Categorized | In Memoriam

Fr. Joe de Mel was a Josephian legend

Posted on 24 March 2014 by admin

Fr.-Joe-March-22532dbe9d59046.jpgRev. Fr.Joe de Mel who passed away last week was a blue blooded Josephian, as blue as they came. He was an outstanding cricketer at the Darley Road school and many were his achievements that are etched in the record books of Josephian cricket. Unusual, I would add for men of the cloth. Standing over six feet, Fr. Joe was a feared fast medium bowler, a brilliant fielder quick of eye and a twinkle toed batsman who did not respect any bowling attack when he was wielding the willow.

By Elmo Rodrigopulle

According to my former colleague and Old Josephian M.J.M. Aka ‘Zorro’, Zarook who watched Fr.Joe performing for St.Joseph’s said he was a stylist in batting and played under Malcolm de Costsa and Neil Weerasinghe. His brother Cletus was a hard hitting opening batsman. Fr.. Joe would certainly have sported the country’s colours in cricket, had not the call from god come to shed pads and bat and join in the vineyard serve the lord and give praise and spread the gospel of the Lord. But Fr.Joe did not lose his thirst and hunger for the game he loved best and played with great respect. He would never miss a ‘stag nite’ and Joe-Pete big match and when invited to do commentary on radio did so with great knowledge and aplomb. Fr.Joe gave up playing cricket when he joined the seminary. Had he continued, he would have been Sri Lanka’s Rev.David Sheppard who donned pads for England when in robes.

Fr. Joe who hailed from an illustrious family was Chairman, ‘Samata Sarana’, former Vicar General, Archdiocese of Colombo, former Rector, National Seminary, Ampitiya.

A little anecdote – On the eve of our wedding day, the priest who was to say our wedding mass and give us in marriage Fr. Amirthapillai could not be contacted because he had gone on holiday to Nuwara Eliya. I was running around. But my Sports Editor at that time in the ‘Times’ Ramsay Zieglaar managed to contact Fr.Rufus Benedict who was then in charge of Peterite cricket who promised to do the needful. When I nervously arrived at St. Mary’s Church, Bambalapitiya where our marriage was to be solemnized, hey presto there was Fr. Amirthapillai, and standing by were Fr. Rufus Benedict and Fr. Joe de Mel. Fr. Rufus and Fr. Joe were aware of my achievements at cricket, having captained St.Benedict’s College and taking a hat trick against St.Peter’s College when Fr.Rufus was master in charge and five wickets against St.Joseph’s whose cricket Fr.Joe would not miss and were on the ready to help out. He respected the “googly” that I had bowled to my wife Gina!

Fr.Joe was laid to rest on Monday at Kanatte. May the turf that he walked with great distinction and respect lie softly on him. Our deepest sympathies to his family and all his loved ones.


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