Sunday, February 10, 2013
Add to FacebookAdd to Twitter

FATHER DON SULLIVAN

Father Don Sullivan, vicar of St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 800 Center St., Key West, "got away," as he used to put it, peacefully in his home on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. He is survived by his beloved dog, Bear: his sister-in-law, Patricia L. Sullivan of north Fort Myers, Fla.; and the following nieces and nephews: Sean Sullivan of north Fort Myers, Kimberley E. Harvey of Chicago, Ill., Lawrence Sullivan of Portland, Ore., Robin P. Sullivan of San Francisco, Calif., Royalee Cleveland of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Joseph Sullivan of Costa Rica.

Fr. Don leaves a rich legacy of ministry, hospitality and friendship. He truly loved Key West and its people. Often while sitting on his front porch conversing with friends old and new, he would exclaim, "Sullivan, how did we pull this off?" He always marveled at his great fortune to be "living in paradise," surrounded by those he called "the world's most amazing people." He considered all of Key West to be his parish, and would always lend an ear or give a kind word to anyone who needed it. What disturbed or disappointed him was not being able to help. Indeed, he was the underdog's vicar.

Fr. Don brought new light and life into St. Peter's. Music, ceremony and enjoyment were integral to his ministry. He got the interior painted, the organ repaired, the Lady Chapel tiled, the roof mended, the floors refurbished, installed gates to the sacristy, and updated the kitchen in the vicarage. He charmed into the church an elegant grand piano, and he commissioned artist and congregant Rick Worth to paint a mural for the Lady Chapel. He was one of life's celebrants. One of his fondest memories was ministering at a Key West nightclub venue called "The Church of Love," where he talked about God, love and enjoying this precious gift of life. It is confirmed that he managed to preside at Mass the following morning. Though ceremonially his church was at the "high" end, he himself was down-to-earth. It was his Sunday custom to bless children, travelers, and those celebrating a birthday or an anniversary. He used to say that he'd spent 40 years in "the God business."

He was briefly interim rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Key West, spending Sunday mornings dashing between the two on his scooter. Fr. Larry Hooper of St. Paul's commended him as a 'balancing presence' for the Key West Interfaith Ministerial Alliance. He served as dean of the Florida Keys; he was on the board of the Sister Season Fund.

Prior to arriving in Key West in October 2007, he was the rector of St. Faith's Episcopal Church, Cutler Bay, Fla. He enjoyed coordinating conferences and retreats for the clergy of the Diocese of Southeast Florida. He also held positions in the Diocese of Long Island and the Diocese of California. Fr. Don wore his considerable learning and wisdom lightly. He was a graduate of The General Theological Seminary in New York, where he served on the Alumni Board for several years. Before ordination, he was a Franciscan Friar for 18 years and served as guardian of the Brooklyn House, and chaplain at Goldwater Specialty Hospital in Manhattan. Before that he'd been at the Bishop's Ranch in Marin County, Calif., with the Navajo Nation near Monument Valley, Utah, and at the Franciscan House in Trinidad, West Indies. He carried the Franciscan values of generosity, service and compassion with him wherever he went.

And before his calling, Fr. Don worked as a radio announcer, a ride operator and guide at Disneyland, a record promoter, a building contractor, and served in the Navy. He also considered himself quite blessed to have lived in San Francisco in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was truly a well-beloved man who is sorely missed.

In lieu of flowers or traditional remembrances, donations may be made to St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 800 Center St., Key West, FL 33040. A celebration of his life and requiem Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at St. Peter's, with Bishop Leo Frade presiding. Please come in white or brightly colored attire, as befits his theology. As Fr. Don would say, "Come and join the party!"