To my wife and me, who were fortunate to have known Mrs. Damayantha Wickremesinghe [or 'Dam' as she was affectionately known], her passing away signified the loss not only of someone we both respected, but also of an individual whose simplicity, refinement and culture coupled with her sense of dignity and modesty epitomized a fast vanishing society.
Born into the genteel and erudite Hulugalle family, the members of which also exhibit values similar to those held by Dam, she shared with many of her siblings a talent for writing and teaching, and a social conscience and commitment to serve others less fortunate than herself.
At Ladies' College, her alma mater, Dam was both a good student and also active in the field of sports. On completion of her career at the University of Ceylon, Dam became a well-liked and respected teacher at Visakha Vidyalaya during which she initiated participation by the students in athletic meets and Girl Guide activities.
In 1953 her marriage to S. K. Wickremesinghe brought two eminent families together. Mr. Wickremesinghe's career as a well-known business leader and much more besides entailed extensive travel abroad. Dam was always at his side lending him quiet, consistent and dignified support in his endeavours.
At the same time Dam channelled her spare time and energies to further her wish to be of service to others which had been ingrained in her from childhood.
Her concern for the upliftment of women, especially rural women, led her to devote much time and energy to the Lanka Mahila Samiti, which she served as its General Secretary and a Member of its Central Board. Dam's interest in the Girl Guides led her to serve the Sri Lanka Girl Guides' Association.
When her husband was Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland, Dam served as a patron of the Women's Council set up to promote friendship and cooperation between the women of Asian countries and the UK and of the Sri Lankan Women's Association. She also served on the Committee of the Commonwealth Countries' League and was specially chosen by the Committee to be the Chairwoman of the Commonwealth Fair in 1997 which had been designated as the Year of the Commonwealth in the U.K. She also represented Sri Lanka at international meetings of the Associated Country Women of the World.
Although we have known Dam and S. K. for many years, our association and friendship have grown in the past few years since we returned home on retirement. My wife and I always looked forward to our periodic luncheon meetings with Dam and SK. Never harsh in her criticisms which were often couched in a quiet sense of humour, Dam was also a window to the many interesting and positive aspects of a bygone society. To us the Wickremesinghes' long and happy marriage based on shared values, inter-dependency and a deep mutual love and caring for each other, was a benchmark worthy of emulation.
Sriyan de Silva