Spunky and lovable, family and faith were the center of her life

NORTH READING — Mildred J. “Millie” (O’Rourke) Sullivan, the spunky, lovable character and last elder standing on both the Sullivan and O’Rourke ancestral sides, saw much life in her 96 years. She died peacefully in her home surrounded by her loving family on December 1, 2023.

Mildred (O’Rourke) Sullivan was born August 25, 1927 — a time when much of the world was still reeling from the tragedy of World War I. To her Irish immigrant parents, Millie would complete their brood of three boys and two girls. While she dearly loved her older brothers, her sister Mary would be a cherished friend and confidante throughout her life. The Irish immigrant experience, post-WWI, the Great Depression, and yet an even more encompassing World War, would all leave indelible imprints, caution, and hope upon Millie and her generation.

Educated at Mount St. Joseph’s Academy in Boston, she would find employment at the State House and later as the executive secretary for a furniture manufacturing company. During that brief professional chapter of Millie’s life, a fortuitous blind date introduced Millie to her beloved Sully, the true love of her life. Harold (Sully) Sullivan was a tall, wise, and fun-loving Army veteran. They were well-suited for one another, each with a heart attuned to God along with an eagerness for adventure with family, friends and the world.

Millie and Sully married on May 25, 1950. In the following year, their first daughter Maureen was born, steadily followed by Harold, Eileen, Sheila, Frances, Robert, Michael, Theresa, and Matthew. A prodigious nine children would make “Family” the all-consuming center and touchstone of their efforts and activities. Shortly before the fifth child was born, Millie and Sully moved into their dream house—a home they built in the then-rural town of North Reading. Over time that house became one busy home! While there were some inevitable lean and challenging times, the generosity and hard work from Millie and Sully meant that there was always plenty of food for the comings and goings of multitudes of friends and family. Millie was an accomplished cook, an exceptional baker, a talented seamstress and just an all-around highly competent person. As her children matured and set off on their own life-course, Millie added decorative painting, sophisticated knitting, and complex quilting to her repertoire of creative talents.

With their brood maturing, Sully and Millie began to travel beyond the sphere of family activities. How they loved this time of well-earned adventures and pleasures away from the homestead! Gratefully, Millie and Sully had many enriching post-child rearing adventures before Sully’s big heart failed on July 15, 2006. Millie would have to dig deep to find the strength and purpose to live in a world without her beloved Sully. She carried her tremendous grief nobly and stoically with a focus on handcrafts and her increasing number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She adored her fifteen grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.

Millie’s faith was a nourishing and deep wellspring, offering strength when she felt weak and refreshment in her exhaustion. She loved her community at St. Theresa’s. Millie and Sully were active members of the early devoted couples, a cadre of visionaries and tireless workers, who brought the dream of the present St. Theresa’s church building into reality. That energetic, determined group of parishioners sowed many seeds for much of the sturdiness and beauty we experience today.

As Millie returns to her spiritual home, we give inexpressible gratitude for her life, her mothering, her grandmothering, for the many unique talents and gifts she brought to earth, and for being the strong matriarch of our large and ever-expanding family. Her care and concern for all humans, that is the human family, inspired countless acts of generosity, kindness and love to those less fortunate.

Millie is survived by her children, Maureen Lombard of Newburyport, Mass.; Harold and Janice Sullivan of Gloucester, Mass.; Eileen Sullivan of Wakefield, Mass.; Sheila and Lawrence Jansen of Walpole, Mass.; Frances Sullivan of Burlington, Mass.; Robert and Cara Sullivan of Amesbury, Mass.; Michael and Tara Sullivan of Newburyport, Mass.; Theresa and Thomas Montminy of Falmouth, Mass.; and Matthew Sullivan of Boston/Nantucket, Mass.

Millie is also survived by her grandchildren, Jesse Lombard, Nora Lombard-McManus, Alex Jansen, Eric Jansen, Katherine Sullivan, Matthew Sullivan, Leah Sullivan, Giselle Montminy, Henry Montminy, Brigitte Montminy, Alicia Leggett, Alan Leggett, Anica Sullivan, Olivia Sullivan and Madeline Sullivan; and her great-grandchildren, Shaelin Lombard, Riley Lombard, Aine McManus, Tara McManus, Isla McManus, Eleanor McManus, Rosalie Sullivan, Logan Sullivan, Milo Sullivan, Greg Jansen and Theo Jansen.

Relatives and friends are most respectfully invited to attend her funeral Mass at St. Theresa’s Church, 63 Winter St. (Rte. 62), North Reading on Thursday, December 7 at 10:30 a.m. Please go directly to the church. Visiting hours at the Cota Funeral Home, 335 Park St. (corner of Park St. and Rte. 28), North Reading at Reading line, were held on Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. Interment will be at Riverside Cemetery, North Reading.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mildred’s name to the Lazarus House Ministries, 412 Hampshire St., Lawrence, MA 01841.