. A vision to do his best and make the world around him a better place.
May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nirwana.