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July 17, 2017
By Ivan Corea

I learnt with sadness that Gamini Gunawardena had passed away in London - Gamini was a distinguished old boy of St. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia, in Sri Lanka. He was a larger than life character and had a great sense of humour - I always remember his stories and his hearty laugh. My earliest memories of Gamini were at St. Thomas' College, Mount Lavinia near the Warden's office where Gamini would 'hold court' with his friends all around him! He was the life and soul of St. Thomas!' He really loved his alma mater. I so regret that I lost touch with Gamini during recent years.

Gamini's father, Patrick Gunawardena was a wonderful educationist, he was Sub Warden at St. Thomas' College when I was in school and we held him with the utmost respect. He sent me a wonderful letter before he passed away. Gamini and I came up with an idea to honour him as he was such a powerful force for good in the field of education in Sri Lanka - he was so humble and unassuming, he had a heart for the vulnerable. So we organized the PATRICK GUNWARDENA AWARDS in the Palace of Westminster in the presence of members of parliament from the House of Commons, peers from the House of Lords and CEOs of British charities. The awards created history when Linda Perham MP mentioned them in the chamber of the House of Commons in a debate - a huge honour remembering Patrick Gunawardena - Gamini was humbled by it.

Gamini was President of the Old Thomians Association in the United Kingdom in 2010, he raised funds for the College, organized dinner dances in London and was in the thick of it and he so loved it!

During his tenure as President the first ever cricket match at Oxford was organized by Gamini and the Old Boys of St. Thomas' and the Oxford University Sri Lanka Society.

I must confess I had some fun with Gamini back in 1997. Gamini was in the Old Thomians cricket team and I used to tease him saying: "Gamini and his donkey drops!" Gamini was a really good spinner and back in 1997 I wrote an article about him routing the Old Royalists in the traditional Old Royalists vs Old Thomians match in London - it was published in the Daily News in Sri Lanka - Gamini really hit the headlines on the sports pages - on one side was the headline on Sanath Jayasuriya hitting 340 runs against India in Colombo and then the adjoining article was: "Gamini Gunawardena sinks the Old Royalists!" He burst into uncontrolled laughter when he saw my article which was also reproduced in the Old Thomians Magazine in the U.K.

I will always remember something deeply illuminating about Gamini. He really had a good heart. When he heard that my father Vernon Corea had died in September 2002, he was one of the first to arrive at my sister's home in New Malden. The funeral service was held at Emmanuel Church in Wimbledon Village - Gamini had gathered together a group of Old Thomians to attend the funeral - out of the kindness of his heart. He had organized the ushers, made sure the food was on the tables at the church and oversaw the pall bearers at the funeral. He was capable of such kindness and compassion - he wanted to support his friend in his hour of need.

Gamini had a deep and abiding faith in God - we had some deep conversations at times and he even went with me to a Benny Hinn Crusade held at the Excel Centre in London Docklands, many years ago, as he was interested in the area of healing.

His remains will be flown back to Colombo and to his roots in Gampaha. I know that Old Thomians will be there to remember Gamini.

May his soul Rest In Peace, in the arms of Jesus.
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