Leo Rajendra ~ Class of 1970
Departed ~ 11/9/2012 ~ Heart Failure
The Rajendra family would like to thank you (ISB Class of 1970, ISB Class of 1973, ISB Alumni, individual ISBers, and other friends), for the spectacular flowers and gifts sent for Leo Rajendra’s memorial service last Saturday, November17, in Virginia, and for your kind words, condolences, notes, and support. Leo prayed every night and we know he loved you all and was honored in turn by all your love.
The Rajendra family is sad to announce the death of Leo S. Rajendra on November 9th, 2012 in Virginia, USA of a heart attack following back surgery.
Leo was born in Jaffna, Ceylon on January 20, 1951 and was a student at ISB from 1963 to 1970 when he moved to the United States to complete his studies in Criminology (B.A.) and Public Administration (M.A.). His career over the past four decades covered work as a criminologist with various southern Californian police departments and subsequently as a technology expert for various government and private institutions in the U.S.A.
Leo followed in his father’s footsteps and was one of International School of Bangkok’s (ISB) top athletes and played an active part of various sports teams during his years there.
Leo (“Baba” was his family nickname) was a spiritual and intellectual man with a unique sense of humor and told exotic stories that made one laugh. He had a kind heart and was generous with his time and money to offer help to others in need. As many ISBers know well, Leo had a zest for life and always opted to live life to the fullest rather than to lead a mundane life.
Leo leaves behind his wife Margaret Henderson, his son Justin Rajendra, and daughter Dr. Malika Rajendra (all of Georgia); his youngest sister Angeline Rajendra Behrend (of Maryland); eldest brother Ernest Rajendra (of California); youngest brother Eric Rajendra (of France); his nieces Tabatha Rajendra (of California) and Rachel Behrend (of Maryland), nephew David Behrend (of Maryland); his in-laws Juana Rajendra (of California), Kirk Harrison (of California), Richard Behrend (of Maryland), Michael Bronfen (of France); various relatives and friends all over the world.
Memorial services were held on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 at Cunningham Turch Funeral Home in Alexandria, Virginia. Cherished friends from the International School of Bangkok as well as the local community and family were present to wish him farewell with much love. The Rajendra family would like to thank you (ISB Class of 1970, ISB Class of 1973, ISB Alumni, individual ISBers, and other friends), for the spectacular flowers and gifts sent for his memorial service and for your kind words, condolences, notes, and support. The memorial service ended with a song from the group ABBA (I Have a Dream) we joined in singing for Leo since he loved this song and it symbolized his spirit in both his life and in his parting.
LEO SELVARAJAN BABA RAJENDRA
(Jan 20, 1951 – Nov 9, 2012)
A belated tribute by Agnes Thambynayagam (nee Francis)
Leo Rajendra, my husband Michael Thambynayagam and I were members of the 1960s teen generation; a generation baptized as the rebellious generation. This decade emanated many hallmarks of the best and the worst of mankind in recent memory. Despite the turbulent past of this decade, I consider our formative years in Jaffna as a blessing. It was not the age of the internet; our main news outlet to the outside world was Radio Ceylon. This media brought breathtaking news such as man landing on the moon, the marvel of music – the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel and the Woodstock rock festival characterizing the free spirit of that decade. It also brought home the horrors of the Vietnam war, the gravity of the Cuban missile crises when the world was at the brink of a nuclear war and the paralyzing sadness that griped far corners of the world following the assassination of beloved men John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. During this decade, I studied at Holy Family Convent, Girls’ School. Michael and Leo studied at St Patrick’s College, Boys’ School. Both schools were private Catholic Schools in Jaffna, the capital of Tamil speaking people in Sri Lanka. We were a closely-knit Catholic community. In fact, as a society, we were an enclave within the Jaffna-Peninsula. Now in the twilight of my life, I call this chapter as the last season of innocence.
It is against this background Michael and I first met Leo Rajendra who left an indelible mark in our life. Reminiscing in the past, Leo brings back a poignant moment in Michael’s life which captured the essence of Leo’s life; a life of unconditional giving.
