Obituary: Brian Sullivan

Brian Louis Sullivan died February 29, 2024, near Long Creek.

Brian was born August 4, 1953, the fourth of nine children to Robert and Marilyn Sullivan of Pasco, Washington. He began working on the family's farm alongside his dad, uncle, and siblings as soon as he was old enough to hold a tractor steering wheel steady. His hands often stained green from early morning weeding, he attended St. Patrick Catholic School, his mischievous spirit keeping the nuns busy.

From an early age, he loved anything outdoors – he could often be found with his siblings, cousins and friends hiking down the bluffs at the family farm to the Columbia River to fish and hunt. He liked the classroom less and struggled to learn to read, so his mom bought him "Field and Stream" magazines, which he studied carefully. In those pages, he found his dream to one day buy land in the mountains and build a cabin.

He went to Pasco High School, where he played football, caused some more trouble, and eventually met the love of his life, Lorie. After she graduated from Washington State University School of Nursing, the two married and moved to a farm in Oregon, where Brian primarily grew alfalfa seed.

In farming as in life, he was meticulous. Alfalfa seed was a finicky crop to grow anywhere, but it was especially difficult in the sandy, windblown soil. He sped around the 1,000 acre farm on his dirtbike, stopping to walk the fields and measure soil moisture, bug count, and crop development.

By the time they were 27, Brian and Lorie had three daughters. A loving and protective father, Brian had seemingly endless energy for his girls, and loved working with them in his huge backyard garden, taking them fishing in the irrigation ponds, riding horses, and even piling all three on his dirtbike, popping wheelies on the farm's dirt roads as they squealed in delight and terror.

As his father had done, he hired his kids for farm jobs early. Starting with picking potato bugs out of the garden for nickels, they worked their way up to weeding the fields, scaring birds off the leaf cutter bees, keeping deer out of the fields, bookkeeping, and eventually driving tractor and combine.

He was driven to find new and better ways of farming, and took careful notes over the years to document mistakes and learnings. One summer, he noted that he thought he might be able to someday grow 1,200 pounds of seed per acre if he stayed on top of every detail and "got his (stuff) together." He surpassed that, ranking among the top 1 percent of growers nationally.

As his girls grew older, the proud father became a doting grandfather. In his retirement, he realized his lifelong dream of owning a cabin in the woods, and he began spending weekdays watching his grandkids and long weekends in the mountains outside of Long Creek.

On Thursday, February 29, Brian was driving near Long Creek when his heart suddenly stopped. Fitting his adventurous spirit, the state trooper described his truck as doing a "Dukes of Hazzard" jump before settling on a logging road. First responders described him as so peaceful he appeared much younger, which he would have found funny.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Lorie, as well as their three daughters and their families: Alison and Jarrod Ogden, parents to Grace, Isabelle, Olivia, and Brodie; Jenny Sullivan and Kurt Staley, parents to Lane Staley, and Niki and Jeff Reading, parents to Vivian and Evan. He is also survived by his mother, Marilyn, siblings Bernadette Such, Rosemary Wilson, Kevin Sullivan, Karen Elliott, Arleen Campbell, Maureen Vincent, and Patrick Sullivan, as well as their families. He is preceded in death by his father, Robert Sullivan, brother, Robert "Guy" Sullivan, and nephew Luke Sullivan.

Brian's celebration of life will be held Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m. at the Maxwell Center, 145 N. First Place, Hermiston, Oregon, with a meal to follow.

 

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