Obituary: Thomas M. Sullivan

Thomas Marshall Sullivan was born Nov. 8, 1923, at the Sullivan ranch south of Pagoda. He was the sixth child of Brendon P. and Mary Marshall Sullivan.

Tom passed away Nov. 16, 2006, in San Diego, Calif. He spent his childhood on the Sullivan ranch on Williams Fork. He attended grade school at Pagoda, riding horseback with his siblings to and from their home at the mouth of Indian Run on the south fork of Williams Fork.

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Tom went to Hayden Union High School for his first two years of high school, then moved with his family to Meeker, where he graduated in May 1943. He played football for Hayden and Meeker. Upon graduation, he spent the summer and fall on the ranch and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Dec. 12, 1943, at the height of World War II.

He was sent to Farragut, Idaho, for basic training and then trained as a fighter pilot until he was terribly injured in a training accident. He was then sent to amphibious forces, an occupation then having considerable demand for the invasions in the Pacific Theater but of limited longevity.

He was sent to the Pacific Theater where he landed on Saipan, Tinian, Eniwetok, Peleliu and Guam as a coxswain for LVCP and LCM landing craft. He participated in the Naval Battles leading to the attack of Okinawa and Ie Shima, the last and most costly battles of World War II. Going ashore with the first wave at Okinawa, he fought in the battles Buckner Bay, Shuri Line and Naha, surviving a direct hit on a communications bunker that killed everyone else but Tom. After 30 days on Okinawa, he was in the first and second waves to hit the beaches on Ie Shima. Spending 32 days in the island battle, he was hit four times and received the Purple Heart. He would carry a piece of shrapnel 1/4 inch from his heart for the rest of his life, something that was hard to explain to younger generations at airport security checkpoints for someone who found the subject difficult and rarely said anything.

When asked by a Gulf War veteran if he would like to see a Purple Heart, Sullivan said "I have one." Three weeks after being wounded, barely able to walk, Tom was redeployed for Operation Downfall the invasion of Japan. Tom was in the first boatloads of U.S. troops to land on Mainland Japan at Sasabo. Then, Tom was sent to Nagasaki, where he escorted the first group of scientists to ground zero. Tom was honorably discharged without any fanfare from the Navy on May 15, 1946.

Tom returned to Colorado and the ranch, working for his dad until the mid-1950s. Tom Sullivan married Evelyn Walker of Hayden on Dec. 25, 1951, in San Diego at the Protestant Congregational Church.

Tom worked at the foundry at Solar Turbine. In 1959, he went to work for National Steel as a helper, eventually becoming the head of the welding department for new construction with 10 ways (ships) with crews working 24 hours a day. One of his projects was the secret CIA ship Glomar Explorer, which gave him great pride. Tom retired from the shipyards in 1983.

Tom is survived by his wife, Evelyn, of 56 years; sons, Alex Brendon and Thomas Milton; sisters, Jeannette Gruber (George) of Littleton, Francis (Carolyn) of Meeker, Melvin (Flora) of Craig, Milton of Craig and James of Littleton; sisters-in-law, Lillian of Spokane, Wash., and Nancy of Meeker.

Numerous nephews and nieces also survive.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Bren and Mary; mother and father-in-law, Alex and Mary Walker; sisters, Mary Sullivan Yoast (Ray), Ceclia Sullivan Knott; and brothers, infant Patrick, Rodger, Brendon (Bud), Pat and Jack.

Graveside memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 26, 2007, at the Hayden Cemetery.

He died with the quiet courage he had lived his whole life with.

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