Mr. Sukhwant Singh Lamba, age 101, transitioned into eternal rest on Tuesday, December 31, 2019, at UNC Hospitals, Chapel Hill, NC.
SUKHWANT SINGH LAMBA
A life well lived
Sukhwant Singh Lamba, June 9, 1918 - December 30, 2019. He was born in British India and grew up outside of Lahore (now Pakistan). He was mischievous from a young age, getting into trouble in elementary school watching his camel he rode to school out of the window rather than doing his lessons. His father Kesar Singh Lamba and mother Puran Devi sent him to the US for further schooling.
Sukhwant arrived in San Francisco on September 1, 1939 by boat on the day Germany invaded Poland at the onset of WWII. He was sent from California to attend Louisiana State University by his Uncle Shadi and Aunt Dorothy to study Chemical Engineering, and he graduated in 1941. At the time, he was one of the first Indians to attend LSU as segregation still ongoing in this country.
After graduating, while WWII was fully in gear, he was unable to join the British service due to the U-boats sinking all the ships, so he joined the US Army. He served in Panama loading ships, where he survived a Japanese zero reconnaissance plane while he was in a field relieving himself! He then went to a fort in Maryland where he managed the munitions and taught his excellent marksmanship.
During this military service, he became a US citizen when the fort was inspected by a high ranking officer realizing that this non-citizen was in charge of all the munitions of the fort. The officer asked him if he would like to be a citizen, his answer was “yes, sir”, and the following day it was done. It was at this time that our family became “Lamba’s”. He told the officer his name was Sukhwant Singh. The officer asked his last name, and he said that was it. Then the officer asked what they called his dad and he said Lamba, Singh Lamba, “The tall Sikh”. And the Lamba family name started.
He finished out his military service in California as a drill sergeant and taught riflery. He also learned the rudiments of the Spanish language after he was asked if he was bilingual and put in charge of some Puerto Rican recruits. He was bilingual, just did not know Spanish!
He went on to The University of Michigan on the GI Bill to graduate school in Chemical Engineering. While he was working on his PhD, when BASF Corporation convinced him to stop at a Master’s degree and work for them. He married Else Valborg Brusch who he met in the offices of Pennsalt Chemical Corporation in Philadelphia, PA when she was an exchange student from Denmark. They were married in 1955 in both Denmark and India after a 10 day courtship.
They moved to Rio de Janeiro where their daughter Leah was born in 1956. Son Michael was born in Caracas Venezuela in 1958. The family came back to Washington DC where he was working for the World Bank, and their son Jens was born there in 1960. The family moved to the Philippines in 1962 to work for AID Branch of the State Department. He moved his family back to the states in 1965 when he took a job with Marbon Chemicals Company’s International Headquarters in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In 1966 their son Jaydeep was born. He worked for the successor company Borg Warner Chemical Corp then GE plastics until 1991. He then worked in Hong Kong and Cambodia until 1994, and he came back to retire in Parkersburg where he resided on Market Street.
His claim to fame has always been “I’ve never worked a day in my life…”, and he loved every day with a joy for life unmatched. His passion has been being a grandfather and playing tennis as well as any social engagements. He led a great life with his grand, outgoing personality and taught us how to love and live. As he is affectionately known in India as “Naughty Nanna,” he will live on in spirit with all of us who had the great fortune to be related or to have known this great master of the spirit of living. We will miss him dearly. His 101-1/2 years of life were well-lived, and he was a very special man, beloved in the United States and his homeland of India. He will be missed by all that knew him.
Arrangements By: Knotts Funeral Home - Chapel Hill
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