Commodore Jerome Castelino : Journey of a Sailor through the ocean of life


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By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 19 December 2010: It is but rarely that great people walk on the sands of time and leave their footprints for others to follow. Commodore Jerome Castelino is such a person whose life and career gives an amazing insight into the hard work, determination, sincerity and  efficiency of the person, officer and gentleman who being the eldest in an agriculturist family walked long distances to achieve education, went to Mumbai to make a living, came back to the village and undertook professional course, worked as a teacher and eventually joined the Indian Navy as a sailor and went on to become an officer and retired as a Commodore. Even after retirement, rather than living a cosy city life, he returned to his native village and became a leading light in the social service through the Lions Club. This is the story of Jerome Castelino and his journey through various phases of life that is indeed quite interesting and inspirational.

 

 

Jerome Castelino was born on 19 June 1934 at Puthrottu in Moodubelle Village of Udupi District as the eldest among eight children-four sons and four daughters of late Vincent Castelino and late Rosa Noronha. Jerome had his primary and higher primary education in the Church Aided Higher Primary School at Moodubelle between 1940 and 1947. With a desire for further studies, Jerome went to Shri  Vishnumurthy  Swami  Hayavadana High School, Innanje where he studied from the eighth standard up to SSLC which he completed in 1951. During those years Jerome had to walk all the way to and from Innanje carrying pack lunch with him.

 

 
Parents - Mr. Vincent Castelino and Mrs. Rosa Noronha

 

After completing SSLC in 1951, like many young boys from the village, Jerome too proceeded to Mumbai to make a living in the city of dreams. However, he had no luck as vacancies were few and applicants were many. His health also deteriorated due to lack of proper food and sanitation facilities.  These circumstances forced Jerome to return home.

 

Having returned home, Jerome decided to learn short-hand and type-writing as he had realized while in Mumbai that with these skills one can easily land into an office job. Hence, Jerome joined Modern School of Commerce, Udupi, once again trekking all the way to and from Udupi, a distance of 12 kilometres in each direction as there was no transport facility at that time.

 

While undergoing the short-hand and type-writing course, Jerome found a well-wisher and mentor in S. Madhavan, a Keralite who was the proprietor and principal of the Modern School of Commerce. Not only he took special care to teach Jerome personally but also helped him to get a teacher’s job first in the Modern Higher Primary School, Convent Road at Udupi  and later in another school at Kadiyali, Udupi. During this period Jerome was able to get a second hand bicycle on loan amounting to Rs. 75 which he had to repay in instalments from his monthly salary of Rs. 18 from the school.

 

Realizing the potential of Jerome to do something different, Madhavan on his own initiative took him to a naval recruiting centre in the Circuit house on 1 February 1953. As luck would have it, Jerome was selected following physical fitness and medical tests along with an interview and was asked to report to the Naval Recruiting Centre at Bangalore on 1 March 1953.

 

Being grateful to all that his mentor Madhavan had done to him, Jerome continued to maintain contacts with him throughout his service in the Indian Navy and even after his retirement. Madhavan was a member of the Lions Club of Udupi and expired in 1997.

 

Having joined the Indian Navy, Jerome underwent basic training at INS Venduruthy Naval Base at Cochin and professional training in the Secretariat School at the same base and later at INS Hamla at Marve, Malad in Mumbai.  Jerome says that his proficiency in short hand and typewriting helped him in improving his knowledge of the English language and thus could do well in the professional courses.

 


Cruiser INS Delhi

 

 
Rear Admiral F A Balance and Rear Admiral S W Tywritt

 


INS Krishna

 

On completion of his professional training in January 1954, Jerome got his first posting on board Indian warship INS Delhi where he worked as personal assistant to the British officers- Admiral Balance and later Admiral SW Tywritt. Considering the ability and performance of Jerome Castelino, Admiral Tywritt, before returning  from the Indian Navy to the Royal Navy of Great Britain recommended to Naval Headquarters, New Delhi that Jerome may be considered for promotion to be a naval officer. Naval Headquarters accepted this recommendation and Jerome was sent to naval training ship INS Krishna for sea training before the award of commission. On completion of sea training Jerome was sent to the Naval Academy at Cochin in June 1958 for pre-commission training.

