Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ferdie Rodrigues: A brother's lament


The scouts shown were Tony Carvalho, Raul De Lima, Stephen Nabeta, Valu Azavedo and John Nazareth.  (I was the littlest guy there and sticking my tongue out.) Our classmate Stephen went on to become Chief of Protocol, Ambassador/High Commissioner to several countries. Ferdie is second from left and standing below.

FERDINAND “FERDIE” RODRIGUES: 10.12.1933 Jinja Uganda 11.08.2018 London UK

By Armand Rodrigues

This is a solemn occasion. We come to mourn an esteemed member of our community. We come to mourn an outstanding individual. We come to share in the grief of his kith and kin. We come to take inventory of our loss.
When death delivers its final blow, many platitudes are spoken and many phrases reiterated. Thus, when a truly special person is taken from us, phrases may sound hollow. Words in themselves cannot exemplify the tremendous life and accomplishments that we mourn today. And, it is not how long one has lived, but how one lived , that matters.
Ferdie was born on December 10, 1933, in Uganda, and he breathed his last on August 11, 2018 in London, England. His was a life well-lived. His attributes and accomplishments are too numerous to mention. I will only skim the surface. He had a sound educational background and believed in constantly improving and building on it. Ferdie, Placie and I studied together in Uganda, then Goa and later in Poona. Like our dad before us, we served in the Uganda Civil Service for many years, before and after Independence, as expatriates. From humble beginnings in the Service, Ferdie reached the enviable rank of Under Secretary in the President’s office. He was entrusted with highly responsible assignments all along. I would be remiss if I did not mention one in particular. He shouldered all the responsibilities for the visit of His Holiness Pope Paul VI to Uganda in July, 1969. Recognition came in the form of a knighthood: Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.
Ferdie had a sharp mind, a good sense of humour, and loved to play practical pranks on his friends. As brothers, he, Placie, the late Leonido and I were on the best of terms. He showed unconditional love for his immediate family, grandchildren and relatives, at all times. His passing will leave a void for all of us. He was simply one of a kind. When it came to the Goan community, he was on the Executive or Sports committees of the Entebbe Goan Institute numerous times. He held office as Sports Secretary, Literary Secretary, Vice Secretary, General Secretary, Vice President, and President. He also served on several other boards and committees in the broader community. In sports he was the club’s goalkeeper in football and played in the club’s”A” teams in field hockey, volleyball, cricket and Ping Pong. In darts he was the Uganda National Champion in 1970 & 1971. And, who can forget why he was called a “sticky wicket”? He was invariably sent in as the opening batsman and he was still there when all the others had been bowled out! It didn’t matter that he scored only a few runs. Incidentally, I cannot resist telling you how he gave Blanche his own interpretation of the terms “no ball” ,” leg-between wickets”,” leg-break” or “bowling a maiden over” !
But, the good life in Uganda could not last forever. There were gloomy clouds on the horizon when the locals started clamouring for independence and civil disturbances in Kenya and the Congo were too close for comfort. Even Uganda that was an example of civic rectitude was not immune. The writing was on the wall. The upshot was that I and my family packed it in and headed into the unknown. We moved to Canada in January, 1969. It was not long before Ferdie, Placie and their families opted for England. In England, Ferdie used his extensive knowledge and experience, to good advantage, in his capacity of Assistant Company Secretary with Guinness Overseas Limited. We, brothers, always stayed in touch. Both brothers, Blanche, Susan and Nita honoured us with their presence at our 50th wedding anniversary in 2006, in Canada. Indeed, Ferdie raised the toast in his usual competent fashion.
Needless to say, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Ferdie had numerous strengths but he had a special propensity for helping family and friends. When it came to resolving property issues in the murky legal system in Goa --- even though we had proper legal supporting documentation ----without Ferdie’s single-handed persistence and several appearances in Goa, we may have lost out on our family inheritance. Ferdie was generous to a fault. The outpouring of grief from all and sundry speaks volumes for the esteem in which he was held. I myself was inundated with phone calls and emails in Canada.
And, what can I say to Blanche, my dear sister-in-law and her immediate family? You have already shown admirable fortitude for a long time. It is said that there is a strong correlation between longevity and affection given and received. This was a vital trademark of the Rodrigues family and it played itself out in the full, productive and long life of Ferdie. Grief comes to us because we cared. To grieve means to have loved and been loved in return. No matter when death arrives or how it comes, we are never ready for the grief, the pain, the void, the sense of loss it brings. We have to be objective and accept that none of us will live forever. Let us console ourselves in the premise that death is not the end but a transition into a new and different form of life. Ferdie has gone to a better place to be in the company of his beloved son, Desmond, our parents and his in-laws, resplendent in his knightly regalia and ceremonial sword. Faith will give us the strength to bear our loss.
Finally, let me say that to die completely a person must not only forget but be forgotten, and he who is not forgotten is not dead. Ferdie will not be forgotten. He will live in our hearts forever. He leaves behind a lasting legacy. There is hope and inspiration for us in the life he lived.
Vaya con dios, dear brother.

JOHN NAZARETH: I’m glad Armand sent you his eulogy for Ferdie. I’ll just add a few points:

·         Ferdie’s work for the Pope’s visit in 1969 was so helpful to the Uganda government that when Pope John Paul II was visiting in 1993, the Uganda government invited him to Uganda from the UK to seek his advice to help in the planning.
·         Ferdie was a scout master to a number of us then young lads in Entebbe around 1960. He was always caring and full of fun. When I visited him in 2011 he shared with me some of those scout pictures. I’m attaching 2 of them. The scouts shown were Tony Carvalho, Raul De Lima, Stephen Nabeta, Valu Azavedo and myself. (I was the littlest guy there and sticking my tongue out.) Our classmate Stephen went on to become Chief of Protocol, Ambassador/High Commissioner to several countries.
·         Armand mentioned that Ferdie rose to the position of Undersecretary. In fact Ferdie achieved the highest position by a Goan in the Uganda civil service ever. It is noteworthy that he was promoted to this level even while not being a Uganda citizen. It was a testament to the standing in the Goan community in Uganda that they continued being promoted in the civil service (Uganda citizens or not) well after Independence in 1962 – and notably while other East countries were Africanizing positions.

CYPRIAN FERNANDES: Ferdie ranks high on the list of great and outstanding Goans around the world, past and present. He wore the mantle of greatness with a cloak of humility that endeared him to anyone and everyone he met. He loved a prank, even more he enjoyed a good laugh accompanied with a good drop. He walked tall among people of any ilk and they quickly recognised his exquisite humanitarian qualities. If they probed deeper they would have found a deeply religious man. In fact, played a huge role in the Pope’s visit to Uganda many, many years ago. His place in heaven was booked the day he was born and until his calling he happily played the part that had been earmarked for him before his birth. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes with him last September in London. Unforgettable.

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