Anton Perera: the legend will live on

The exploits of fiery fast bowler Anton Perera. has been part of St Peter’s  cricketing folklore which has been passed down through the generations. Anton passed away this week and is being mourned by the Peterite community the world over. Upali Obeyesekere, President of  JPAA Canada, has penned this tribute with assistance from Rontjen Perera – a close friend of Anton’s.

News has just reached us of the passing of ANTON PERERA – a Peterite legend of the 1950s going into the ‘60s. Anton was in a coma for the last two to three  in a Los Angeles Hospital, arising from a complicated medical condition. Sadly, he passed away on the morning of February 20, in hospital, surrounded by his beloved wife Marlene, only son Yohan (Joey) and daughters Charlene and Cheryl . Funeral services are not known as at time of writing. Anton has lived in Southern California since 1962, one of the early settlers to the U.S. from Sri Lanka.

Anthony V. Perera, fondly known as “Anton” was a legend at St. Peter’s College. He was one of the most celebrated sports icons who left an indelible mark on the Peterite landscape. . He was a prolific athlete, exceptional cricketer and also played rugby until his coach Jackie van Twest advised him not to play as it would hurt his athletics. Anton was also a good tennis player and his father was a tennis player of national repute.

In athletics, Anton was a Publics School champion in the field events and did the sprint relays as well. This was the time college had a crack athletics team. In 1957, He captained the junior athletics team which went on to win the Junior Tarbat at the Public Schools Championships in 1957. Desmond Moraes, Rontjen Perera and Linus Jayewardene (since departed) were the other members of the team. Some names of Peterite athletes during his time who come to mind are Ranjit Wijeyesekere, Ranjit Weerasena, David Van Dort, Errol de Silva, brothers Andrew and Godfrey Goonetilleke, Rontjen Perera, E.L. Fernando, N.B. Wilson, Didacus de Almeida, Roger Wright, Kevin Ruberu, Vinitha Rakajaruna, Elmo Perera, Carlyle Rudolph, Ranjith Alwis, brothers Winston and Stafford Tambimuttu, and a host of others of repute who later went on to join Ace Athletic Club or CT & FC.

Anton dabbled with rugby and played for college as a wing three-quarter – much to the displeasure of athletics coach Jackie Van Twest.

But it was at cricket that Anton was best known. His baptism into the First XI was in 1957, at the age of 15, under the captaincy of Jayantha Fernando. In the big match, Anton clean bowled opener Claude Perera and then took out two prolific Josephian batsmen Priya Perera and Tissa de Soysa. He had match figures of 3 for 69 in his first big match that was drawn. Anton played from 1957 to 1960. St. Peter’s were captained by Russel Duckworth in 1958, Brian Seneviratne in 1959, and Premasiri Athukorale in 1960.

I cannot remember which year, but Anton caused a sensation at the St Peter’s-Ananda game one year. He took 8 wickets for 21 and at least six Anandian players were injured. At this time, he was rated the fastest schoolboy bowler in Ceylon, with Ananda’s Sonny Yatawara a close second. Anton’s opening partners were Maurice Deckker (1960), Desmond Dharmaraja (1958-1959) and Anton Paulpillai (1957). Anton best partnered with Maurice Deckker when the Peterites had the most fiery opening bowling attack at the time in school cricket.

Cricket at St. Peter`s enjoyed a great period in the ‘50s and ‘60s  – there was a galaxy of stars who played for college.

Anton`s teammates who played alongside him are shown below:

1957 – David Muthumani, Nihal Wijesena, Darrel De Silva, Jayantha Fernando, Brian Seneviratne, Russel Duckworth, Lakshman Serasinghe, Premasiri Athukorale, Christy Marthalingam, Anton Paulpillai.

1958 – Randy Layman, Adiel Anghie, Desmond Dharmaraja, Elmo Gunasekara.

1959 – Richard Alles, Mark de Silva, Richard Heyn, Tyrone Le Mercier.

1960 – Maurice Deckker, Didacus de Almeida.

Anton played club cricket for the Sinhalese Sports Club while in school. He left for the United States in 1962, and lived in Southern California with his wife Marlene (primary school teacher at college) and their three children. He was involved in developing and promoting cricket in southern California in the 1960s and played locally with Dr Tony Don Michael (another Peterite), M.L. Idroos (S,. Thomas’), Dr C. Balakrishnan (Jaffna Hindu), and a host of other players who made California their home in the post-sixties.

Nihal Perera, a Peterite of my vintage who now lives in the US has sent in this comment. Very sad to hear he is no more. Still remember him almost skittling out St Thomas’ in their second innings ending at 39/9 (St Peter’s almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as they say) and he ended up with 7 for 11. Fr. Arthur Fernando called him on to the stage on theMonday after and presented him with a pair of bootlaces (since he had constant issues with the laces coming undone during his Herculean effort). Man with a big heart.”

A Peterite colleague of Anton’s – Kevin Ruberu (domiciled in Australia) says: Anton was one of the best sportsmen we ever had. He was on top of his cricket and athletics. In athletics, he was a superb all-rounder (shot putt, javelin, long jump, 100m sprint – he excelled at it all); I think he also played some tennis and rugby (not encouraged by Jackie Van Twest of course).”

 Anton visited Sri Lanka often and had many friends all over the world. He was one of the most popular sportsmen to emerge from St. Peter’s College. One distinct character trait that stood by Anton throughout his life is that he had a mind of his own. Most times, he was right in his convictions. He would call a spade, a spade and there was no “beating round the bush” with him. With Anton, it was a case of “what you see is what you get”. He was a good family man, a good human being, loyal to his multitude of friends and a very good Catholic to his dying days.

Marlene was the love of his life, and they were married for just over 50 years. He worked at 3-M for most of his life in Los Angeles and stayed in the Canoga Park area of Southern California. He leaves behind his beloved wife Marlene, and three children Yohan (Joey), Charlene and Cheryl.

May his soul Rest in Peace.

 Post a tribute to Anton Perera on the Peterites Reunited Blackboard.