“With malice towards none and charity to all” Abe Lincoln’s famous words from his inaugral address come to my mind when I reflect on the life and times of Uncle Felix, who passed away in Australia a few days before his 88th birthday which fell on 16th May. Hence, it was fitting that a Service of Thanksgiving was held at St. John’s Church, Nugegoda on 16th May, where Uncle Felix devotedly worshipped every Sunday.
His achievements in life are too numerous for me to mention, which I am sure that other appreciations will carry. I am merely sharing my reflections as a schoolboy neighbour who saw him as a mentor par excellence! My father and Uncle Felix built and moved in to their brand new homes down Albert Perera Mawatha, 3rd Lane as it was known then in the mid fifty’s. We remained “good” neighbours till the Dias Abeyesinghes’ sold out and migrated to Australia in the mid eighties. 30 years of unbroken friendship!
In those days school started at 8.40 am and went on till 3.40 pm with a lunch break of one hour. Those were TV less days and playing cricket on his sloping lawn, cycling, climbing trees and playing hide and seek were among the favorite pastimes of the children of the neighborhood. When their tall French window was shattered by a “Bundalo” Samarasinghe leather ball six, Nihal his eldest son was reprimanded but never a harsh word to the rest of us cricketers!
I used to travel with Uncle Felix to school in his Peugeot 403. Many a lesson did I learn from him during those drives to school, which I looked forward to.
“In sano in corpare sano” were his much-quoted Latin words to me. “Healthy mind in a healthy body! No more Latin, no more Greek, no more standing Rapati’s cheek!” Were his sing song words to me on the last day of term as he knew that Latin was certainly not my favourite subject?
His early morning walks up and down the inclined road leading to his home, swinging his arms ending up in a clap, are still fresh in my mind.
He lived by practicing what he preached!
He was an ardent Old Thomian and used to always heckle me as I got off his car at Royal.
A devout Christian, Uncle Felix stood tall in whatever forum he represented, with his stature, complemented by his integrity and never-failing credibility.
He was my childhood mentor in all aspects of life and still remains in my mind as a model to follow. He was like a shuttle on a loom, joining the threads of the past with the threads of the future, thus leaving his own bright patterns, for others to follow! His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to the entire world: “This was a Man!”
Goodbye Uncle Felix. May the turf lie gently on you!