John Sullivan

Obituary of John Robert Sullivan

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CHESTERTOWN: Growing up in New Jersey in the 1940s and ’50s, John Sullivan was a slight, shy boy, given to watching, listening quietly, and pursuing his own interests. Those traits served him well in his adult years as he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, public relations practitioner, media producer, freelance writer, and book editor. In the 1990s, he turned to the career that he long sought: nurturing the growth of the 430-acre Kipp Mountain Tree Farm in Chestertown, New York, that had once been his great-grandparents’ home. That is where John died on October 29, 2023, at age 85, after a long, courageous fight with lung cancer.


            There were more significant accomplishments: Sullivan and his wife, Phyllis Adams, raised four sons in Falls Church, VA, helped them learn and mature and proudly watched them raise families of their own.  The Sullivan sons were devoted athletes, and the family took part in the establishment and growth of youth soccer in the Washington area during the 1970s.  John served as a member of various boards in Falls Church. And he built things: a log home on his maternal family’s farm in the Adirondacks; a boat; and an airplane that he flew, low and slow, over the Adirondack Mountains—as well as on a memorable trip all the way to Alaska and back, often camping next to grass-strip runways along the way.


          The only child of Christina Carey and J. Robert Sullivan, John was born on December 18, 1937 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His love of the woods began at a very young age, by spending summers at his maternal grandmother's home in the Adirondacks, where he joined his close friends and many cousins, the Callahans, Cunninghams, and Collinses, hiking the mountains, swimming, and surviving endless adventures in small boats. He graduated from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City and attended Stevens Institute of Technology and Manhattan College before beginning a news career with the Star-Ledger in Newark. He later joined the US National Catholic News Service, where he covered events ranging from the 1968 Republican Convention to important decisions of the Supreme Court.


            For many years he worked as a freelance reporter, writer, photographer, and video producer. He was author of one book, Breadless Biafra, resulting from his coverage of the Nigerian Civil War in 1968. He later became an editor at Time-Life Books, from which he retired in 1994. 


           In 1996, Sullivan moved to the 400-acre Kipp Mountain Tree Farm in Chestertown that had once been home to his great-grandparents. He and Phyllis Adams were subsequently divorced and he married Gretchen McHugh, a musician and author, in Granville, New York  She later died after a long illness. 


           John and Phyllis rekindled their friendship and divided their time between Northern Virginia and Chestertown, where John was proud of his work on the stewardship of his beloved Tree Farm. He was secretary of the New York Forest Owners’ Assoc. (NYFOA) in 2005 and 2006, chairman of the southeastern chapter of NYFOA from 2005 to 2008, and was named Forest Owner of the Year in 2006. He was also awarded NYFOA’s Heiberg Memorial Award in 2008.

 Sullivan is survived by Phyllis, their four sons and their families: Sean and Karen, Ryan, and Reed of Colorado and Utah, James and Kendra, Kyle, Andrew, and Scott of Fairfax, VA.; Matthew and Sandi of Gettysburg, PA, and Mark and Katie, Thomas, and Caroline of Washington, DC. He is also survived by a step-family: Murray and Jinna, Ben, and Ashleigh McHugh of Granville; and Jennifer McHugh, her husband, Jack Hedin, and their sons, Emmet, Oscar and Jasper, of Winona, MN.


            Those who wish to honor John’s memory may choose to make a donation to Protect the Adirondacks, PO Box 48, North Creek, NY 12853; High Peaks Hospice, 454 Glen St., Glens Falls, NY 12801; or North Country Ministry, 3933 Main St., Warrensburg, NY 12885.


A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, November 4,2023, 1pm at The Bond 1786, 3 Hudson Street, Warrensburg, NY.


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John Sullivan

In Loving Memory

John Sullivan

1937 - 2023

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