 

 
Commission granted by President S Radhakrishnan

 

Jerome’s dream of becoming a Commissioned Officer in the Indian Navy was fulfilled when he received his commission as Sub-Lieutenant from the then President of India-Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan on 9 November 1959. It was a great day for him to be a Commissioned Officer in the Indian Navy just after putting in five and half years of service as a sailor.

 

 
Writer J Castelino(1953) and Sub Lt J Castelino (1959)

 

After being commissioned as an officer, S.Lt. Jerome underwent relevant training in different naval schools and was posted at INS Circars at Vishakapattanam. However, before taking the post at INS Circars, S.Lt. Jerome got engaged in June 1960 to Rose Celine D’Cunha from Bijai Mangalore whom he had met earlier in Mumbai. The engagement culminated in a grand wedding, the first of its kind in Moodubelle on 10 April 1961, the bridegroom in full white naval dress with a peak-cap and a ceremonial sword and the bride also in white gown.

 

 
Engagement- Rose and Jerome (5th June 1960), Wedding on 10 April 1961

 

 

 

 

 

Transfers and promotions followed in the long and distinguished career of Jerome in the Indian Navy. He had an opportunity to serve in both land bases and on board war ships. In the long stint of his career, Jerome was transferred to land bases such as INS Circars in Vishakapattanam, INS Hamla and INS Angre in Mumbai and INS Gomantak in Goa. He served in different war ships such as INS Vikrant-India’s only aircraft carrier, INS Delhi, INS Kuthar-an anti-submarine frigate, INS Godavari-destroyer and INS Mysore-a cruiser. While serving in the naval ships, Jerome had ample opportunities to visit as many as 27 different countries.

 


With Elvis, Eric and Elain

 

Meanwhile, Jerome and Rose were blessed with three lovely children-two sons- Elvis (1962) and Eric (1963) and  daughter-Elaine (1966).  
Promotion to higher ranks came in regular succession to Jerome. By 1970, Jerome was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander on completion of 8 years of mandatory service in the rank of Lieutenant. While serving in INS Hamla, Rose was appointed as the Secretary of the Naval Wives’ Association.

 

 
Lt Cdr J Castelino (1970) and Rose Celine

 

As a transfer to different naval ships and bases was in quick succession, Lt. Cdr. Jerome purchased a flat in Dadar, Mumbai where he left his family behind so that the education of his children would not be disturbed due to frequent transfers.

 

Jerome had an opportunity to participate in all the major wars and battles in which India was involved in the post-independence era. He participated in wars against Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 and Goa Liberation War in 1961. While serving on warship INS Godavari during 1971 Indo-Pak War, his ship apprehended the Pakistani Merchant Vessel ‘Pasni’ on 4 December 1971.

 


Aircraft carrier INS Vikrant

 


With President Sanjeeva Reddy

 


Frigate INS Kuthar

 


Destroyer INS Godavari

 


Pakistani Merchant vessel Pasni, apprehended by INS Godavari

 

Jerome recalled a tragic incident that had taken place at the Aksha beach at Marve while he was serving in INS Hamla. On 20 April 1969, seventeen youths-boys and girls from the parish of St. Ignatius, Jacob Circle, Mumbai had gone for a picnic at the beach. While playing in the sea water some of the youth got drowned. On receiving the message, Jerome along with the divers from the navy rushed to the spot and managed to save ten of them while three girls and four boys were unfortunately could not be saved. Jerome used his influence and prevailed upon the Coroner of Mumbai to hand over the bodies of the seven victims to their families without post mortem procedure on the same evening. The funeral of all the seven victims took place simultaneously at St. Ignatius Church, Jacob Circle and the parish priest of the church during the homily expressed gratitude to Jerome for his assistance.

 

In July 1972, Lt. Cdr Jerome was transferred to the premier naval headquarters in Mumbai where he served till 1974 and was promoted to the rank of Commander superseding some of his colleagues. Thereafter, he was transferred to Goa as the Base Logistics Officer where his job involved management of over 3,500 naval personnel serving in Goa. In Goa, Cdr. Jerome had a fairly long tenure and ample opportunities to sharpen his logistics, personnel, financial and administrative skills under eminent officers.

