Our Beginning

Mrs. Nora Bartholomeusz, wife of the late Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz, expired on the 13th April 2003, aged 92. According to her wishes she was cremated at the General Cemetery Kanatte on the 14th of April. She had a private funeral.

I had not met Nora until the year 2000 when she expressed a desire to meet the incumbent President of The College of Surgeons to discuss an “urgent and private matter”. I was the President.

My previous association with Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz was that he was the surgeon under whom I had my first clinical appointment in surgery. My only prior visit to his residence at 6, Independence Avenue, Colombo 7, was when my brother and I accompanied my mother there, for a consultation. I was given the task of handing over the surgeon’s fee in a brown envelope which I did with the termerity of a novice, a light sweat on my forehead and upper lip and a racing pulse rate. My brother has often repeated  Dr. Bartholomeusz’s reply. “I do not take money from doctors, thank you”.

“But sir,” I had said, “I am only a medical student”.
“Well,” he had smiled. “You will eventually become one”.

Memories of this incident flooded my mind together with memories of the emotions this response and prediction had produced in all three of us, as I entered the house.

I met a most gracious and dignified lady. She broke the ice immediately with a laugh saying, “I expected to see a stern looking character, but what a surprise”.
The issue she had wanted to discuss was the gifting of her extremely valuable, virtually priceless, house to The College of Surgeons of Sri Lanka. “Noel and I have no children and no near relatives in Sri Lanka”, she said. And then expressed a desire to gift this property to the College of Surgeons. She stipulated that no part of it should be sold. Eventually the property was to be named the “The Noel and Nora Bartholomeusz Foundation”.

It was obvious she had given this decision of hers considerable thought, but I told her that I would come back later for further discussions. These took place over the next few months. It was during this time period and thereafter that I came to know Nora as a person.

She was shy and reserved but had a very sharp mind. No hint of nuance could get past her. She abhorred publicity and did not want any publicity given even to a simple ceremony where the Deed of Gift was signed before the lawyers, the executors of her will and a few members of the Council. She consented to having a few photographs taken and that was it. During this ceremony and over subsequent conversations, she often recalled that Noel and she had discussed the property and that Noel’s wish was that, if possible, one the property should go to the College of Surgeons. She appeared relieved and pleased that this wish was fulfilled.

By Prof. A H Sheriffdeen