ONE = Nihal De Alwis: “An Appreciation – Mr. Elmo De Alwis – Pioneer in Marketing Founder Member. Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing” … from Island, 30 May 2020
Felix Elmo Arnold de Alwis born on the 29th of November, 1935, son of Felix David Lionel De Alwis and Enid de Alwis was the fifth in line by age in our family (of the surviving members at the time) of nine. Elmo was very close to me in my school days as I was born after him and probably that gave us that extra closeness and affection. Elmo’s life in this world had taught me many lessons as a brother and friend. It reflects many of his abilities, temperament, devotion, compassion, love and last of all knowledge which was diverse.
As son of Felix de Aliws of Kalahe and Enid from Tangalle and brother of all of us, he never spared any of us where arguments and disagreements were concerned and he always desired to win and sometimes his logical arguments could not be met by my father who would reprimand him. The only other person who used to reprimand him was my sister Viola who was a teacher by profession, occasionally using the ‘carters’ cane (when we used to go to school in the buggy cart).
In school Elmo had his arguments and disagreements with the classmates and teachers alike and most of the time he had his way as he was impulsive too. But his arguments and disagreements were clean and he always demanded his views be respected. But at the end he never held anything against anyone.
When he joined Lever Brothers in the early 1960’s, as a Sales Representative he worked hard and was clean in his dealings and took to task even his bosses if they were wrong and that made him unpopular with the Management even though he used to top the sales targets and win the sales prizes. I recall one incident he related to me: he had a confrontation with the Chairman (I believe was Mr. Barbolomax) and he stood his ground. Some of his colleagues were Nihal Wijetunge, Robin Wijesinghe etc. and they had great admiration for his forthright attitude and sincerity.
Elmo always believed in winning his rights and never gave into injustice. This clearly showed in his battles with the Colombo Swimming Club he tried to join and he was turned down due to colour discrimination prevailing at the time.
He was adventurous and that made him leave Lever Brothers and proceed to UK for his studies. I recall seeing him off at the Colombo Jetty as he departed by ‘ship’ paying Rs. 750/- for his passage. He qualified in Marketing and was interviewed by a distinguished old boy of Richmond, Mr. Victor Weerasinghe in UK for the post of Manager Marketing at Lewis Browns and his leadership and guidance was shown in his position as Marketing Director along with his pupils and colleagues – Chanaka de Silva, Chitty Jayawardena, John Fernando and Rajith Fernando. He had great Christian values and values he learnt from his Alma-Mata, Richmond College and as a member of a Christian family helped him to mix with the highest and lowest in society. His deep sense of honesty and integrity and dedication to the positions he held earned him great respect from his colleagues, subordinates and superiors.
His knowledge he imparted with great zeal and enthusiasm when he helped to set up the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing with several marketing enthusiasts such as, Eardley Perera, Sundara Jayawardena etc. In his endeavour to spread his knowledge of Marketing he created in the young Marketers a desire to create a basis for the recognition of marketing in the corporate field.
His knowledge increased along with his exposure as Marketing Director of ‘SONY’ in Cologne in Germany and Camel Cigarettes of USA. But he was more eager to impart his knowledge by lecturing at a University in Cologne. His daughter Ragna followed him in this field.
His love and affection to our family never declined with his parting to Germany. He always kept in touch with us, and was there to pay his last respects to Dad and Mum. His heart was in Sri Lanka. But that did not deter him from showing his love and affection to his own family when he was fondly addressed by the grand children as ‘Elmo’ and that was his great love to be with his grand children and wife and family. He in his visits always kept in touch with his old friends Chanaka and his wife Punyakanthi, Eardley, Nihal Wijetunge, Manilal Abeywardena etc.
His visits to Sri Lanka were mostly to meet old friends and family and play a good game of golf and go bird watching. Duggie, our late brother-in-law, was his best golfing partner; whilst for his wild life escapades there was none other than my late brother Chandra and his wife Rita. In fact Chandra’s death came fast due to Elmo’s death. He had implicit faith in God and made certain that he attended the Church Service at Kollupitiya Methodist Church whenever he holidayed in Sri Lanka.
He was a leader who had followed well and knew how to lead others. He made consistently good decisions in life which required character and self-discipline. He always looked ahead, thought ahead and moved ahead and that is what made him a good leader. He proved that the true goal of leadership is not to cross the finishing line first, but to take as many others with him as he could. He did accomplish it as leader in his Marketing profession by deliberately slowing his pace, staying connected with people and subordinates and pupils who kept him informed and inspired and enlisted the help of others to fall for his vision and kept going. He also had a deep sense of accountability in the corporate field where he worked. Together with this he believed in being honest with oneself, and acknowledged that there are places you should not go, habits you should not indulge and company you should never be in. Unselfishness and humility was there in abundance in him. May be he believed in what was in the Bible Romans Chapter 12.5 which says ‘we are one body and each member belongs to all the others’.
His acts of benevolence was displayed in great measure the time our country suffered a Tsunami in the year 2004, when he with my brother Chandra assisted the Methodist Church in constructing about 24 houses in Galle.
‘God gifted us with a loving brother and when it was time up he took him back into his fold to be again with Mum, Dad, Chandra and Denzil’.
His wife Heldegard and children Ragna, Rohan, Varuni and Tara, not excluding his Mother-in-law and the grandchildren, will be missing him as much as we do. Let us all pray for his soul and remember him all our lives till we meet again.
Death can take away from us what we have.
It cannot deprive us of what we are.
As children of our Heavenly Father
We will continue to live the life of Christ our King.
TWO = Michael Roberts: “Alles Gutes, Elmo. In Memoriam … Warmly”
Elmo was one cog in my elder sister Audrey’s gang of friends in Galle and I was carried along — or tagged along — on a wide variety of trips by bike to Closenburg, Watering Point in Buona Vista and even one one or two occasions to Koggala. But the Galle Fort was also a favourite spot for our gatherings and ‘plays’.
Audrey was a leader and when she and her husband Tony Obeyseskera moved to London to better their circumstances, their home at 18 Maley Avenue in Tulse Hill became a lodging house for many a Sri Lankan man in the migrant circuit. This embrace included one of my Aloysian cricketing/soccer mates, Carlyle Rodrigo, who happened to be related to Tony. …. and there was Elmo too — part of the warmth that enveloped me when I arrived in UK to pursue my studies in Oxford and London.
Audrey and Tony’s 18 Maley Avenue was also a home where many a match was pursued and consummated. One such consummation that has since borne numerous ‘fruits’ is that of Elmo and Hildegarde.
The friendships which both Shona and I formed with Hildegaarde and Elmo in London were then sustained when we returned to Sri Lanka and ‘discovered’ them in Colombo — where their apartment provided a bed whenever required. As fortune played out, my ‘acquisition’ of a Humboldt Fellowship in 1975 /76 meant a spell at a Goethe Language Centre at Boppard-am-Rhein not far from Koln ….. and who was now resident near Koln — none other than Hildegarde and Elmo. Wundershœn!
Since we returned to Germany in 1987 and since Audrey was still resident in UK, this meant that our relationship with the de Alwises of Kalahe continued unabated –in part via Elmo in Deustchland, but also through Nelun in UK, Sriyani in Brisbane and the rest of the clan in Colombo and Kalahe. I even spent about a month on my own — reading, reflecting and writing — at the ancestral home in Kalahe in 1990(?). In these varied ways, the de Alwises and Galle have been pillars in my life’s peregrinations.