Dec 31, 2009
When I met Joseph Gratian Gonsalves, all of 88 but going strong bubbling with liveliness like a teenager I could not help recall American Humourist Mark Twain’s quotable quote ‘age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter’. Tall and handsome, fit like a fiddle, quite agile and having a razor sharp memory one cannot believe his age until he confirms it. Despite Herculean efforts I could not resist the temptation of asking him the secret of his zestfulness.
“I lead a disciplined life and work hard. There is a military-like discipline in the house when it comes to maintaining food timings which has been a blessing for all of us”, he answers. So early to rise and early to bed makes Joe healthy, peppy and happy. Joe took to Yoga at the age of 85, when most of us resign to the idea of being too old and now has made yoga a regular part of his daily regime. He is surely an inspiration to all those believe in the dictum that “it is never too late to learn anything new, age not withstanding”. For him each day is a new day with new challenges and there have been no dull moments in his life spanning almost nine decades. For sixty years his wife Irene has been his tower of strength, his constant companion sharing every moment of his life good or bad.
60 Years of Wedded life
I could see the Gonsalves household is filled with activity with an aura of festivity pervading all around and not without reason. Apart from the joy of celebrating New Year the Gonsalves family is all set to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of Irene and Joe on January 6, 2009 and the Gonsalves brood has landed on the shores of Mangalore from different part of the globe. Joe is excited about this celebration and unfolds the grandiose plans the family has put forth to observe this event. It can be termed as double dhamaka as January 1st also happens to be the birthday of Joe and there is no better way than to celebrate it with family and friends.
The 60th wedding anniversary is going to be a gala affair as family members, relatives and friends are going to share the joy of the couple with grandiose celebrations. Apart from Mangalore Diocesan Bishop Rev Aloysius Paul D Souza, Archbishop Ignatius Pinto, Shimoga Bishop Gerald Lobo, Protestant Bishiop Joseph Stevan Sadanand and Bishop Christoper Furtado and a big contingent of priests numbering around 60, will participate in the mass to be held at Milagres Church on January 6.
There is more to Joe than just celebrating 60 years of wedded life and going on strong with age. He has been active in the field of social service rendering his service, expertise and experience to institutions and individuals, especially his community and his Alma Mater. “Though retired from service I have not retired from my work and would prefer to lend my services till the last”, he states.
Born on January 1, in 1922 Joseph Gratian Gonsalves was a New Year’s gift to Cornelius Gonsalves and Pauline Pais of Milagres Parish. In fact most of the cherished events of Joe’s life are associated with the Milagres church. It was in Milagres church he was baptized, confirmed, married and also celebrated his golden wedding anniversary. Joe his entire education at St Aloysius and the name of the Alma Mater fills him with pride flooding him with nostalgia. “My school and college days are the most eventful and happy-go-lucky days of my life and I still carry the fond memories of those carefree days especially the profound influence my school and the teachers had on me which shaped my character and career”, he recalls.
Leaving his Imprint at Workplace
Better career prospects took Joe to Mumbai where he joined as a management trainee in the prestigious J L Morrison and Company Limited, which had its head office in London and branches in principal Indian metros. He also served as head of branches in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkotta and finally he was brought back to Mumbai as the head of all branches in India. The Company sent him to London for advanced training and for the first time a wife was sent along with the husband on training.
Due to his extraordinary talent, skill coupled with hard work he rose from position to position to be elevated to the position of General Sales Manager lending 29 years of valuable service to the company which in the process enriched him. In 1975 armed with the rich experience he acquired at Morrison he joined Union Home Products Limited as an Executive Director. With his professional skills, expertise and endearing personal qualities he left an indelible mark in both these organizations. He retired from service in 1983 but hasn’t retired from the multifarious work he has taken upon himself and he enjoys doing it.
His wife Irene Mascarenhas, 84 has been his tower of strength and he doesn’t hesitate to quote the cliché ‘behind every successful man …there is a woman”. Joe almost chokes when he talks about the role of his wife in his successful career. When asked to recall any memorable event of his life he says with a choked broken voice “it is definitely falling in love with my wife”, which is an indication that the couple is still very much in love and are inseparable. He adds “I am fortunate to have Irene as my soul mate and companion and the sixty years we spent together as man and wife are the most memorable years of my life”. The couple had met in Mumbai where she had gone to her brother’s place and Joe was her brother’s classmate. Cupid struck and their eyes met and hearts melted. After a four year courtship the couple was married at Milagres church where they vowed to be partners in life and the saga continues.
The couple has four grown children, Cheryl (married to Harry Saldanha), Lorna, a very active community leader in the U.S. (married to Peter Pinto, a university Professor), Franco (married to Margaret Fernandes) and Michelle (married to Michael Mathias), all with the exception of Cheryl are settled the in the U.S. Joseph and Irene are proud grand parents of 10 youngsters, ranging in age from 6 to 34 years. It is a huge happy family where generation gap does not come in the way of sharing and connecting. The grand children just adore their grandparents. The Gonsalves couple badly misses their grandson (son’s son) whom they lost to cancer a few years ago.
Irene has fond memories of their first meeting in Mumbai. After her graduation Irene wanted to pursue law to become a lawyer just like her father Alban Mathias. “But my mother would not let me pursue my studies and I was crestfallen. I went to Mumbai to my brother’s place to overcome the dejection”, she recalls. The Mumbai visit proved to be a blessing in disguise as she met her beloved Joe, her partner of six decades. Joe adores his wife and is magnanimous in giving credit to her for shaping up the family into what it is today.
In the Service of Community
After his retirement in 1983 Joe has immersed himself wholeheartedly to the cause of serving his community. He has put his life experience of nearly nine decades to provide counseling (not professional) for those who need 3rd person intervention to resolve personal problem. Joe has served on the Board of Fr Muller’s Hospital for 15 years and has served on the Catholic Board of education. His benign service at St Joseph’s Workshop for over 3 decades is the hallmark of his social service.
It was but natural that a man of his stature was given the responsibility of overseeing the security arrangements during Pope’s visit to Mangalore in 1986, where he had to work in tandem with the department of Law and Order and was privileged to be introduced to the Pope by the then Bishop of Mangalore.
With most of his children and family members settled in USA Gonsalves couple has been spending most of their time in the USA. In USA they shuttles between Ohio, Michigan and Cleaveland, where their children are settled and all these places are within commutable distances. Having established there Joe has extended his range of service in USA by joining hands with several fellow Aloysians like Rev Dr Oswald Mascarenhas and Tony D Silva that has culminated in the formation of APNA (Aloysian and Partners in North America) to form a network of Aloysian Alumni in US and Canada.
Henceforth Joe has decided to spend more time in India extending his gamut of service to the community institutions he is associated with. Joe had a great passion for hunting and still possesses an All India license for which he has made his son the retainer. Joe is fond of reading books and is an avid stamp collector.
With so much activity in life Joe has many memorable events of his long innings including the birth of their last daughter Michele who was born 20 years after their first child was born.
Joe possesses an unbridled passion for contributing his mite for the betterment of the society in whatever possible way he can. With his cup of joy full he still looks forward to rendering his service from his vast reservoir of experience to the community and he enjoys it.
Let us join the family, relatives and friends in wishing the Gonsalves couple on this joyous occasion and pray the almighty to grant them many more years of togetherness.