After working in Trivandrum in Kerala, India, in various capacities, Theobald L. Pereira came to the US in 1972 to pursue his graduate studies. After earning two Master’s Degrees, a Master of Educational Counseling from Fordham University and a Master of Theology from New York Theological Seminary, Theo began his long professional career in a humble manner.
Theo married Susan Simon in 1978, and the couple have two beautiful daughters. Their older daughter, Suthe is married to Saj and have two daughters, Revani and Danica. Seema, their younger daughter is married to Joe and the couple have a son, Raphael and a daughter, Divya.
Theo founded and ran a successful export company, Supente, Inc. for 30 years. His wife, Susan, worked as a Registered Nurse for 39 years before retiring. Not satisfied with a happy and successful life for themselves in this land of opportunities, Theo and Susan are responsible for the immigration of about 354 people to the US in successive generations.
As a pioneer from the Catholic community to have immigrated to the US, Theo has been instrumental in founding the Latin Catholic Association in New York. He had been at the forefront in organizing the conventions in New York for many years. All along, he has worked hard to keep the community together and has devoted his time and talents for the growth of the community. People of all faiths and regions look up to him and respect him for his humility and unassuming demeanor.
Compassionate, caring, hard-working and dedicated to his family, his profession, and to the larger community, Theo has been at the forefront, advocating for those who are oppressed or denied basic human dignity. Susan Periera, who is married to Theo for the past 38 years, says, “From the very beginning, I was impressed by his compassion, kindness, generosity and going beyond. He understands me as I am and accepts me and has helped me grow. Among the many other things, I am always grateful to him, for taking care of my mother, loving her as his own, until she breathed her last at the age of 99.”
His elder daughter, Suthe recalls, “When we would express our disagreement, my dad would say, ‘Thank God that we can help them. What else are we here for?” Theo has been genuinely compassionate to the needy and forgiving. He has been accepting and forgiving even of those who have misused the trust, love and concern they had experienced from Theo and family. True to his nature, Theo always went out of his way to help all those who had approached him in difficulties.
His younger daughter, Seema, a lawyer by profession and mother of two beautiful children, says, “My dad has always been a source of great inspiration to me–from demonstrating the mental fortitude to begin a new venture later in life to ensuring our family’s well-being throughout our lives. What I appreciate most about his character is the fact that he has not been preachy or boastful about his good deeds. In fact, I’ve often learned of how he has served other people through their voices, and not his. He has truly led by example. He is genuine in his encounters, and does not seek or expect anything in return. He recognizes that his life is blessed and has had the humility, commitment, and desire to share his life’s blessings.”
Many would jokingly make fun of him, saying, “You should make the airport your home.” He is found at the airport regularly, either picking someone from the airport or bringing someone to the airport. Giving a ride to friends, relatives and strangers, and taking them to places even when in difficulties has been a norm for Theo. His wife, Susan has been the very backbone of Theo’s generosity and it is their hard work together that has allowed them to fulfill their dream of providing for the complete education of the children of three parishes in Kerala, while making their house a place countless people have called home, here in the US. Her hospitality, love and genuine care for others is visible at all times.
Hundreds of priests, Bishops, individuals and families vouch for his genuine love and affection, which each of them have experienced. “My father in law is an admirable man. People from all different generations look to him as an example. He knows what is right and he acts accordingly. Being a good person comes naturally to him and it always has. He treats everyone with respect, even those who may not deserve it. I am truly blessed to have him as a father in law,” says Jospeh Palmerson, Theo’s son-in-law .
Mini Ajay, who resides now in Connecticut recalls, “After we had moved to Connecticut, I was expecting our second daughter, Navya. I was so touched, when Theo and Susan had cooked and brought us food from Long Island in a cool container, keeping it fresh and cool on a summer day. When Archana and Navya were born, I could not think of anyone else but you and Susan to be their god-parents. And we are so fortunate that you have so graciously become part of our life.”
Selvan Albert, an IT professional, living in California, said, “I always identify him with the Latin Catholic community. He has done a lot for the people and the diocese of Trivandrum in many ways. He is a good parent, wonderful husband, and loved and cared for his mother-in-law until she breathed her last.”
Paul Panakal, a community leader and former president of the Latin Catholic Association, echoes these sentiments: “Theo is one person who always wanted and strived for the unity of the community. He has always gone out of his way to bring together and unite all of us and focus on the well being of the community.”
Abey Oommen from Hawthorne, NY, says, “I have always admired and looked up to you. You’ve always shown great hospitality in having family over for Christmas and taking care of great Ammachi for all those years. Since I was younger I have always noticed the examples you have set and I know that I will follow them in many ways. I remember when I was younger, every time I came to the house you would love to pinch my cheeks before hugging me. I loved those moments and I will not forget them.”
According to Franklin & Hazel Pereira from Singapore, “We are just glad that God the Father have created a perfect mold when He shaped your heart of gold, for everything a loving brother is supposed to be, I am thankful for the gift of you.”
Cynthia Manuel from Louisiana states, “I want to express to you how great it is to be your niece. Uncle, you are a man with a BIG heart, always doing for others and expecting nothing in return – welcoming anyone to your home and always making them feel so loved. My life changed with your encouragement to come to the US, taking care of me and being a father figure to me as I was far away from home and family means a lot to me.”
Powlin Manuel from Louisiana recalls his close friendship with Theo for about fifty years. “We did many things together, when we were both young – working together, traveling together, and staying together. We worked together in his free clinic in Kerala; we traveled together when I first came to the United States; we stayed in his place for many days after I came to USA. Theobald has had a tremendous influence on my life, first as a friend and mentor and then as a family; he has touched the lives of many of us.”
George Paul, Brooklyn, NY, recalls, “Growing up, your kindness, your humor, and your respect for others is what I remember most. You always treated me as an adult with adult humor even though I was a child and teenager. You also showed respect to everyone, whether it was an older man like my father or a simple child as I was. That respect for all is a lesson you have instilled in me without even realizing it! That respect you have given to others has been given back to you a thousand times over. And the love you have given others is given back a million times over, through your friends but most of all your family. While we may not be related by blood, we count ourselves as part of your family in our hearts.”
Rev. George Pereira from Delhi, India, recalls, his long friendship with Theo. “How shall I capture in few words the essence of Theobald Pereira who has been a caring brother, a true friend and confidante, a mentor and support to me for over half a century? Theo, your heart and home have always been a resting place of comfort for me. As a married man you stand out as an ideal husband, father and grandfather. You and Susan are known as an ideal couple–blending the past and present, East and West, assimilating the best of both cultures and passing on your vision and values to posterity – a heritage that your children are proud of and on which they have built the foundation of their lives.”
Theo’s life has been all about doing little things, and meeting Christ in every individual he meets. True to the Gospel, “to love your neighbor as yourself” Theobald has been welcoming everyone into his home.The UPS Driver Al Smith, who made daily deliveries to their home office for Supente Inc., would shout out, “Welcome to Hotel Theo!” as he looked at the many and new faces seated in the living room. Even strangers have lived in his home for years. He has found jobs for them, supported them with finance and accepted them as his true brothers and sisters.
His actions and the testimonials from his close friends and families are a witness to what Theo is. And he takes pride in his deep faith in God and the abiding love for his family, friends, and the larger community. And, justifiably, Theo’s daughter, Suthe, summarizes his life: “We have been raised to practice our faith in the very littlest things and to try to bring joy to the lives of others. And that has been my dad’s life and mission all along.”