Features - Sunday Island May 4 2003

Dr. Noel and Nora Bartholomeusz

by Deloraine Brohier


As I collect my thoughts for this piece of writing,following Noraís recent death, my mind goes back to the evenings my father and I spent with Dr. Noel Bartholomeusz and his wife Nora. Their home so elegant and beautiful, their hospitality so charming and gracious, it was sheer pleasure to be there. Conversation ranged over a variety of subjects - books and antiques, anecdotes of places and of mutual friends. Never a word there was that was ugly or harmful or hurtful to the people we knew. There was a warm glow that surrounded the four of us - as dusk settled over the well-tended garden and the birds took to their nests, when the soft lights within the sitting-room we sat in, came on.

I was of the younger generation but I wrapped myself and absorbed every word and soaked in the atmosphere of fellowship and friendship. Forever with me, will remain the memories of those evenings.

My first close contact with Dr. Noel was in the final illness of my mother, when he performed the last operation on her. Dr. Noel was also my fatherís surgeon and together with Dr. D. J. Attygalle, was quick at his bedside when needed. So as I had, many who knew him as their surgeon, will vividly recall the picture of Noel in his white tussore suit, an orchid from his garden on the lapel of his coat.

Dr. Noel passed away on the 25th of November 1977. Nora bravely continued in the style of living she had shared with Noel. The gracious colonial-styled house along Torrington Square, was always shiny with care, the valuable antique furniture, ornaments, rare blue and white plates and the paintings that adorned the walls, unchanged in their arrangement and well looked after. From time to time I continued to visit Nora. To me she exuded strength of character and opinion which I valued. Year after year, on her birthday 27th November the same small circle of ladies would gather for coffee and cake, so pleasingly served in the best china with dainty hand-embroidered serviettes passed around.

As the years went by, sadly I watched Nora begin to fade, when frailty, with the arthritis that seized her in her knees placing her in a wheel-chair. Finally Nora was confined to her bed. Even then, and till February this year when I last visited her, as I walked in through the house I found nothing was different from the way I had known it - so very many years earlier. On that last visit I found Nora dozing, her eyes closed, so I just held her hand and softly whispered that I remembered her in my prayers. To this she opened her eyes wide and in that characteristic way she always used to speak, she said: "Really - how kind of you". Many are the memories I have of Nora - like her coming to me on the afternoon my father had passed away, a large bunch of white orchids for me and then how she whisked me off to the undertakers to choose the coffin.

Dr. Noel and Nora were of an age fast dying. In them were the essences of culture and refinement, of high values and dignity. I am thankful that our paths in life crossed. The subtle influence of people like Noel and Nora, their acts of kindness and advice, their caring concern and friendship - make a difference that will last me a lifetime and into eternity.