 

 
Commander J Castelino (1974), Captain J Castelino (1981)

 

Considering the extraordinary performance of Cdr. Jerome in Goa, he was commended by Vice Admiral Barboza, Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command. This prompted Naval Headquarters to transfer Cdr. Jerome to the then largest warship of the Indian Navy-INS Mysore for sea experience which was a requirement for promotion to the rank of Captain though in his case there was little chance as no officer who had risen from a sailor had attained the rank of a Captain in the history of the Indian Navy till then.

 


INS Mysore

 

Within a year, Cdr. Jerome was transferred to the Western Naval Command, Mumbai as Staff Logistics Officer in May 1979. In July 1982, Cdr. Jerome was promoted to the rank of Captain, the first sailor in the history of the Indian Navy to achieve this rank, the fact that was recorded in the History of the Indian Navy. Thereafter, he was appointed as Command Logistic Officer at the Headquarters Western Naval Command, Mumbai.   This was one of the senior posts in the Western Naval Command having had to deal with personnel, administration, logistics and financial matters.

 

Being an upright officer, Captain Jerome could not tolerate corruption in the ranks and file. Jerome recalls painfully that on the charges of corruption he had to initiate court martial of two officers, both Lieutenant Commanders-one belonging to the Education Branch for having claimed first class rail fare for self and family whilst travelling in second class during annual leave accruing financial benefit of Rs. 1800. In another case, an officer belonging to the Logistic Branch was court martialed for having misappropriated a sum of Rs.6500 while doing local purchase of stationary. Looking back at these cases retrospectively, Jerome feels whether those two officers deserved that kind of punishment for their offences judged from modern day standards of morality.  However, Jerome justifies the action on ground that “a person is a thief whether he steals an areca-nut or an elephant”.

 

During the Asiad Games in 1982, Captain Jerome Castelino was specially chosen to represent the Indian Navy as the member of the Finance Committee and his role in this committee was commended by the then Sports Minister-Mr. Bhuta Singh.

 


With Sports Minister Bhuta Singh

 

In June 1983, Capt. Jerome was transferred to the Naval Accounts Office which is a lifeline of naval personnel. It was not functioning up to the required standard and Capt. Jerome was asked to infuse new life into this vital organisation. He was also given a mandate to computerize pay accounts of naval personnel. Within a period of twelve months, Capt. Jerome brought this organisation to the required standard and was able to initiate computerisation of the accounts which was lauded by the then Chief of the Naval Staff-Admiral OS Dawson under whose order Capt. Jerome was posted to this organisation.

 

 
Award of Vishisht Seva Medal by President Zail Singh

 

 
With Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, With President Zail singh

 

Recognizing the impeccable track record of Capt. Jerome from his first posting as an officer in the Naval Base INS Hamla till his stint in the Naval Accounts Office, he was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal (VSM) on 26 January 1984 by the then Honourable President of India-Ghyani Zail Singh.

 


Commodore J Castelino,VSM (1985)

 

The circle was complete when Capt. Jerome was promoted to the rank of Commodore in June 1985 and was posted as the President of the Services Selection Board at Bangalore from where he himself was selected way back in 1953.  He says that his tenure of three years in that post was most satisfying as he was in a position to select able officers for the Indian Navy. Simultaneously Commodore Jerome was also acting as the Senior Naval Officer at  Bangalore and was able to maintain close contact and good relation with the State Government and also with the senior officers of the Army and the Air-force. During this period he frequently visited the first Indian Commander-in-chief of the Indian army-Field Marshal KM Kariappa.

 


In the Promotion Board for Flag Officers held in April 1988, Commodore Jerome was considered and cleared for promotion to the rank of Rear Admiral. However, as there was no vacancy available before his attaining the retirement age of 54 years Commodore Jerome had to retire from the Indian Navy on 30 June 1988 after putting in 35 years of service. Had he been able to attain the rank of Rear Admiral, this would have been a landmark in the history of the Indian Navy. However, Commodore Jerome has no regrets for not having been able to acquire this flag rank because having joined as a sailor to retire in the rank of Commodore itself was not a mean achievement considering the stiff completion and strict selection procedures existing in the defence forces.

