July 28, 2014

Stephen Sinnappan—1934-2014

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SINNAPPAN FAMILY

Stephen Sinnappan—1934-2014

Stephen Sinappan

Stephen Sinnappan was a dedicated father, a devoted husband and an affectionate grandfather, but to those who were blessed to know him, he was much, much more than we could possibly convey.

Perhaps his most striking feature was his piety; he was a humble man of God and his faith shone through in his quiet fortitude, unwavering wisdom and ever-present acceptance and understanding.

Though he grew up wanting to be a priest, he rose to the challenge, instead, of caring for his family and starting his own family and it is clear that The Lord knew what He was doing when He chose this path for him.

Stephen created a large and loving family from his strong and committed 55-year marriage to Celine, raising four children: Sundari, Felix, Nimmi and Ravi; and spoiling 10 adoring grandchildren as beloved Papa to Sabrina, Priya, Sam, Ashley, Celine, Vijay, Marquesa, Sanjay, Theresa and Shalini. Though life threw him many curve balls, he maintained an unwavering faith and belief in the best of life and people, always taking struggles in stride with trust in God and compassion for those around him.

Stephen was born in the small village of Cuddalore, India, on January 14, 1934 to a family of meager means. He was the eldest of eight children and lost his mother at an early age, soon stepping up to fill her shoes as caretaker of the household. Learning from these humble beginnings and formative years in a boarding school in the South of India, he developed an appreciation for hard work, simplicity and gratitude.

This discipline followed him to Guindy, India’s prestigious College of Engineering, where he graduated at the top of his class with a degree in Electronic Engineering. His children and wife remember well his strict, disciplined and simple lifestyle: getting up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and working steadfastly through the day. These austere values defined him and you could always count on him to lend easy wisdom, telling you what you needed to hear with few words and lots of care.

As a young adult, Stephen rapidly rose up the ranks to run one of the leading electronics companies in Bangalore as its Managing Director. He left his hard-earned, prestigious position in 1976, to come to the United States to give his family better opportunities and opted to give up Engineering in favor of direct service work.

There isn’t a member of the family who doesn’t remember his often and insistent advice that whatever you do, it should be in the service of others. He, of course, led by example, and threw himself into the work of serving the elderly with residential care homes. Together, he and Celine built these homes into a flourishing family business, supporting their children as they each began families of their own.

Stephen wasn’t all work though; we also have memories of him as a Knight of Columbus, a Deacon, and some cherished memories of him organizing picnics, playing volleyball and badminton, and adding merriment to trips to the Lake. He enjoyed life’s simple pleasures; his grandchildren all remember his particular penchant and recommendation to always add ghee to make any meal better and no one can forget how there was always an offering of fresh cut fruit, whenever he was around. ­ Stephen had a kind word for everyone and, when there weren’t kind words to say, a respectful silence. He was never one to talk ill of others and we can all remember fondly how he would sweetly pretend to be absorbed in a newspaper when the rest of us did our gossiping. He welcomed everyone into his company with grace and dignity; additions to the family thought of him as a father of their own, and his staff looked up to him as a mentor and friend.

There are so many things we will miss and already do about our Dad and Papa: the silly—how he only needed one good shirt to make it through the work week; the sweet—his tender smile and well-endowed lips that created the pouts on half his grandchildren; the wise—his honest and considered advice for any problem that was too big to handle on one’s own.

Stephen, Dad, Papa—you live on through all that you taught us and in our hearts that are full of love for you and heavy in your absence.

Rest in Peace with The Lord.