Manchester NH Civic Leader and Officer Candidate: S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan (1907-1942)

On 4 April 1950 an ordinance was passed “establishing John J. Sullivan Square in

Photograph of John J. Sullivan recognition plaque, located in Manchester NH at the corners of Massabesic Street and Valley Street. Copyright of Martin Miccio for the City of Manchester, and used here with permission.

Photograph of John J. Sullivan recognition
plaque, located in Manchester NH at the corners
of Massabesic Street and Spruce Street.
Copyright of Martin Miccio for the City of Manchester,
and used here with permission.

East Manchester… where Massabesic Street and Spruce Street intersects,” and was signed by Mayor Josaphat T. Benoit.   John J. Sullivan did not die in battle, as many of the other square honorees did.  However his overall service to the City of Manchester, and the sudden tragedy of his death at the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston, shocked and saddened many city residents.

His plaque reads: “”S/SGT. JOHN J. SULLIVAN. BORN FEB. 26, 1907. DIED NOV. 29, 1942. MEMBER 165th QUARTERMASTER CO. AVIATION U.S. ARMY.”

John J. Sullivan 1907-1942. Photograph property of Attorney Kathleen N. Sullivan. Used here with permission

John J. Sullivan 1907-1942.
Photograph property of Attorney
Kathleen N. Sullivan. Used here
with permission

John J. Sullivan was born in Manchester, NH on February 26, 1907, the first child of Philip Sullivan and Hannah (Sheehan) Sullivan. Philip and Hannah were immigrants, both having been born in County Kerry, Ireland.  He attended the local schools–St. Agnes School, followed by St. Joseph’s High School. He continued his education, and attended Lowell Textile School, before graduating from the New England School of Embalming. He was a businessman, co-owner of Sullivan and Connelly Funeral Home (with Arthur Connelly).

According to his niece, Attorney Kathleen N. Sullivan of Manchester: “In addition to the business interests, John Sullivan was active politically. He served five terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and in his first term was the youngest member. This was the start of a family tradition: in addition to my Uncle John, Sullivan family Democratic members of the state legislature included his brother, Henry; Henry’s wife, Mary; a cousin, Francis Sullivan; and two of Francis’ sons, Joe and Frank. Most recently his niece, Mary Heath (my sister) was elected. John Sullivan also served as the chairman of the Manchester Democratic City Committee.”

John J. Sullivan’s commitment to civic service did not stop here.  His niece went on to explain: “At the time the war began, John Sullivan was the Chairman of the Manchester Parks and Playgrounds Commission (predecessor to the Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division). He was the first city official in Manchester to join the armed forces during the war.” [Editor’s note: I find this very coincidental since this project was the brain child of Don Pinard of the current Manchester NH Department of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division.] “His other activities included the Knights of Columbus, the Raphael Club, the Eagles, and East Manchester Fish and Game Club.”

Kathleen goes on to state: “His (John J. Sullivan’s) last station was Key Field, in Meriden,

S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan in uniform. Photograph property of Attorney Kathleen N. Sullivan. Used here with permission.

S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan in uniform.
Photograph property of Attorney
Kathleen N. Sullivan. Used here
with permission.

Mississippi. He had returned on leave and was scheduled to leave for officer’s candidate school when he died in the Cocoanut Grove Fire on Nov. 28, 1942, at the age of 35.  City Hall was closed for his funeral; the service was held at St. Ann’s Church, where his parents had married and he had been baptized.”

The Cocoanut Grove was a one-story night club located at 17 Piedmont Street in Boston, Massachusetts, that was only open in the evening hours. The liquor license application in 1942 states that the premises contained 100 tables, 400 chairs and 30 fixed stools. On the night of November 24, 1942 a fire broke out in the basement’s Melody Lounge and quickly spread throughout the building. The official investigative report states that “within two to five minutes of the first appearance of the fire, most of the possible exits, including all exits normally open to the public, were useless.” 490 people died, with an additional 166 injured. Among the dead was S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan.

=====PARTIAL GENEALOGY of S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan======