 


Bidding Farewell on Retirement

 


With Admirel R H Thaliani,Chief of Naval Staff

 

Following his retirement from the Indian Navy, Commodore Jerome returned to Mumbai where he had his home. By that time, his eldest son Elvis had completed B.E.  in civil engineering from Victoria Jubilee Institute, Matunga, Mumbai and had secured admission in Illinova University, USA for the M.Tech course. His second son-Eric had finished the Marine Engineering course and had joined the Merchant Navy and his daughter-Elaine had just acquired B.Com degree and had secured a job with the Bank of Maharashtra in Mumbai.

 


Commodore Jerome, Rose and Children - Eric, Elaine and Elvis

 

On the eve of his retirement from the Indian Navy Commodore Jerome had accidentally come across Mr. PS Deodhar, the Chairman of Applied Electronics Limited, Mumbai who offered him the post of General Manager in his company. Commodore Jerome accepted this offer in order to augment the meagre pension that he received and also to support the higher education of his eldest son-Elvis. He worked in this company till the completion of his contract of five years in 1993. Though Mr. Deodhar urged Commodore Jerome to continue for some time more, he politely declined to continue as by that time all the three children had married and settled down in life and they were on their own. Eric had married Geeta from Mumbai (1989), Elaine to Rajendra, also from Mumbai (1991) and Elvis to Glenis from Udupi who had settled down in Mumbai (1991).

 

Having become free from family responsibilities and with dreams in his eyes and plans in his mind, Commodore Jerome along with Rose Celine came down to their native village, Moodubelle in 1994. On a piece of ancestral land allotted by his father, the Commodore built a unique house and over the years gradually developed it in such a way that it has become an island of natural beauty which he named as ‘Vansowrabh’. Though outwardly the house appears to be quite rustic and modest, the Commodore and his wife Rose have done the interior in an aesthetic manner with pieces of art placed in right spots. The landscape surrounding the house with a guest-house, grass beds, sit-out and the Grotto in the background add to the peaceful and serene atmosphere. The anchor standing upright in front of the house prominently signifies that an eminent naval officer resides in this house.

 


Vansowrabha, Moodubelle

 

 

 

 

 

In order to have a forum for carrying out social service in the village, Commodore Jerome Castelino with the support of Prof. Wilfred D’Souza who was a lecturer in the Milagres College, Kallianpur and was then the President of the Lions Club, Udupi took initiative for starting the Lions Club in Moodubelle. His efforts bore fruit in 1997 when like-minded individuals rallied around him and the Lions Club of Moodubelle began to function with 32 chartered members and Commodore Jerome became its first Charter President.

 

In order to have a permanent place for the Lions Club activities, Commodore Jerome mobilized Rs 10 lacs and built the ‘Lions Seva Bhavan’ in 2002 on a piece of land donated by Prof Wilfred D’Souza.

 

Under the leadership of Commodore Jerome, weekly dental and medical camps are being organized on weekly basis for the needy villagers in the Lions Seva Bhavan with the support of the doctors from the Kasturbha Medical College, Manipal.  He also obtained a grant of Rs16.5 lacs from the Lions Club International Foundation, Illinois (USA) and expanded the existing Lions Seva Bhavan and medical camp facilities.

 

 


Receiving Charter of Lions Club Moodubelle

 


Lions Seva Bhavan - Moodubelle

 


Inaugration of Lions Seva Bhavan,Moodubelle by Swami Poornakamanandaji

 


Padma Shri Dr.R K Bali at Dental Clinic

 


Inaugration of Expanded Lions Seva Bhavan by International President Vinod Khanna

 


With Padma Bhushan Dr B M Hegde and Rev Fr Paul Sequiera

 


Construction of toilets

 


Mid-day meal project

 

The social work of Commodore Jerome Castelino through the Lions Club of Moodubelle has extended to many spheres. Under the financial assistance provided by Dr B M Hegde, former Vice-chancellor of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), 120 toilets were constructed at Kudi, Pernankila, Marne and Edmeru villages. Besides providing financial assistance to needy students and houses for the homeless, the Lions Club of Moodubelle under the guidance and leadership of the Commodore has been providing social service to the villagers in various fields.


