Categorized | In Memoriam

Tribute to the late Anton Perera – Peterite Sports Star

Posted on 15 April 2014 by admin


Time spent with him was always joyous

At 6’2” in height, weighing over 220 pounds and running in to bowl at a speed which was good enough to earn a place for him in the 200 metres at the Junior Athletics Nationals was a frightening sight for any batsman let alone a school boy batsman sans helmet, chest guards, arm guards or thigh guards and only pads and the proverbial cricketing ‘fig leaf’ to protect himself.

As a school boy Anton Perera at his best bowled at speeds close to 140 kph with the ability to get a good length ball to bounce sharply and crash into the batsman’s chin.

His bowling was legendary and he was probably the best pace bowling prospect Sri Lanka had at that time in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and as a close follower of the game, I feel, the best ever pace (as against fast medium) bowling prospect Sri Lanka has produced. Denis Lillie style he believed fitness and stamina to be an important part of a pace bowlers arsenal and practiced accordingly.

Space will not permit me to document all his bowling fetes, but his epic 7 for 11 against S.Thomas’ Mount Lavinia reducing the Thomians to a total of 39 for 9 at end of play needs to be mentioned. Those who witnessed Anton’s bowling that day were a privileged lot.

Anton Perera Young & OldBy: Rontjen Perera School-mate, team-mate and friend.

His formidable skills at cricket may have brought him glamour and fame but athletics was his forte. A sprinter and a “Pentathlete” in his early teens, Anton moved on to field events later specialising in the throws, putt, javelin and the discuss winning the Public Schools Championship in the putt and javelin many times. He represented the ‘Ceylon’ Schools Athletics Team which toured Australia in the late 1950’s. His crowning moment in athletics was as a junior when he led the St. Peter’s College Junior Athletic team to victory and the Junior Tarbet at the Public Schools Athletics Championship in 1957. No Peterite Junior team has done this again.

Anton died on February 21 at West Hills Hospital, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, USA. He was 72.

When an iconic sports personality of Anton’s stature passes away it is natural to focus on such a person’s achievements on the field. To his family and close friends what he displayed in life later was far more notable.

I was also an early recipient of his gentle touch. We both were junior athletes practicing hard for the Pubs, ending practice each day at 6.30 p.m. and I had to travel down South reaching home each day well after 8 p.m. Anton realising this was a humanly impossible task obtained his parents’ permission and invited me to stay with him, which I did for almost two years. Living under the same roof I realised that Anton’s story did not begin with him being selected to play for the 1st Eleven Cricket team at the age of 14 or his sterling performances as an athlete at the same age. It began when he was a toddler. I wondered why his mother always referred to him as the ‘miracle boy’ and one day I gathered sufficient courage to ask her why, ‘Miracle Boy’?

Her heart rending story was one of remarkable faith and devotion, a story which is common knowledge today, yet worth repeating. As a child Anton had been diagnosed with a serious disability with a final prognosis that Anton will never be able to walk. The only hope she said was prayer and pray they did for a long period of time until one fine day on a pilgrimage to a Catholic Shrine in Southern India whilst performing the ‘Way of the Cross’ uphill, Anton who was wearing braces on one leg and dragging himself along had suddenly started to run uphill. We all know that Anton never stopped running thereafter.

Anton was the product of beautiful and enlightened parenting where religion was not overbearingly present yet practiced in a highly devout manner and where a culture of humility and respect for fellow human beings irrespective of their place or position in life prevailed. The goodness that emanated from that house was also my good fortune to experience. It was therefore not surprising for me to understand how and from where he had inherited such caring ways, being a devoted father, loving husband and a true friend. He was a devout Catholic to his last day.

He shared his saddest moments when tragedy struck in the cruelest form with his closest friends too just the way he reveled in the remarkable achievements of his children, specially when his son Joey, who continued the sporting traditions of the family albeit on softer terrain as a world class swimmer who missed out on selection to the US Olympic swimming team by just a fraction of a second. Later when Joey gained admission to West Point and was Commissioned an Officer in the US Army and had the honour of being sent to Sri Lanka with a US Military delegation, Anton was on cloud 9.

Time spent with Anton was always joyous and light hearted because there was no intrigue, no jealousy, no envy or anger in him. Anton is survived by Marlene his wife of over 50 years, son Joey, daughters Charlene and Cheryl and sister Laurel . To all of them and eight grandchildren, my wife Rani and I extend our condolences.

Let us not mourn Anton’s passing. Let’s celebrate a wonderful life!

Farewell “Parfait Knight”, rest peacefully in the arms of Jesus.


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