Joseph Cronin Sullivan, known for his love of teaching, family, sports and life, died Monday at the Hackett Hill Health Care Center in Manchester. He was 69.
“Joe was my best friend of 55 years,” said Frank Harlan. Both graduated from St. Anselm College and solidified their friendship teaching together at Manchester High School West for 34 years, from 1968 to 2002.
“I got to West one year before Joe,” Harlan said. “Our classrooms were next to each other. I taught social studies and he taught English. There weren’t many days over the last 55 years when I didn’t actually see or speak to Joe. He was a generous person, sincere, caring and a friend to all. He was also a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. He’s going to be missed because he touched so many lives, including mine.”
In 1995, Sullivan was a winner of the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical during which time he taught a class at every high school in the state of New Hampshire. Sullivan once said: “High school students do not write enough. There aren’t enough good writing assignments or good writing teachers. I want to help teachers help students become better writers.”
In a 2010 column written by John Clayton for the New Hampshire Union Leader, 1989 West High graduate Carrie (Barnard) Jones said it was Sullivan who gave her the inspiration to write.
“Every paper I turned in, he would write, ‘You are a writer!’ He’d do it in red pen. He used exclamation points. Eventually, by the end of the semester I got his point. Honestly, I can’t even begin to explain how Mr. Sullivan’s faith in me changed my life.”
Jones would go on to write children’s books that made it to the New York Times best sellers’ list.
She added: “His belief still holds me up when I’m having those neurotic writer days when I think that nothing is good enough.”
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said Sullivan “mastered the English language and when he presented it in written form, we all cherished it. Joe was a good honest human being, a friend of my family who taught my kids at West. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.”
Actor, writer and comedian Seth Meyers, who graduated from West, called Sullivan “the best teacher I ever had. His passion for writing was contagious. I’d say more, but the best advice he gave us was to keep it short.”
Sullivan published “The Grand Poobah of Creative Writing” and wrote “Column as I see ‘em” for the New Hampshire Union Leader in a career that spanned five decades.
“The Union Leader lost a distinctive and wonderfully entertaining voice when Joe stopped writing his column, and now Manchester has lost a man who gave so much of himself to the city,” said Vin Sylvia, Deputy Managing Editor-Sports, Photos and Features. “Sully loved sports, loved Manchester, loved people — and that all came through in his writing and the way he led his life.”
Sullivan’s love for sports was undeniable, particularly on the youth level. He served 35 years coaching at Manchester West Little League. He was also involved with the Manchester Regional Youth Hockey Association and the Manchester Soccer League.
A graduate of Bishop Bradley High, Sullivan coached the Trinity High girls’ softball team and was a member of the Manchester Athletic Hall of Fame.
“We spent many years traveling across the country, many trips to sporting events,” said Harlan. “He really loved college football and was a season ticket holder for Boston College for many seasons. Believe me, he lived a full life.”
In the early 1970s, Sullivan and his brother, Frank, who died last May, hosted a local radio sports show called ‘Mrs. Sullivan’s Boys,’ the very first sports radio talk show in New Hampshire. Before signing off, both brothers always said good night to their mother.
Sullivan was predeceased by his wife, Denise G. (Desrochers) Sullivan in 2002, and his daughter, Jennifer L.S. Boldwin, in 2012.
In 2009, he was honored by the New Hampshire Union Leader with the Carl A. Lundholm Award for distinguished service to youth in athletics.
In his acceptance speech, an emotional Sullivan said “The No. 1 reason I am here today is my late wife. I have always felt she was watching over me. Today, I feel like she’s next to me. I am here with great friends, and the woman I love is by my side.”