Dr. Ariyaman Mahanama Mendis (1925-2015) former VOG, DMH

It is with great sadness we announce passing away of a great teacher Dr A.M. Mendis(89) few days ago at his home in Perth, Australia. Following eulogy was submitted to us by his daughter Dr.Geetha for publication

Dr A M Mendis

I thank you all on behalf of our family, Anoja & Lal, Geetha, Shiroma, Asitha and Komi, and grandchildren Jennifer and Chamath for joining us to pay our last respects to my father Ariyaman. My thoughts and thanks are also with absent family and friends.
I have to say at the outset that it is impossible for me to do justice to a man who has led such an exemplary life, and been an inspiration to so many. But I will offer a few glimpses of his rich life.
Ariyaman was fondly known as Menda, Mende, Dr Mendis or simply Doc.
He leaves a legacy of devotion to wife, children, grandchildren, family and friends, dedication to his profession, love of teaching, love and respect of his colleagues and patients, and service to his community.
Thathi comes from a very close knit family. His parents Dr A B Mendis and Mrs Charlotte Mendis loved and admired him. To his siblings Thathi was their much loved and revered Loku Aiya. Their unfaltering devotion to Thathi and each other over the years has been wonderful to witness. My special thoughts are with his dear sisters Damitha, Aurasie, and Mahila, and his dear brother Paddy and Charmaine. They and their late spouses, Dr GCI De Silva, Ally Weerasinghe and Bandula Wickremasekera created a loving and respectful extended family for us to grow up in. My late maternal grandmother, Galle Archchi, was an ardent fan of her son in law. He looked after her and my mother’s family, Loku amma, and Artie mama, now deceased, and Sujatha Punchi amma who is in our thoughts today.
Thathi was ever grateful for his formative years at St Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia. There he excelled at studies and sports. A proud Thomian, we heard him singing his school anthem just a couple of months ago!
A new and long chapter began with a Medical School Dance when the young Dr Ariyaman met nurse nona Cecelia Jayasundara. He was soon to head off to the UK for specialist training. When Thathi introduced Cecelia, she was warmly accepted by his sisters and brother and nicknamed “Sis”. This ploy helped to keep the evolving romance under wraps from parents until my father telegraphed his parents from England to inform them that he had passed his membership of the Royal College of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and that his bride to be was enroute to get married. My grandfather wisely trusted his son’s judgement.
Thathi returned to Sri Lanka in 1957 with his new wife and baby Anoja to be greeted with much celebration in Colombo. Cis & Ariyaman went onto enjoy a very successful partnership which produced four more children. Despite being busy with his career Thathi made time for his family. Our annual holidays to explore remote locations in Sri Lanka and Wild Life Sanctuaries and National Parks provide us with wonderful memories of fun and adventure. He and ammi knew to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. He was ever ready to gather around the piano and get everyone singing and dancing. There were endless opportunities for this as our huge extended family got together frequently to celebrate birthdays, New Years, weddings and everything in between. Ammi often reminisced towards the end of her life that she had had a wonderful life with my father and that they aspired to an ongoing relationship beyond this life.
On his return from England as a Consultant, Ariyaman’s career took off and he soon established a reputation as a highly regarded Obstetrician & Gynaecologist. As a child I remember that everywhere we visited in Sri Lanka, however remote, people would come up to him and say Oh you are Dr Mendis – you delivered my child and immediately extend their hospitality. I formed the impression that my father had delivered all the babies in Sri Lanka!
In his foreword to Thathi’s memoirs, his mentor, the late Dr Anthonis, Chancellor of University of Colombo wrote: “ Ariyaman’s life has been one of many scintillating facets. Academically brilliant, both his school years and his medical career are sprinkled with scholarships, honours and medals. When I met him at the Colombo General Hospital in 1951, I was drawn to him because of his intellectual qualities and his stamina. He readily did all the work allotted to him plus more. Time was not a factor to him, he worked till late, he was reliable, trustworthy and efficient.” He goes onto say, “His life reveals precision of the intellectual combined with the compassion of the humanitarian”.
Thathi had a gift for teaching. To this day his former students, who have been highly successful in their own medical careers, recall thathi’s inspiring qualities. I quote from a recent poem dedicated to my father by Dr Ariya De Silva OBE.

“The ideal teacher, an oasis of knowledge, erudite
None so far I’ve met, committed and so upright,
Kindness & understanding of students, an unfaltering friend
The mentor with wisdom and attention undivided

Gave your heart and your mind to patients, and never were in a rush
Understood their feelings, their worries, fears and concerns,
Encouraged me to reach heights well beyond my dreams
I thank you Sir, for that, from the bottom of my heart “

At the age of 50 my father left Sri Lanka in what would have been a major upheaval, letting go of a well- established career and extended family, in order to give his children a better future. Our family emigrated to Perth. It seems word got around before he got here as we were met by a number of Sri Lankans who became part of a wonderful network of friends, some of whom are here today. Ariyaman soon established himself in WA initially as Senior Medical Officer to the Kimberleys and later in private practice in Perth. Within a short time he was highly regarded by colleagues here. When I was at Medical School I encountered senior consultants who said to me, Geetha you can learn all you need to know from Mende. For a man who never sought recognition it amazes me how he was so widely known and respected. People still comment on his energy, diligence and attention to detail – whether he was doing major surgery or toiling under the bonnet of his car or planting trees didn’t seem to matter.
His passion for travel which he shared with my mother and the enthusiasm for photography that went with it, is a whole other story as evidenced by a massive collection of photographs all methodically annotated.
He also found time and energy to contribute to the WA Buddhist community. As usual his help was practical. Ajahn Brahm recently reminded him of how he helped with spade work to turn the soil for laying the foundations to the first buildings at the Serpentine Monastery.
We have been extremely privileged to have Ariyaman as our father. It has been our privilege also to look after him in his final years when Ammi was no longer able to care for him. I have to say that I am really glad they had five children, a son in law and two grandchildren as it was indeed a team effort to look after ammi and thathi so they could live in their own home to the end of their days.
Ariyaman means “noble mind”. I reflected recently with Thathi, that he truly lived up to his name. He set an example of how to conduct one’s life with dignity. This he showed us throughout his life and throughout his final years of incapacity, right up to his last breath.
We wish him the highest blessing, May he attain Nibbana!

Thank you all.

We will close the ceremony with a traditional song of praise (Danno Budunge), one of Thathi’s favourites followed by the anthem of his beloved alma mater, St Thomas’s College.

Please join us at home in Winthrop for some refreshments.

Sent to us by Dr. Ariya de Silva

2 thoughts on “Dr. Ariyaman Mahanama Mendis (1925-2015) former VOG, DMH”

  1. Dear Batch mates,
    If you have any appreciative comments on our late teacher (former VOG – at DMH) please forward them as I am in touch with the family and am sure his family would like to about our individual experience especially of those who did internship in O & G in Late Dr Mendis’s firm.


  2. Great teacher.Fantastic Clinician.Vividly remember him
    managing my cousin who had a ruptured Uterus .May he attain
    Asoka Wijetilleke


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