Leo Selvarajan Rajendra was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka on January 20, 1951 to Ponnudurai Emmanuel Rajendra and Hilda Pushparatnam Rajendra as their second child. Leo was introduced to his older brother Ernest as ‘Baba’, which meant baby. Baba became Leo’s nick name. Leo studied elementary and middle school at St Patrick’s College, Jaffna. In December 1963, Leo moved to Bangkok with his family where he continued his middle and high school education at the International School of Bangkok. After finishing high school at the ISB, Leo moved to the USA for university education. He married his sweetheart Margaret Henderson in California. Leo and Margaret were blessed with a son Justin and a daughter Malika. The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1987. Leo’s grandchildren Rayna, Aaliyah and Julian were born after Leo left this world. Leo was not only an outstanding student, but he also became a respected athlete. He worked as a successful criminologist and technology expert in California and Georgia.
Leo’s father P E Rajendra was a teacher, coach and director of physical education and athletics at the International School of Bangkok, Thailand since 1962 until his death in 1972. The ISB honored their beloved teacher by naming their main Gymnasium as ‘Rajendra Hall’. Rajendra was born in Malacca, Malaysia in 1920 into a Tamil Roman Catholic family. His parents sent him to Sri Lanka to have his school education at Jaffna St Patrick’s College. After graduating from school, Rajendra taught geography and athletics at St Patrick’s College from 1940 to 1942. In 1943 Rajendra joined St John’s College, an Anglican Private School for boys as their Sports Master. In 1945, he was hired as the Ceylon National Athletic Coach. Rajendra entered the University of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1950 to get his Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued his university studies at the University of Iowa in the USA with a full scholarship after he won National championship in hurdles and other sporting activities. He obtained his Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1951 in Physical Education. In 1962, Rajendra left Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to Thailand to work as the Director of Physical Education and Athletics at the International School of Bangkok. The family joined him at the end of school year in 1963.
Leo’s father P E Rajendra was a teacher, coach and director of physical education and athletics at the International School of Bangkok, Thailand since 1962 until his death in 1972. The ISB honored their beloved teacher by naming their main Gymnasium as ‘Rajendra Hall’. Rajendra was born in Malacca, Malaysia in 1920 into a Tamil Roman Catholic family. His parents sent him to Sri Lanka to have his school education at Jaffna St Patrick’s College (A Catholic Private School). After graduating from school, Rajendra taught geography and athletics at St Patrick’s College from 1940 to 1942. In 1943 Rajendra joined St John’s College (An Anglican Private School) as their Sports Master. In 1945, he was hired as the Ceylon National Athletic Coach. Rajendra entered the University of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1950 to get his Bachelor of Arts degree. He continued his university studies at the University of Iowa in the USA with a full scholarship after he won National championship in hurdles and other sporting activities. He obtained his Master of Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1961 in Physical Education.
In 1962, Rajendra left Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to Thailand to work as the director of physical education and athletics at the International School of Bangkok. The family joined him at the end of school year in 1963.
The article ‘The Roaring Forties – War & Aftermath writes about Leo’s famous Dad P E Rajendra who taught at St Patrick’s College and then at St John’s College. It states, “1944 was the year in which those who were fortunate to witness the Inter Collegiate Athletic meet will never forget it. The St. Patrick’s team had been winning the championship for the previous 10 years and were considered invincible. The Johnians were improving and had been runners-up to them the last two years. In 1944 they were being coached by Mr. P. E. Rajendra who was determined to make his team champions. . .. Later in life he went on to become a National Athletic Coach and was one of those who helped N. Ethirweerasingam to break the Asian Games High Jump record at Tokyo in 1958 in winning the Gold Medal for Ceylon.”