Commodore Jerome was instrumental through the Lions Club of Moodubelle in starting the Midday Meal for the students of St. Lawrence Composite PU College from June 2003 up to May 2004. Thereafter, the project was taken over by the management of the institution.

 

Recognizing the total dedication and commitment of Commodore Jerome Castelino to social service in his native village, he was conferred with Melvin John Fellowship and a number of district and international Lion awards. He was also felicitated by various organizations.

 


Receiving MJF Shield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Realizing his experience as an officer in the Indian Navy, the Karnataka Government had appointed Commodore Jerome as the vice-president of the Sainik Board of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts for a period of three years (2007-2010). This term has been unusually extended for a further period of three years till 2013.

 

Commodore Jerome feels that while his achievement in becoming an officer in the Indian Navy may be attributed to his hard work, determination and perseverance, this feat would not have been possible without the blessings of the Almighty.  Hence, he donated the first salary as an officer in the rank of Sub lieutenant for the month of December 1959 to the newly established St. Lawrence High School, Moodubelle. He also thinks that it was the providence that when the High School celebrated its golden jubilee on 28 December 2009, he was given the honour of hoisting the High School flag as the chief guest that marked the inauguration of the three days Golden Jubilee Celebrations.

 

Commodore Jerome says that in this long journey in life and achievements though may be attributed to his hard work, determination and impeccable character, the task would not have been achievable without the blessings of the Almighty and the active and unstinted support from his wife Rose and three children. During his long service, Commodore Jerome had 18 transfers during which he had to change 24 residences which was a herculean task as it involved packing and unpacking household articles and transporting to faraway places while children were small. In retrospect everyone in the family feel that the trouble was worth taking.

 

The family of Commodore Jerome has been amply blessed through a difficult journey. This is evident from the fact that both Commodore and his wife enjoy good health and peace of mind at the evening of their lives. Their children are well settled with their own families. 

 

 

In gratitude to the Almighty for his blessings and gifts, Commodore Jerome and his wife Rose along with their family will be offering a thanksgiving mass on Sunday, 26 December 2010 to mark the seventy fifth birthday of Commodore Jerome and fifty years of their married life.

 

Bellevision salutes Commodore Jerome Castelino, the great son of Belle and wishes him and his family a smooth sailing in the ocean of life.

 

 