Philip Sullivan, son of Michael & Julia (Hartnett) Sullivan was born 26 April 1876 in County Kerry Ireland, and died 5 April 1952 in Manchester NH. He immigrated to the US in 1892, and was naturalized in 1897. He married 27 June 1905 in Manchester NH to Hannah Sheehan, dau of Timothy & Elenore (O’Brien) Sheehan. She was b. April 1877 in Ireland and d. 1959 in Manchester NH. In 1940 they were living at 461 Belmont Street, occupation a janitor, and same year son John was an undertaker. They are buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery, Bedford, NH.
1920 US Census > NH > Hillsborough > Manchester
Phillip Sullivan 46 Ire Ire Ire immigrated 1892 naturalized 1897 Fireman, woolen mill
Hannah A. Sullivan 47 imm 1900 naturalized 1897
John J. Sullivan 12 NH Ire Ire
Lulu Sullivan 10 NH Ire Ire
Helena Sullivan 8 NH Ire Ire
Henry P. Sullivan 3-4/12 NH Ire Ire
OBITUARY: NH Bar Association: Henry P. Sullivan, 86, of Manchester, a former state senator and retired Manchester attorney, died April 24, 2003, at St. Teresa’s Health Care Center following a period of declining health. He was born in Manchester on Aug. 21, 1916, the son of Phillip and Johanna Sheehan Sullivan. He attended St. Agnes School, Central High School and St. Anselm College, and received his bachelor of arts and law degrees from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. While attending law school, Sullivan worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Upon graduation from law school, he was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force, attending officer candidate school in Miami Beach, Fla. He was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he met his future wife, Lt. Mary J. McCaffrey of Leominster, Mass. During his five years in the military, Sullivan served in the Sicilian, Italian, Normandy, Northern France and Rhineland campaigns. At the time of his honorable dis charge, he had achieved the rank of major. Upon leaving the military, he returned to Manchester to start his legal career and to raise his family and was admitted to the NH Bar in 1946. He served as the solicitor for the city of Manchester and was a partner in the firm of Green, Green, Romprey & Sullivan. Among his clients were the Manchester Housing Authority, the Sisters of the Holy Cross and the Sisters of Mercy. Attorney Sullivan also served as one of the first marital masters in the superior court system. A stalwart New Hampshire Democrat, he served as chair of the Manchester Democratic City Committee, chair of the Hillsborough Democratic Committee, and Democratic National Committeeman for New Hampshire. He was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the Manchester School Committee and the New Hampshire State Senate. As a state senator, he worked for the successful enactment of legislation in 1967 to protect New Hampshire’s coastal marshes from dredging and filling, helping to save New Hampshire’s fragile coastline for the benefit of future generations. Although he retired from elective office after his unsuccessful 1968 candidacy for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he remained a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates. He was particularly active in the campaigns of his wife, Mary, who also served in the New Hampshire Legislature. He was a member of numerous civic organizations, including the Notre Dame College Board of Trustees, founding member of St. Pius X Church, the American Legion (Sweeney Post), Retired Officers Association, Disabled American Veterans, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Knights of Columbus. He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame College and, in 1998, he was elected to the Central High School Hall of Fame. He also received the C. Arthur and Lillian Soucy Award from the Manchester Democratic Committee. Another award was named after him and his wife – the Henry and Mary Sullivan Award was established by the Manchester Democratic Committee in 1999. “The Democratic party in Manchester and New Hampshire suffered a great loss today,” Manchester Democratic Chair Ray Buckley said in The Union Leader upon Sullivan’s death. “Henry had a very strong personality and was always more than willing to offer his opinion and stand firmly on that opinion. If he was on your side, you had a warrior. I was always pleased to have Henry on my side. He was such a caring person who spent his entire life working for the people of Manchester.” He was the youngest of four children. His wife, former Rep. Mary J. Sullivan, died in 1997. Family members include four daughters, SAU 19 Assistant School Superintendent Mary Heath of Manchester, Professor Ann Sullivan of Ithaca, N.Y., Manchester Community Television Director Dr. Grace L. Sullivan and attorney Kathleen N. Sullivan of Wadleigh, Starr & Peters, Manchester; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to St. Theresa’s Healthcare Center, 519 Bridge St., Manchester 03104.
Children of Philip & Hannah (Sheehan) Sullivan:
1. +John J. Sullivan, b. 26 February 1907 in Manchester NH, d. 28 Nov 1942 [subject of this story]
2. Julia “Lulu” Sullivan, b. 7 Sep 1909 in NH; d. 5 Nov 2001 NH: m1) 20 October 1930 in Manchester NH to William Clear, son of William H. & Anna T. (Murphy) Clear. He was b abt 1908; She m2) Joseph Leo Donahue, son of Edward J. & Hannah (Connelly) Donahue. He b. 5 Feb 1913 in Manchester NH and d. 13 Oct 1989 in Quincy MA.
3. Helena Sullivan, b. 1912 in Manchester NH: d. 1999 in Manchester NH; She married –.
4. Henry P. Sullivan, b. 21 August 1916 in NH; d. 24 April 2003 in Manchester NH; Major US Army Air Forces in World War II. he married Mary J. McCaffrey, dau of Albert Leo & Nora E. (Boyle) McCaffrey. She was b. 15 Aug 1919 in Leominster MA and d. 1 March 1997 in Manchester NH. They had four daughters. [see obituary above]

1. FamilySearch
2. Newspaper Archives
3. Burial Records
4. Family remembrances

[Editor’s Note: This article is one of several I have written at the request of Don Pinard, Department of Public Works, Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Division, City of Manchester, New Hampshire.  It is a volunteer project (on my part) to better record and share the stories of the men memorialized by the city’s “Military Squares.”  All the information specifically within the body of this project is shared copyright free with the City of Manchester and its representatives, with the exception of photographs provided by family or friends who still retain whatever rights conveyed to them by law.]

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3 Responses to Manchester NH Civic Leader and Officer Candidate: S/Sgt. John J. Sullivan (1907-1942)

  1. Pingback: Manchester New Hampshire’s Military Squares and other Memorials | Cow Hampshire

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  3. Rachel Larrivee Potvin says:

    Looking for information on Helena Sullivan,our family came across my fathers adoption papers and Helena Sullivan was listed as mother to William Donald Sullivan. He was adopted in1933 and his name was changed to Donald Norman Larrivee any information would be greatly appreciated.

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