Former rugby captain Rohan Wiratunga passes away

Tributes flow from school mates for popular sportsman of the ’70s.

Peterites the world over have been deeply saddened by the passing of former college rugby captain Rohan Wiratunga in Los Angeles on Friday, October 18.

Rohan was hospitalised after a severe heart attack on September 28 but, despite a brave fight, did not recover. At the time of his passing he worked at Miracle Mile Properties, in the Greater Los Angeles area, performing a broad range of Financial, Operational, Auditing and Management functions for the Real Estate, Manufacturing, Energy, Distribution and Service industries.

He graduated from California State University-Northridge with a BSc, Managerial Accounting.

Rohan excelled as an all-round sportsman at St Peter’s College in the early 1970s. He was a member of the St Peter’s all-island champion rugby team, led by Jeffrey de Jong, in 1972, and then captained college to another championship in 1973. In the same year, Rohan captained the Colombo Schools team against the visiting Nomads team from Great Britain, in what turned out to be a thrilling contest.

His close friend, Charinde Perera, who also resides in LA, shared his memories of that game: “Colombo Schools was leading until about two minutes before the game ended when the Nomads scored and won it. Nomads were much bigger, taller and stronger and they were favorites to win it big. It was the best rugby game I remember witnessing while I was in Sri Lanka. The Colombo school players gave it their all.”

Rohan’s Peterite teammate Frank Hubert described him as an outstanding centre, who saw gaps that no one else saw.

Frankie said: “I was guided into Rohan’s team in 1973 and played fly-half instead of full-back and together Rohan and I formed a great partnership. We beat all in our way except that fateful day when I hit the crossbar in the last minute again Trinity and we lost 10-9.

“After the game, Rohan and Nalyn’s parents hosted a dinner for the team and I was feeling very low, often in tears. My captain, Rohan, came and sat with me and told me to pull myself together and stand tall; to never look back on sadness but to work harder and move forward.”

Tributes have flowed in from all quarters, with the general theme being a feeling sadness tinged with admiration and love for a great and respected Peterite sportsman and kind-hearted person. Comments are posted below in our condolence page that has been set up for the Peterite community to pay their respects.

Rohan leaves behind his wife, Gigi Zamora, and four sons.

A family service will be held on Friday, October 25, at Crawford Mortuary from 9-11 a.m. at 8717 Tampa Ave, Northridge. The cremation will follow at noon at Grandview Memorial Park at Crematory at 1341 Glenwood Road, Glendale. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 9, at 10am at St John Eudes Catholic Church at 9907 Mason Ave. Chatsworth.

 

The 1972 St Peter’s rugby team that won the schools’ championship.

The Colombo Schools team, with Rohan Wiratunga, in white jersey, seated at far right. The opposition was the Nomads from England.

 


May his soul rest in peace and love to his family.

– Peter Fernando

Very sad to see Rohan go, Rohan was a dear friend to us all, I will always remember Rohan for what he did for me. I remember when I opened batting for Peter House playing against Maurice, I hadn’t a bat so I went up to Rohan and ask him if I could borrow his lovely Grey Nicholls bat. Without any hesitation he offered the bat and I opened the innings with Frank Hubert and scored 32 runs. Rohan played in the 2nd Eleven cricket team against St Thomas’s Kotte at the College grounds. I was number 12 in the selected team of 11;  Rohan told me that he had a late Friday night and was tired to play the match. I said to Rohan if he felt tired he could come in so I could get a chance to field which he did nearly after 15 overs. Fielding at mid-off, I took a high rising catch, and from there onwards I played for the 2nd Eleven. I sincerely thank Rohan for giving me a chance to field and his sportsmanship.  Rohan’s sportsmanship went a long way and I would say he was a legend and kind-hearted gentleman.  My condolence goes out to his family and may his soul rest in peace. May God bless and protect his family during this difficult time.

– Peter Deckker

My deepest sympathies to Rohan’s family. His brother Nalyn and I were classmates. A few years back I met them all in Los Angeles.

– Marlon Ranasingha

Chari, remember, we used to force Rohan to buy ‘Faluda’ (Glass Rs.1 each) after practices from the Bombay Sweet Mart. Thanks for taking me all the way to his residence to see him when I visited you in Los Anglees a couple of years ago. May his soul rest in peace.

– Srinath Wijeyaratne

Rohan was a huge inspiration to me, after my near fatal accident in 1972 and on the way back to normal life and a sports career.  I will never forget that. Please convey, our heartfelt sympathies and assurance of our prayers, to his family and the loved ones.

– Don Rukantha

My deepest sympathies to the dear and near ones of the family. May he rest in peace with our Lord Jesus Christ.

– Nalin Caldera

Rohan, a true gentleman, left his mark on the rugby field and fond memories in hearts of all who knew him. It was a privilege and an honour to have known and associated with him. May his soul rest in peace. Our deepest sympathies to his near and dear loved ones.

– Roshan Goonetileke

Our deepest sympathies to the Wiratunga family. It is a great loss for all Peterites. May the Good Lord grant strength and courage in this difficult period. May his soul Rest In Peace!

– Rohan Leonidas

I last spoke to Rohan on Skype a few years ago and thanked him for his great support and all he said was: “I guided you Frankie, you did the rest. These words I used all my life to the guys I played with and coached as well as in life. Thank you, Rohan, and may you enjoy now your time with your beautiful mum and dad in heaven. Legends are not made they are born. Rohan you were a legend.

– Frank Hubert

 

My condolences go out to Rohan’s family at this sorrowful time. Our wish is that he is in a better place smiling down on us lesser mortals.

– Tilak Fernando