Themistocles D'Silva

Funeral Mass

10:00 am
Saturday, May 18, 2024
Newman Catholic Community At UNC
218 Pittsboro St
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States
(919) 929-3730

Obituary of Themistocles Damasceno Joaquim D'Silva

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Themistocles Damasceno Joaquim D’Silva (known to loved ones as either Themis, Tim, Dad, or Papa)

July 18, 1932 – May 13, 2024

Themistocles D’Silva was born in Lira, Uganda, where his father Justino da Silva was working at the time in the British colonial civil service. When he was six, his family moved back to their ancestral village of Arossim, Goa, where he grew up as the eldest brother to three surviving children (Jessie, Julia, and Oliver), who lovingly referred to him as Babush, or ‘baby boy’ in the Portuguese language that was widely spoken during that colonial period. His childhood was spent among a large extended family, before electricity, when life was intimately tied to seasons, Church feasts, and generations of tradition. He helped his father maintain the old home and manage rice and coconut harvests, and had many adventures with uncles and close friends, and attended the nearby English-based Jesuit high school, Loyola. While Themis was studying for his Bachelor’s of Science degree at St. Xavier’s College in Bombay, the family was struck by the tragic premature death of his father due to cancer. In order to financially support his mother, Joanita da Silva and the rest of his family, he returned to Uganda to teach in a secondary school, living with his family’s closest friends, the Carvalhos.

In 1959, he came to Washington D.C. for graduate study, living with other foreign student friends in a Newman Hall, while earning a Master’s in Education, and then a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the Catholic University of America. It was there that he met Rose Marie de Sousa who was working on her Ph.D. under the same professor. They married on July 24, 1965, and began their family near Worcester, Massachusetts. The following year, they moved to South Charleston, West Virginia, where he took up a position as a research chemist with Union Carbide. From 1966-1981, they built a home both literally and figuratively, raising four children on Ellen Drive. In 1981, the family moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina as the center relocated to the Research Triangle Park. As a synthetic organic chemist, Tim discovered dozens of new compounds that resulted in 70 patents being issued, the most notable being Thiodicarb Insecticide/Ovicide that was marketed under the brand name LARVIN®. These achievements contributed to his elevation to Fellow in the late 1980s in both the American Institute of Chemists and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Outside of work, Dad pursued a broad range of interests, including tennis, badminton, table tennis, chess, bridge, gardening, stamps, coins, genealogy, reading, and cooking dinner whenever he would come home from work before Mom. He encouraged his children to also pursue diverse interests and to take pride in giving your best effort, regularly exclaiming “if you’re going to do something, do it right!” He took particular pleasure in creating new dishes or recreating existing ones that “were better than what you could get at a restaurant”. He also never wavered in the struggle to keep his vegetables, apples, and flowers on Kensington Drive from getting eaten by squirrels and deer which, while a great source of joy for his grandchildren, were not so much for him.

In 1993, Tim retired from Rhone-Poulenc (which had bought the agriculture chemicals division from Union Carbide), but not before taking on the two challenges of learning the French language of his new company and learning how to use a computer in the new way of working. This latter skill would serve him well in his retirement, as he undertook three extensive research initiatives. The first was to ensure that the real facts of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy were documented and told. Combining both his first-hand contributions to the scientific team that analyzed what chemical reactions took place that fateful night with unprecedented research into various court records, Tim wrote and published The Black Box of Bhopal in 2006.

His second focus was literally closer to home, as he applied his research skills to document the history of his village in: Unravelling History: A History of Arossim, Goa, which was initially published in 2011 with a later edition in 2015. Themis inherited this love of learning about and documenting family history from his own father, who had kept detailed notes of each family member going back 7 generations, and never tired of sharing stories, full of surprising details here and there, with the younger generations to make sure they knew about their ancestors. In his final decade, his interests broadened to include a focus on prehistory, specifically neolithic megaliths, which first intrigued him given their presence in Arossim and other parts of Goa.

Throughout all of this, Papa always made sure to prioritize time with his grandchildren, be it soothing them to sleep with his walks, reading to them in their early years, encouraging them to understand the world around them and the history behind them, or simply sitting on the swing appreciating the birds, and chasing away the squirrels. He was like a second father to his Chapel Hill grandchildren, teaching them geography, letting them help with gardening, sharing weekly family meals, and attending many of their milestone events through early adulthood.

Tim and Rose Marie were a tremendous example of marriage for nearly 54 years, up until her sudden passing in 2019. In retirement they were fortunate to travel extensively to many countries and historic sites. They were active members of the Newman Center Parish for 38 years, volunteering in many capacities and enjoying long-lasting friendships made through their monthly dinner group. Tim died peacefully in his sleep after a brief illness, and just a week after having spent quality time together with all his children doing what he loved the most—eating crab and playing bridge at home.

Tim is survived by his four children, Marisa D’Silva Whitesell (Chapel Hill), Karena D’Silva (Chapel Hill), Carl D’Silva (wife Joni, sons Walker and Blake, Chicago) and Marc D’Silva (wife Chinar, Portugal), and five grandchildren, Blaise, Romy and Carmen Whitesell, and Caia and Eva D’Silva, as well as one brother, Oliver D’Silva (Arossim, Goa) and one sister Jessie Saldanha (Arossim, Goa), and many nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be concelebrated by Friar Tim Kulbicki, OFM Conv. and Rev. Msgr. John Wall on Saturday, May 18, 2024 at 10am at the Newman Catholic Student Center Parish, 218 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, NC. In lieu of flowers, please direct donations to KidneyCure, (a research organization that supports young researchers to find a cure for kidney disease), or to a charity of your choice.

The D'Silva family is under the care of Walker's Funeral Home of Chapel Hill. Please express your online condolences by using the tab below.

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