Tue, 27 Jul 2021 Today's Paper

A Tribute to a Wonderful Father - Joseph Shelton Fernando

20 July 2021 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • I remember the days in the outstations which you described as the “best days of your life”
  • You were interested in our education and you organised “Do you know contests” every Saturday morning
  • Our home was run like dad’s office, everything was done on time and we had a time-table which was a guideline to our daily programme

 

 Today, it will be five years on the 20th July, since you left us and went to meet your creator, in his heavenly abode. Daddy, it seems like yesterday – I cannot believe that five years have flown by.


Not a day passes without a silent prayer for you. For mummy, you are still around as she cannot come to terms with the fact that you are gone. Maybe after 62 years together you cannot be apart in mind, body and soul.
I remember the days in the outstations which you described as the “best days of your life”. There, you enjoyed life to the fullest and made lifelong friends. Our days in Galle where we lived at ‘Sunnyside’ bring back memories of my sister Charmaine and her devotion to you. When you used to return home, you tooted your horn at the gate and she was so happy and excited that she ran to tell mummy to make your tea and brought your slippers and left them in the verandah for you to change. Till the end of her days she adored her ‘Dadda’ but her last words were ‘Amma’ as mummy took great care of her till the end and she was by her side when my sister passed away on All Saints Day – 1st November 1960.

 

Our next station was Kandy and we occupied a part of the ‘Louise Peiris walawwa’. In fact you wanted to see the house you visited some years ago and the present owners were cordial and let you have a look around


Your endless parties with music and dancing  often went on till the early hours of the following day. I used to peep from behind the curtain as I loved to watch the rhythmic movement and hear the enchanting music. I’m sure those were the moments that created in us a love of music and dancing. Your Colombo friends came ever so often and the annex was reserved for their visits.


Our next station was Kandy and we occupied a part of the ‘Louise Peiris walawwa’. In fact you wanted to see the house you visited some years ago and the present owners were cordial and let you have a look around. In Kandy, your most important task was colonisation – setting up villages in Minipe. Every week you drove to see the farmers and supply their requirements of fertiliser, grains and other items. You enjoyed interacting with people and there were no social barriers – in fact there is a picture of you being carried by the office assistants of the Galle Kachcheri at the Farewell party held in your honour.


In Kandy, we had many visitors from Colombo coming to view  the Esala Perahara. Our Majestic house with boarded floors and large spacious rooms lent itself well for that purpose. We loved going on circuits with you when we had our school vacation. Gurulupotha and Hasalaka circuit bungalows had excellent bungalow keepers.  ‘Martin’ our favourite cook made delicious rice and curry meal which consisted of rice, tinned fish, Dhal, beans, pol sambol and papadam. We were so content with a simple meal cooked with a lot of love. Daddy and mummy, you taught us to be simple and down to earth and to respect human beings regardless of race, religion, cast or social standing. You and mummy gave us a firm foundation based on religious guidelines and you taught us proper values.


Our home was run like dad’s office, everything was done on time and we had a time-table which was a guideline to our daily programme. However you were not harsh or unreasonable and you gave us a chance to express our opinions and talk freely to you.


In our home there was so much love, sharing and caring coupled with discipline and good manners.
You were interested in our education and you organised “Do you know contests” every Saturday morning. We could identify flags, coins and stamps from different countries and name the presidents, prime ministers and capital cities. You encouraged us to have hobbies like collecting stamps, coins, feathers and shells. You inculcated good habits like being honest, punctual and truthful and whatever you did was by example and not by preaching or giving us long lectures.

 

We learnt our English from dad and Sinhala from mum as both had done literature, Dad at University and mum at school. Both of them together helped us develop our vocabulary by simple methods. We were foremost in your minds and the centre of your lives


Both of you taught us to treat our helpers at home with kindness and respect. Even a chocolate had to be shared with everyone. We were not allowed to over indulge and with that came self-control which we value to this day.
You sent us to the best schools and directed our career pathways. You inculcated the habit of reading and made us members of the British Council library to which we went every two weeks to return our books and borrow new ones. Dad, you were passionate about higher education particularly for girls because you believed education opens the door to the future and is a training of the mind. Now looking back, we value your wisdom and are grateful to you for having given us a head start in life. Your constant guidance and support helped us to overcome the challenges of life. From the time when I was young, maybe 8 or 10 years, you told me that I should be a science student and later on you realised that both my sisters were Arts students. You followed our progress very closely and had time for discussions of issues and problems.


Dad was a strict disciplinarian, a stickler for time and honest to the core. He expected the same standards from everyone and was disappointed when they did not reciprocate.


We learnt our English from dad and Sinhala from mum as both had done literature, Dad at University and mum at school. Both of them together helped us develop our vocabulary by simple methods. We were foremost in your minds and the centre of your lives.


We are truly privileged to have been blessed with parents like both of you.


Daddy and mummy were friends in need to everyone – the first to visit the sick and console someone in distress. They helped out with weddings or funerals and gave their time to engage in charity. They had an active social life and visited families and friends frequently. They both come from closely knit families and created strong bonds among our own family members and the extended family.


During the weekends and holidays we went out as a family. Even trips were educational as he knew so much about plants, animals, the geography and the history of our country. The knowledge gained during his long tenure in the Department of Lands, Housing and later as the State Timber Cooperation’s Chairman was invaluable.
We did not know that dad was the first Chairman of the State Timber Cooperation until two officers came home looking for him – little realising that he was no more. They were celebrating 50 years in existence and wanted to write about their first Chairman.


Daddy thank you for your constant guidance and advice. Mummy and the nangis join me in saying how much we love you and miss you. However we are consoled by the fact that you are now in the presence of God.


“The heart benevolent and kind………most resembles God” – Robert Burns
From your daughters Cheryl, Chanis and Shyami

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