Annouchka Weeratunga Fernando


One month later but still in shock and disbelief that such a dear friend as Annouchka is no more. I write these few words on behalf of some us who had the pleasure of working with her when we became a family at the Hilton Colombo. We beg you today and always to celebrate a life that brought happiness and joy to all of us over the years because that is what she would have wanted. While we each shared at different times of our lives a different relationship with Annou - as she was fondly known to all, each one of us have a similar tale to endorse.

Her life in this world began as a daughter who brought happiness to her parents, the late General Tissa Weeratunge and Sonia Weeratunge, and as a sister to two brothers who she doted on. They in turn were very fond of her despite playing the dutiful "brother role" in her youth which was a tough responsibility on them due to her innocent yet mischievous behaviour. Her days at school bonded her with many girlfriends all of who have remained as her best friends to date. Today, we bring you what some of us as colleagues at the Hilton Colombo thought of Annou. As for myself, when I walked into the Hilton, I had Annou sitting in the office beaming from ear to ear greeting me with a smile that couldn’t have been more genuine. From that very instant I knew I was going to have the best support anyone could wish for!

Our lives gelled like no other. Our office team grew. We launched the Lady Hilton Club. We took Public Relations to a different level, nothing like what was experienced ever before! We had a Graphics Department where we had our monthly communication meetings which often ended on a note where we devoured some goodies made by myself, an order from my team especially her which I simply had to adhere to!! There was Heather, GM Gamini Fernando’s Executive Secretary, who also partook in all our fun "dos’" and then there was Natalie the PR Secretary, Jackie and Deso who have now migrated to Canada and Australia respectively.

Sooner than later she roped in her best friend’s younger sister, Gigi, into the team, having convinced the late Mr.Gamini Fernando that Gigi would be the next best item in the Hilton’s PR team. So much so that within the year, we clinched the all Asia Best Public Relations within the chain! Though years older than Annou, our bond was hard to beat. In me she found an older sister she didn’t have, a friend, perhaps a second mother and of course a boss! We cried together, laughed together, and shared our saddest and difficult moments, each one advising each other when required. So much so that another colleague who worked in the Sales Department went to the extent of broadcasting to all that the PR Department better be renamed as Yasmin and the Wailers!

That was quoted by Theruni who walked in a year later and soon took the liberty to join our group and remains so to date despite all of us going our many ways over the years. Theruni also ended up as Annou’s bridesmaid at her wedding to Terrence who was her childhood sweetheart. Being the loyal friends that we were to Annou, we experienced trying times covering up for her as she had told her parents that she was faithfully following a "Highlights Programme" on a Saturday afternoon which was not quite true. While we prepared to leave for home, she instead dashed off to catch up with Terrence. While this was a match made in heaven, there is no doubt that Terrence fulfilled his marriage vows right to the very end and unconditionally!

Samanthi joined the Sales Team after Theru did, and none of us were sure how we were to take her into our so called group. But she found her way in, so much so that within the next few months she became a good buddy of Annouchka’s not realizing that she was soon to become an in law to Annou and not just the work buddy she was! In her heart, Annou always knew that Sam would be the ideal soul mate for her older brother. But she never bargained for a separation from this couple when Sam whisked her loku aiya many miles away to a country where she also had the privilege of visiting not too long ago. She thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with them on this visit. In December 2011, when Sam and Rohan came to spend Christmas in Colombo, Annou had organized one of the most memorable family trips to Habarana early January this year where Nadine another dear friend of Annou’s and her family joined in too.

During our years at the Hilton Colombo, Nadine operated out of Ramani’s hair salon, and all of us ran to her for our usual beauty needs. Soon, she also elevated herself and joined our circle of friends. Nadine has since become one of the strongest pillars of strength to us and in recent times closer to Annouchka than anyone else!

Where Annouchka was concerned, she was One Life with a zest to live, a laugh that could be heard in any neighbourhood or corridor, a team player at whatever level, great to watch on the netball field where she represented the hotel’s netball team, she was loyal, dedicated and a committed colleague.

To us, she isn’t gone, but remains an inspiration to all of us. Her later role in life which changed into being a loving wife to Terrence, an adoring mother to Arvinda and Amrita, a kind and caring daughter, a great sister and sister in law, will not be forgotten for a long time to come. She showed us how to fight an illness where there was no answer, really no cure, her courage braved her through more working years despite the frequent bouts of this illness but Annou always found a way to bounce back. Annouchka was a much loved person and this was evident by the numbers that flocked to the hospital on that fateful morning, praying for her in all faiths, while those beside her bed begged her to fight this illness one more time. But it was not to be. Annou was always only a call away helping all and sundry but now I have to go my way not having to hear her famous "Yassie girl – when are you next inviting us to your home? My children are insisting on coming too?" My response was "No problem Annou, you are welcome any time!" This always meant that the rest of the group came along too!

It is Terrence and his young family that we would all like to pray for and want to assure him that we will always be there for them, no matter when or whatever time or day!

Yasmin on behalf of Gigi, Theru, Sam, Nadine, Heather, Jackie, Natalie and Deso

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