Sullivan, who died on Nov. 3, just short of his 91st birthday, was a local part of The Greatest Generation — people who served honorably in World War II and returned to their hometown to carve out an illustrious career in their chosen profession.
For Sullivan that meant finishing his education at Denver University School of Law following his wartime service and then practicing successfully for about 50 years in northern Nevada.
During the ceremony at the Elks building, a number of the high-ranking officers, led by Alan Squaiia, performed the rites prescribed by the organization. Speakers included members of Sullivan’s immediate family and locals that had known him from boyhood days. One of the most outstanding of the speakers was localite Elmo Vacchina, who first hooked up with Sullivan in the second grade at Mt. Rose grammar school. The lifelong friendship continued on through Billinghurst Junior High School, Reno High School and the University of Nevada, Reno. The more humorous accounts that Vacchina related concerned the many adventures he had with Sullivan when it came to horseback riding and going deer hunting.
This writer first met Sullivan sometime in the early 1950s when he engaged in horse breeding with Hugh Richardson of the Double Diamond Ranch. While he maintained the classic look of a busy barrister during the work week at his downtown office, Sullivan also was an expert at managing his mini ranch on Foothill Road. I once saw him getting out of his well worn truck and entering his office. I asked why he drove the truck to work downtown and his low-key response was, “You’ve obviously never driven down the lane to my house.” A few years later, I did have that opportunity and it was one of the most bone-jarring experiences of my driving career.
As noted, he was a hands on operator of the ranch and he taught his three sons — Michael, Alan and Daniel — all there was to know about ranching, horsemanship, hunting, fishing and the other myriad of duties associated with living the Nevada pioneer-style life. Strangely enough, none of the boys ever followed in his footsteps when it came to ranching.
Sullivan’s wartime service was as outstanding as his legal career and he retired as a lieutenant colonel from the Corps of Engineers. His theater of service was the European — in Bristol, England — and other European bivouacs. While in the service, he met his wife, Eunice “Nicki,” of 63 years and brought her back to the United States, which must have been a bit of a culture shock as she adapted to the rugged ranch life in the wilds of Nevada.
During his career, Sullivan served on all sorts of civic, professional and community boards and organizations and usually rose to leadership positions.
Right after the war, the city limits of Reno were at Mt. Rose Street, which meant the Sullivan encampment was a good ways out of town. Also, in those days South Virginia Street, the U.S. 395, was a tow-lane, poorly lit byway that was extremely difficult to navigate during winter snowstorms. I never got a change to ask Sullivan how he plowed that rocky and rutted long driveway of his, but I imagine that he hooked a plow to the front of his tractor and did his best to find the same path after each storm, which were heavy and often in those days.
Nevada vs. Boise State
By the time you read this, the most important football game in the history of UNR will be in the record books. Friday night, the Wolf Pack either scored the biggest upset in the country, or the Boise State 11 is still undefeated and still looking for a possible shot at the BCS championship. If Boise chanced to prevail against Nevada and Alabama was able to knock off Auburn, Friday afternoon Boise’s chances are extremely good. Whatever the outcome, Friday probably marked the largest TV audience ever to tune into the Nevada football game and — for the first time in memory — Mackay Stadium was sold out.
Every now and then, the Turner Movie Channel shows an oldie flick that sports a top-drawer cast that you never heard of when it was first released. In this case, the other night, it was a film titled “Plymouth Adventure” about the voyage of the Mayflower.
Released in 1961, it sported Spencer Tracy in the lead, Gene Tierney as the leading lady, Van Johnson and Lloyd Bridges. For this writer, it was a chance to catch Bridges, who was here in person for the Clint Eastwood Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Incline Village in 1975, in one of his early roles. He played a muscular deckhand, sort of a petty officer to Tracy’s role as captain of the Mayflower. In the part, Bridges was a thoroughly unlikable character, which is what he mostly played until he became a hero type in the TV show “Sea Hunt.”
Conversely, when he was at the lake for the Eastwood tourney, he was the quietest guy at the celebrity get togethers between matches at the bar of the Tahoe Racquet Club. He was equally deferential on the tennis court and while he was physically one of the most gifted of the celebrity players, he never strutted his stuff or lorded it over his less talented contemporaries. A fan favorite, he signed every autograph request and had a surprisingly charming and sophisticated demeanor. Again, a tribute to his acting ability that he was able to “play against type” in so many productions.
Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.
Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.