Victor Cherubim writes, “Master P E Rajendra was a mentor, teacher and Sports Master of mine at St Patrick’s College when Fr T M F Long was the Rector. He was an inspiration to Master S F Santiapillai who went to study Library Science and the Dewey system of cataloging in the United States. Master Rajendra at the turn of the Fifties, had propagated the dream of what one could do to excel in Sports in the States. He helped N. Edirveerasingam, a Centralite and Ceylon record holder High Jumper, to train in the United States. I am proud to state that Master Rajendra sowed the seed in my mind to enable me to apply for scholarship later to study in the USA.” Basil Patrick writes, “I attended the Group athletic meet held at Jaffna College in 1960 with Leo where his Dad was the chief guest and I received my certificate from him”.
Leo’s mother Mrs Rajendra was a Protestant and had her education at Uduvil Girl’s College, a private Protestant Girls’ School at Uduvil, Jaffna. She was the English teacher in the primary school at St Patrick’s College until the end of school year in 1963. Leo’s classmate George Francis writes, “Leo Rajendra and I sat side by side in fourth grade. We were given separate little desks and green chairs. We became good friends. Leo’s mother Mrs Rajendra taught English to us. Leo looked exactly like his mother. Mrs Rajendra was a sweet teacher that we all loved her very much”. Another classmate Chelvanayagam writes, “Rajendra Family lived three houses away from my house and I knew the whole family. His father was a professional coach and his mother was a teacher. I walked to school with Leo.” Other classmates at St Patrick’s college also fondly remember Leo and their beloved English teacher Mrs Rajendra.
Leo’s family lived at Crosault Road near St Mary’s Cathedral in Jaffna. Leo’s older brother Ernest Rajendra studied at St John’s College where his father taught. Leo and his younger brother Eric Rajendra attended school at St Patrick’s College where their mother taught. Leo’s younger sisters Christine Indrani Girlie Rajendra (Harrison) and Angeline Rajendra (Behrend) studied at Holy Family Convent, a private Catholic School for girls in Jaffna where I also studied. My family lived at Eachchamoddai, Jaffna since 1959 and I used to pass their house every day when I walked to school. My sister Vimala was in Christine’s class and my sister Antenet was in Angeline’s class.
In December 1962, Michael Thambynayagam’s family moved from Colombo to Jaffna. Leo was Michael’s classmate in 1963 at St Patrick’s College. Michael suffered from infant poliomyelitis and consequently walked with a limp. Leo understood the difficulties Michael faced, especially with his physical disabilities, adopting to a new environment. I guess Leo saw a bit of his sister Christine, who also suffered from poliomyelitis, in Michael. At St Patrick’s college Leo became Michael’s closest friend. In 1963, everyday Leo would stop by Michael’s house to give a pillion ride in his bicycle to school; and then, he would of course, drop him back after school. When parents allowed them, they would spend the weekend roaming the streets of Jaffna in a bicycle—Leo doing the hard pedaling. Leo was determined to help Michael ride a bicycle which he accomplished before he left for Bangkok in December 1963.
Leo continued his middle school and high school education at the International School of Bangkok participating in both indoor and outdoor games. He was an all-star player at the ISB who won many first and second places in the track and field events, table tennis, tennis and badminton. Leo was the captain of the Volleyball team. He also played soccer and cricket. His siblings also attended the International school of Bangkok. Leo’s mother who taught for a short period in Bangkok decided to stay home and take care of her five children.
After Leo successfully completed his high school education in Bangkok in 1970, his parents sent him to the United States of America for further education. During freshman year at the University of California, Long Beach, Leo met a beautiful student Margaret Henderson at an off-campus dorm on her first day at the University. Leo helped Margaret to find her way at the campus. Soon, they became good friends taking common classes together at the University. In August 1972, Leo’s father suddenly died of heart attack while visiting Sri Lanka, an event that not only brought irreplaceable loss, but also financial hardship to Leo. After his father’s death, Leo struggled to pay his College fee. At this time University of Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas welcomed Leo as a student offering financial assistance. Leo obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology from Sam Houston University in 1974.