Comments on this Article
Krishnan kutty, Calicut Mon, January-21-2013, 4:34
I remember, I served under Lt Castelino in INS Kuthar and under Lt Cdr Castelino in Godavari. In fact my transfer to Godavari was opted by me as I knew he was theSupply Officer there. I don't know if he remembers a Store Asst Kutty who used to call me from my bunk in Godavari at odd hours to attend to some immediate work.God bless you Castelino Sir. Pray for your peaceful and healthy life in future.
bhageerathi c, trivandrum Mon, March-14-2011, 5:27
It was very nice to see aunty and uncle. elain. I don\ t konw they remeber me or not .can u ask elain to contact me it will be happy to hear from old friend
Cdr GP Mallya (retd), Kinnigoli/South Korea Mon, December-27-2010, 6:19
My heart swelled with pride to read the outstanding achievements of Commodore Castelino. He overcame the adversities of life by sheer hard work and dedication and achieved great heights. Being a retired Naval Officer myself, I have heard his story of the first sailor to rise to the rank of Commodore. As luck would have it, he did not the coveted flag rank, but the awards and recognition he has received post retirement have made up for it. His stamina and energy even at this age are amazing. A gem of a man about whom Belle is truly proud of...I wish him and Mrs. Castellino and their extended family the very best and hope their story inspire many a youth from Karavali districts....to achieve greater heights..
Paul Castelino, Moodubelle/USA Sat, December-25-2010, 10:58
Very inspiring life story. Cdr Castelino s hard work and self-less service is examplary. Congratulations! Thanks to Bellevision for bringing to light this amazing native son of Belle.
Benedicata Fernandes, Moodubelle/ Muscat Fri, December-24-2010, 9:33
Dear Baba Voni. Congratulations on your 50th Wedding Aniversay and Wish you Many Happy Returns of the day on your 75th Birthday. May God Shower all his blessing on you both and your family. From your Loving Sister Benna.
yvonne, Muscat Fri, December-24-2010, 9:28
Dear Uncle Aunty Congratulation on your Golden Aniversary and uncle on your completing 75 years. May God Bless you both alongwith your family abundantly and with good health. May you prosper in all you do. From your Loving niece Yvonne, Linus, Rachel Wyonna.
FATIMA PRAVEEN MENEZES, MOODUBELLE/KUWAIT Thu, December-23-2010, 3:08
WE ARE PROUD OF YOU AND YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS.WISH YOU HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY AND HAPPY GOLDEN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY.
Fr Paul sequeira, moodubelle Wed, December-22-2010, 11:31
Congratulations to you dear Commodore Jerome for your stupendous achievement.You made moodubelle shine.You are an inspiration to millions indeed. Fr Paul Sequeira, belle.
Lily Andrade (Barboza), Moodubelle/Kemmannu/Mumbai Wed, December-22-2010, 5:27
A great inspiring article on Mr. Jerome\ s life, Thank you Dr. Eugene. We specially pray to God for his abundant blessings on this couple who still look like, Jack and Rose of Titanic. You may live a long life to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee. Congratulations...! and have a great day (26/12) and great years ahead with your loved one\ s filled with lots love and care for each other. Barboza Family - Moodubelle
Capt. Anil Gonsalves, IN Retd, Pune Tue, December-21-2010, 9:50
I remember Cdr Castelino, who was the supply Officer onboard INS Mysore, when I was a cadet on the same ship. Your story is truly inspiring sir and it gives hope to the ordinary citizen who witness rampant corruption and dishonesty everyday. Godbless and good health always. Anil and Sandra Gonsalves
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Tue, December-21-2010, 2:31
This article is very interesting and inspiring. For sure, Moodubelle is proud of Commodore Jerome Castalino.
felix alva, poyyada padi-belle-dubai Mon, December-20-2010, 11:03
we are proud of you, and your achievements and award. may the god give another 100 years life.felix alva fly dubai.
Cmde. A.S.Virdi, Pune Mon, December-20-2010, 9:01
A great story of astounding acheivements of a fellow Naval officer. Very few do so much in a lifetime . Sincerely wish there were more like him ; India needs more of such people to get ahead . Wish him the best of luck in his projects for the future in the service of the community around him.Didn t get to know him while in service but I am glad I read this article .Best of luck godspeed.
Vice Admiral Adolph Britto(Retd), Mangalore/Bangalore Mon, December-20-2010, 8:20
Delighted at this piece on a fellow naval traveller. Congratulations Jerome-Rose.Joining in the chorus of thanksgiving and praise, may every Blessing be yours.From Dolphi-Rosita
Yogesh Athavale, Satara Mon, December-20-2010, 6:54
An inspiring story of an accomplished Navy officer,who started off so humbly.A role model for younger officers of the Navy like me.I would be delighted to meet him one day.
Edward Noronha, Moodubelle Mon, December-20-2010, 5:52
I and my family proud of your achievements. In your retired life may God give you and your family good health and prosperity.
Capt Harshad Datar, IN, Secunderabad (Place of Duty) Sun, December-19-2010, 12:33
My Best wishes to the commodore. May he live for another 75 years.
Magdaline, Moodubelle Sat, December-18-2010, 6:11
we are proud of you and your achievements Mr jerome ,thaks to Dr Eugene Dsouza for exploring writing about Mr Jerome Castelino ,let many our youngsters follow his path to serve our nation
Fr. Matthew F. D\ Souza, Kattingere/USA Sat, December-18-2010, 4:04
Welldone! Pray that the Lord may continue to be with you, your family, friends and well-wishers;grant you godspeed, fair winds and following seas! From a retired US Naval Officer
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