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Laura Fernando

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Laura Mahnil Fernando, nee Sumanadasa, was born on April 14, 1940, in London, England. Her father, L.H. Sumanadasa, and mother, Miriam de Mel, were from Ceylon (known today as Sri Lanka). Her father was an aeronautical engineer working in England for the Royal Air Force. In 1943, after years of war, her parents decided to return to Ceylon. They were part of a convoy of thirteen ships that set sail. Their ship was separated from the convoy during a terrible storm. German submarines torpedoed the convoy, and in the end because of the storm, theirs was the only ship to make it home safely. Laura Mahnil used this as an allegory as she bravely fought cancer these past two years. Laura Mahnil attended Ladies' College in Colombo. She then completed her licentiate from the Royal Schools of Music in piano performance, training under Ithalie de Saram. She married C.K. Fernando in 1965, and they promptly moved to New York, as her husband was chosen as a Fulbright scholar to pursue graduate study at NYU in physical therapy. Laura Mahnil began studying under Joseph Raieff, Professor at the Juilliard School. She won first prize in the 1969 Open Piano Competition of Radio Ceylon. She eventually chose to sacrifice her career in performance to bring up her children. While living in New York, she and her husband had two daughters, Netasha and Tanya, and later while living in Denmark, they had a son, Rajiv. In 1974, the family moved to the Chicago area. Laura Mahnil started teaching piano, and taught a whole generation of students in the Hinsdale/Oak Brook area. She was active in the music circles, and was a member and President of the Hinsdale Music Club. In 1996, she and her husband moved to Naples, Florida. She continued to be active in music. She played for services at the Unitarian Congregation of Naples, and was on the board of the Naples Music Club. She also began to perform again. She performed both solo concerts, playing with the Naples Orchestra and Chorus, and music for two pianos with concert pianist, Richard Bosworth. They performed in Naples, Chicago, as well as Colombo, where they gave a charity concert for Mallika Home for Elderly Women, an organization founded in part by her grandmother, Laura de Mel. Laura Mahnil's grace, beauty, goodness, and gift of music will continue to touch all those who knew and loved her. She is survived by a loving husband, Dr. C.K. Fernando; three devoted children, Netasha Scarpiniti, Tanya Fernando, and Rajiv Fernando; two beloved grandchildren, Anthony and Giana, and son-in-law, Frank Scarpiniti; three adoring siblings, Lelani Chinnadurai, Ananda Sumanadasa, and Madera Gunewardane; and a cherished community of family and friends. Memorial services will be held in Oak Brook, IL and Naples, FL. The family kindly requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Laura Mahnil Fernando Memorial Fund for Cancer Care: Harris Bank, 141 West Jackson Blvd., Main Floor, Chicago, IL 60604. Communications can be sent to [email protected]
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on Jan. 22, 2011
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