Captain Harry Rathnapala Hatharasinghe (89)
Posted on August 24th, 2018

By Walter Jayawardhana Los Angeles Correspondent

Captain Harry Rathnapala Hatharasinghe (89), a patriarch of the Sri Lankan American community in Los Angeles has passed away according to his family. Ailing for a few weeks at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, the leader of many Sri Lankan and Buddhist activities in the area departed due to natural causes.

Hatharasinghe who came to Los Angeles as an immigrant in 1964 left his career as a pilot for Air Ceylon and joined Pan American Air Lines. During this time, he contributed his time and energy in establishing the Sri Lanka America Association. Mr. Hatharasinghe also became the founder and secretary of the Sri Lankan American Buddha Dhamma society, which was responsible for establishing the first Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles.

Harry Hatharasinghe received his pilot training in Melbourne, Australia. However, after finishing his education at Ananda College and Pembrock Higher Educational Academy in Colombo Sri Lanka, he was ironically trained as a versatile Kandyan dancer by the world famous Heen Baba Dharmasiri along with his wife Suddharma. The couple has even performed in front of members of the Japanese royal family. Captain Hatharasinghe became part of history after organizing the first Kandy perahara in Los Angeles with the participation of an elephant.

He always fearlessly stood for the independence, integrity, and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and fought against the recent separatist enemies of the country. He was for a time president of the Sinhala Defense League which was at the forefront of the struggle. The cultural leader organized anti Elam rallies in Los Angeles and San Francisco and has participated in meetings pertaining to this matter in Athens Georgia.

The San Francisco rally received wide publicity in the US press. The Los Angeles rally included an elephant with a huge placard critiquing India and the LTTE. This particular rally made it to the front page of the Los Angeles Daily News.

When the Hope ship sailed to Sri Lanka with hundreds of nurses, doctors, and surgical technicians as part of a cultural and technical exchange program, a great communication gap had to be filled between the English speaking US citizens and the Sri Lankans.  With the recommendation of the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington DC, Harry Hatharasinghe was selected to teach the Americans the Sinhalese language and culture onboard the ship.  He has been well featured in the culminating book published by the Hope mission for his contributions as a cultural ambassador.

Harry Hatharasinghe was known to everybody as a man of principles who never abandoned them for cheap popularity. He was an example not only to his three sons but also to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. They were brought up as true Buddhists.  At times he volunteered to teach dhamma at Sarathchandra Buddhist Center in Los Angeles and was a regular at the temple.  He was instrumental in getting the Sinhala Tripitaka for the temple library. According to the temple monks, he volunteered to guide the whole temple as an experienced elder.

He is survived by his beloved wife Sudharma, his sons and daughters-in-law: Rohan, Manomi, Dr. Roshan (Roger), Sriyani, and Rabi, grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law: Krishan, Priya, Sriyanthi, Aaron, Teshan, Vershan, Dr. Ashan, Shahan, Sunaly, and Anjallie, great grandchildren: Mckayla, Kylan, Jai, Maya, and Kiara. He is also survived by his two younger sisters Mallika Wijesinghe and Swarna De Silva.

He was preceded in death by his brothers Chandra and Siripala Hatharasinghe and by his beloved sister Sujatha Batugedera

                                                                                            By Walter Jayawardhana

                                                                                            Los Angeles Correspondent

                                                                                            August 7, 2018

 

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