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Orma Sullivan

This photo shows Orma Sullivan with her four grandkids. She's holding a wiggly Bill. Nancy and Steve stand beside her, and Dave is in front. 

















November, 1966 
1695 Church St, S.E.
Salem, Oregon

Dear Rev. Gamble: 

Mother has asked me to jot down some thoughts about her life for you to keep on file so when the time comes you will have some Information upon which to draw in conducting the memorial service.  I, in turn, have asked her to outline a chronological biographical sketch, which you may find of assistance.

It is difficult to look at one's mother objectively, but probably not as difficult as the problem a mother has in looking objectively at her son.  Certainly my own mother has given me every full measure of devotion and loyalty possible.  Even in attempting to be objective, I cannot fail to put this in first place.

Perhaps the most important memory I shall ever have of other is the time when I was preparing to attend a college in Portland and she insisted, instead, that I should attend the University of Oregon in Eugene.  Even at the age of 18 I realized what this meant for her.  She and I were living with her mother in those years.  Much of her life was built around her only child.  Those were the closing years of the Great Depression.  Her decision meant taking some precious dollars from her already desperately tight budget to get me started in a college career.  More important, however, it meant sacrificing the next few years of close association so that I could get the kind of education she had been denied.  She realized, and she told me so, that in encouraging me to leave home she was assuring that I would have a life of my own.

This act, selfless in its motive, in which her greatest pleasure was to be deprived in seeing the success and growth of others, is the cornerstone upon which Orma Sullivan has built her life.

She dedicated nearly 14 years to providing for her mother.  The only regrets I have ever heard from her concerning those years were that she wasn't able to do more.  Those of us who saw those years are tempted to ask, "How much more could she have given?"  These were difficult years financially for everyone.  All of my Mother's energies and financial substance went into maintaining the household, providing for me and for her mother. Yet, her only regret is that she couldn't do more.

For several decades of her life she gave freely of her talent as a vocalist.  Associated with church work throughout her life, she was a soloist as well as a longtime member of the Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church choir in Portland.  Her singing took her into many churches and brought her many friends.

As dedicated to giving of herself in her employment as she was in her personal life, she has an intense loyalty to her employer of 25 years, Sawyer's Inc.  She joined the firm in the early 1930's when it was small.  She became its bookkeeper.  In 1939 the company added the 3-dimensional Viewmaster which was to make it one of the largest businesses in the state.  Her responsibilities grew along with the company.  Although she gave much of herself to Sawyer's she credited the pension which her job provided as one of the principal contributions to the enjoyment of her retirement years.  She was always, even after she retired, one of the firm's best amateur salesmen and promoters, making use of its equipment in the hobby of color photography which gave her much pleasure.

Colorful scenery and places always held fascination for her.  Although finances and time conspired to limit her travels, the trips she took around the Northwest and two trips across the country were among the highpoints of her life.

Mother drew heavily upon and contributed to the strength of family association.  Blessed with a close relationship with her sister and four brothers, she looked back on this association with pride as well as pleasure.  The continuation of family loyalty over the decades and even after the death of her mother shows the real depth of feeling which the members of this family stil1 feel for one another.

The death of her father while she was still a child forced Mother to work at an early age--first babysitting brothers and sister, then in formal employment while still in her early teens.

I was interested, as the years of her retirement approached, in speculating how she would take to a life shorn of responsibility and enforced inactivity.  when she decided to buy an apartment in the Rose Villa Retirement Center I assured the managers they were not just getting someone to fill an apartment, they were getting someone who would make a real contribution to wherever she lived.

I did not have the imagination to envision just how dramatic and important her chosen role would be.  Within a few months, of her own volition, she began creating Foster Grandmother clubs at Rose Villa.  These have the dual value of providing care for needy children and families overseas as well as giving many of the older people at Rose Villa a social outlet and the satisfaction of contributing to a worthwhile endeavor.

Her correct evaluation of a need and the diligence of her effort can be attested to by the five clubs of 15 members each which now contribute through the Foster Parents plan.  Their help sends the equivalent of over $7,000 annually to those who need it most and provides a monument and tribute to my mother's life which is greater than any which could be raised in stone.

If I can close this on a personal note, as I began it, I would want to draw special attention to the association of my mother with my own family.  No daughter has ever been received with more affection and loyalty by a mother than my wife has been welcomed by my mother.  And to my four children, my mother has become much more than a grandmother one visits or is visited by occasionally.  Thanks to circumstances in which we called upon Mother to spend two months with our family while my wife and I were overseas, she was able to know and be known fully by them.  The real love her grandchildren show for her has also been one of her great treasures.

I don't know how to sum this up any better than to say that I can only hope for my children that they are able to give as much of themselves to others as did my mother.

Very Sincerely,


 Wes Sullivan