After graduation from Sam Houston University, Leo returned to California and married his sweetheart Margaret Henderson. After marriage, Leo obtained MA degree in Public Administration at the University of California in Los Angeles. Leo and Margaret were blessed with a handsome son Justin and a beautiful daughter Malika. In 1976, Leo’s mother moved to California to live closer to her daughter Christine and son Leo. Leo’s beloved mother Hilda Rajendra enjoyed spending her last days with her two-year-old grandson Justin Rajendra before passing away on December 18, 1980. Leo worked as a criminologist in California for several years. In 1987, Leo, Margaret and their two children Justin and Malika moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Leo worked as a technology expert for various government and private institutions in Georgia. Margaret worked for Delta Air line as a software engineer.
Leo’s children are bright and active just like their parents. Justin Rajendra graduated from the University of Johns Hopkins with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience in 2004. He worked for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University for several years with more than 23 publications. Currently, Justin does neuroscience research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at Washington DC. Malika graduated from high school in 2004 in Tyrone, Georgia and then from the University of Georgia with a BS in Microbiology with honors in 2007. Malika then graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in 2012 with an Optometric Doctorate a few months before her beloved father Leo Rajendra died of heart attack. The proud dad Leo helped his loving daughter Malika with her first resume to get her first job. Dr Malika Rajendra currently works at Browns Eye Center in Warner Robins Georgia.
David Elder of International School of Bangkok writes, “Leo was a powerful and exciting soul to be around. I have two ping pong paddles built in the original Chinese high spin style that came to dominate the world of ping pong in the seventies. I was then and am now a very good ping pong player. Leo gave the paddles to me. Leo is also a storyteller. He told me a wild story at a reunion that occurred my Junior/Senior year in the High School in Bangkok during 1968-69.”
David Wilkerson, the Director of Reunions, at ISB writes, “I too was a good friend of Leo at the International School of Bangkok. Leo had a huge personality and is sorely missed by all at our biennial reunions. I have forwarded your email on to Leo’s brother Ernest. Thank you Agnes for being so kind and remembering Leo so beautifully.” David Wilkerson connected me with Leo’s family.
Eddie Ferdinand of Jaffna St Patrick’s College posted the photograph of Leo, Michael and Basil Patrick in his alumni circulation. Patrician Arulnayagam forwarded Eddie Ferdinand’s ‘Intersector’ news that carried Leo’s photograph with Michael to his cousin Angeline Rajendra. After seeing the photograph, Leo’s sister Angeline contacted us and spoke to me and Michael.
Angeline Rajendra writes, “Agnes, I’m so happy that you found this photo and that you found us (Leo’s family) as well. Leo was a generous and fun person and we are all still sad about his passing. He would have been so happy to see Michael again and see you too! Thanks for the nice long talk and for providing us with more stories of Leo’s kindness when he was only 12 years old.
Leo’s daughter Malika writes, “My father had a personality larger than life and had a lasting impact on so many people. I talked to him on the phone every single Wednesday before his passing. He taught me many life lessons and he prayed every morning with me on the way to school and I do the same with my own daughters today. Thank you again Agnes because you have made me stop and reflect about a lot of things.”
Many at St Patrick’s College have fond memories of Leo and often wondered what happened to him. Therefore, I have written this short account of Leo and those who played an inextricable role in his life. My narrative is based on the information I collated from Leo’s sister Angeline, wife Margaret, children Justin and Malika, brothers Ernest and Eric and Leo’s friends David Wilkerson and David Elder.
My father Ligory Francis (Master) is very proud seeing me from Heaven that he had taught his daughter how to honor a person through writing. My mother Regina and my mother in law Theresa are also happy that I’m continuing to write. My father in law B P A Thambynayagam who is also extremely happy about my writing once said: “One only dies when the last person on earth stops thinking about him”. Dear Leo, you shall not be forgotten. You will live in our hearts and minds for a long time to come. Rest in Peace!
Please send pictures (old and new), anecdotes, articles, stories and tributes to isbeings at gmail dot com