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John L Sullivan
August 26, 1926 – November 17, 2023
John Lawrence Sullivan, 97, passed away on Friday, November 17, 2023, peacefully at his home in Green Brook, NJ. Previously, he had been a resident of Short Hills, NJ, for over 30 years.
John L. was born in Pittsburgh, PA, to William James Sullivan and Anna Amelia Flannigan Sullivan on August 26, 1926. He was a graduate of Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High School, the University of Pittsburgh, and Harvard Business School. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. John married Ina May Kirk on June 24, 1950, and they were happily married until her passing in 2006. Together they had three children.
From very humble beginnings, John went on to have an amazing life. He was a great storyteller and loved reminiscing about the people he'd met and places he'd been—from Mike, the shoemaker around the corner, to the legends of baseball he encountered at the barbershop in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. Watching Babe Ruth hit his last three home runs at Forbes Field, being at Times Square on VE day, having breakfast at the White House with the President of the United States, lunch with Willie Mays, and dinner with Neil Armstrong. Walking in the footsteps of St. Paul with his beloved wife. He turned down some fabulous opportunities too, but those also made for great stories. He felt honored and lucky to have had these and many more unique experiences.
John’s greatest story, though, was one he didn’t tell; it was the one he lived. It’s the story of a poor boy raised in Pittsburgh during the Great Depression, losing his father at the age of 13 in a world on the edge of war. He met these challenges by working after school and finishing high school in less than four years so that he could be drafted into the military to serve his country during World War II. His discharge from the Navy enabled him to attend the University of Pittsburgh while working full-time. With the support of his mother, his brother Billy, and his sister Mercedes, he graduated in less than three years. A truly remarkable man who overcame adversity to achieve great things.
Mr. Sullivan began his very successful 35-year career with the F. W. Woolworth Co. in 1948, with the store management training program in his hometown. His career path enabled him to work in all 50 states, as well as around the globe. Promotions had him based in numerous locations from California to New York and Great Britain. Over the course of his career, he held many executive positions, advancing to become President and CEO of the F.W. Woolworth Co. (Variety Store Division), Office of the President for Woolworth Corporation (Variety and Specialty Stores Divisions), and Chairman and CEO of F.W. Woolworth P.L.C. (Great Britain). He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Woolworth Corporation (now known as Footlocker) for eleven years until his retirement.
John was a member of Canoe Brook Country Club, where his children proudly tell of his two holes-in-one and his winning the President’s Cup. A member of the club for fifty years, he was also one of the four founding members of the Round Table
John L. was preceded in death by his brother, William James Sullivan, his sister, Mercedes Marie Hergenroeder, and his wife, Ina Sullivan.
John is survived by his daughter, Patricia Marie Wirry, his sons, John Charles Sullivan (Catherine) and Robert William Sullivan (Judith), his grandchildren, Julie Lynn Peloso (David), John Ryan Sullivan, Kelly Ann Salter (David), Shannon Marie Sullivan (Stephen Stoll), Elizabeth Marie Sullivan, Michelle Anne Sullivan, Stephanie Marie Sullivan, Michael John Sullivan, Jessica Lynn Sullivan, and his great-grandchildren, Parker James Peloso, Emma May Salter, and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
A funeral mass will be held at St. Mary’s at Stony Hill in Watchung, NJ, at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2023, with interment to follow at Saint Stephen’s Cemetery in The Chapel At Short Hills at 451 Millburn Ave, Millburn, NJ.
In lieu of flowers, it is requested donations be made to Boys Town Father Flanagan House. It is a charity that was close to his mother’s heart.