In the words of Past District Governor Bob Cassidy, this has been a difficult time for the Rotary Club of Bedford as it has suffered a terrible loss. “How do you say goodbye to an old friend who has been a member of Rotary for 35 years?
“Past President, Group Study Exchange Team Leader, Unsung Hero of Rotary District7910, and whether it was RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards), ESSEX (Eastern States Student Exchange), or Gift of Life. When the Gift of Life New England corporation was started back in 1999, Kevin and Ellen were on the original Board of Directors.
“If it involved children and students, especially those from other countries, Kevin Sullivan was whole-heartedly involved,” wrote Cassidy. “Kevin and his dear wife Ellen, have hosted numerous students and children from all over the world.”
In Kevin Sullivan’s Own Words
Kevin’s granddaughter, Olivia, recently discovered some of Kevin’s reflections that revealed why he was so happy.
“After reviewing my life and being a Rotarian for 35 years, happily married for 58 years with two sons, Paul and Jimmy, I am proud of, I am very happy and satisfied.
“I have worked mowing lawns, at a grocery store, drug store, and Brigham’s Ice Cream (where I met Ellen). I drove a cab in Cambridge (knew the streets like the back of my hand) and in Fitchburg. I joined the National Guard when I was 17 and transferred to the U.S. Army when I turned 21.
“In my time as a Rotarian, for the last 15 or so years, I have spent 3 days each June with about 200 15-year-old High School students in a leadership conference in a Rotary program called RYLA, the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy.
“My wife and I have had students as Rotary Exchange students from 8 countries: Belgium, 2 from Brazil, Columbia, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Thailand. One summer when the traditional Northeast Bus Tour of the USA was canceled, we took two of the Bedford students — a boy and a girl — on a month-long USA tour in our own camper. As a result, Ellen and I have attended 129 weddings in 7 states and in Belgium, and I gave away the Bride in one of them.
“We have had 4 English couples living with us on Rotary Friendship Exchanges (Bandey-Hefler). We have stayed in England with 6 English couples on two trips. I have led a group of young professionals to live in Egypt for a month, living with Rotarians, on a Group Study Exchange.
“We have had children from Ecuador, Jamaica, and Mexico who needed life-saving heart operations in Boston hospitals living with us. We have had 3 volunteers from Mexico, Japan, and Wyoming working with ‘Up With People’ stay with us.
“We have gone to 5 International Rotary Conferences. We meet the most interesting people at these conferences and gives us hope for the future of the world. Rotarians do not discuss religion or politics, they only discuss solutions.”
A message from Past District Governor Bob Cassidy
“To know Kevin was to know one of the most positive-thinking forward-looking people that I have ever met. Very few things, no matter how bad they were, caused him to lose his cool. He knew what the program rules were and he enforced them to the letter with all of the children and young adults that he and Ellen welcomed into their home. However, mixed in with that parental discipline was all the warmth and love he and Ellen had to give. The parents of all those children and young adults were comfortable knowing Kevin and Ellen were taking care of their child.
“In general, Kevin loved people. Up until just a week ago, Kevin had been an Uber/Lyft driver. I remember asking him why he did it. “Simple,” he said, “I meet the most interesting people every day.”
“Kevin was unique in many ways,” continued Cassidy, “including having the ability to see both sides of just about any issue. Kevin and Ellen are and have been for a long time, Major Donors to The Rotary Foundation. He did not seek any credit for it, did not want any recognition, but felt it was something he just had to do.
“His wit, warmth, and wisdom were infectious; it would spread around the club like a lit fuse. When it was his turn for Happy Dollars, everyone would groan, but then listen intently as he would impart some little-known history fact or a fascinating story about his beloved Boston.
“He was our friend and we will miss him greatly,” Cassidy said in conclusion, “God Speed, Kevin!”
Editor’s Note: With thanks to past district governor Ralph Hammond; district governor nominee Victor Tom; and past president and RYLA coordinator Christine Pinney for their quotes.