FREDRICKE RODRIGO SATHIANATHEN
I was immersed in a pall of sadness on receiving the news that Fred had passed away in Melbourne on July13 marking the end of a life well lived.
As I pen this tribute my mind traverses down memory lane to the late 70’s when I first met Fred at the Annual General Meeting of St. Benedict’s College Old Boys Union. It was my fledgling days with the OBU and our acquaintance blossomed into a Friendship in the bonds of Benedictinity through the years that followed.
My initial impression of Fred was that of a martinet who belonged to the old guard of the OBU. In hindsight I could assert that beneath his tough exterior he possessed a heart of gold. I recall Fred making his voice heard on many issues that surfaced at the Union meetings oftentimes literally locking horns with some who did not toe his line. In an era when many Old Benedictines preferred to maintain a stoic silence even on vital issues Fred firmly adhered to the courage of his convictions and expressed his views with candour.
Fred was a pioneer member of the OBU and the College Development Fund, two bodies he served with utmost zeal and dedication. He did not wilt under pressure and never hesitated to call a spade a spade despite the risk of waning in popularity. In him Benedictines of varying vintage found a Senior who was a seasoned campaigner and very articulate in expressing his considered opinions on a gamut of issues revolving around the College and other support bodies. Fred attended all meetings and functions proving his loyalty to our alma mater. It was a familiar sight to witness Fred making his presence felt with a stentorian voice and his positive contribution to the OBU particularly in difficult times will remain etched in our memory.
Delving into his multi- faceted personality I observed that Fred was a respected scribe. I have been an avid reader of his copious contributions to the Press in Sri Lanka on an array of topics relating to the social milieu he lived in. Fred used his innate talent in the use of the English idiom with dexterity solely motivated by the desire to serve his community sans any racial or religious bias. I was impressed by Fred continuing to write even after migrating to Australia with his loving wife Dulcie who predeceased him. Fred continued his saga with the OBU opting to be a member of the Victoria Branch and attending all the activities despite his failing health and mellowing in age.
Fred used his limited leisure time to correspond with a group of select friends and I was fortunate to be amongst this group. It was refreshing to receive his comments on events in Melbourne which were a testimony of his commitment to our alma mater. In filial tribute I must acknowledge that Fred was a “dyed in the wool” Benedictine who though a member of the old guard moved with the times and enriched the OBU in Colombo with his acclaimed repertoire as a crusader for justice.
The late Fred’s sons Ashley, Conrad and Prince have inherited their father’s legacy and will undoubtedly continue to embellish the flame lit by their illustrious Dad.
Fred was deeply religious and an ardent devotee of Mother Teresa as was evident from the letters I received accompanied by his appeal for funds for the ‘Home of Compassion’ in Grandpass – it was his tryst with the poor. His unwavering Faith in good times and bad was a beacon light to many –Fred was a firm believer in the Christophers’ motto ”It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness”.
In deep retrospect it could be said that Fred served his family, school, Church and society with utmost fidelity and charisma all his own.
From distant Vancouver I join the family members, Benedictines and friends gathered at the Memorial Mass to thank God for the life and times of Frederick Rodrigo Sathianathen. Farewell dear Fred and may the turf lie lightly over you and God be with you.