Jean Sullivan, 83, avid walker and gardener, longtime Ascension parishioner

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Jean Sullivan (nee Griffiths), 83, a longtime Oak Park resident died on June 19, 2011. And Oak Parker since 1940, when her family moved from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish on the West Side, she palled around with comedian Bob Newhart's sister, Mary Jo.

She lived in the 800 block of Cuyler, her home since 1959. Before that, they lived at 1029 S. Highland, the house where her husband grew up. Gene Sullivan worked double shifts, first as a switchman for the railroad and then as a stationary engineer for Chicago State Hospital in Dunning to make ends meet. After the kids were older, Mrs. Sullivan did food demonstrations at the Jewel on Madison Street. Later she worked part-time for a River Forest caterer.

She graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 1945, as did all eight of her kids and three of her grandchildren (a fourth is still a student there). One grandchild still attends Ascension School. She hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas and St. Patrick's Day dinners at her place until she became too ill from cancer.

About 20 years ago, she decided to walk every block in Oak Park — the entire boundary and both sides of each street therein.

"I've always been a walker," she said. "I don't like swimming."

It was partly therapeutic. Her son Jim died in a motorcycle accident in 1976. Her husband Gene died in 1988 and her other son, Mike, in 1989.

"Jimmy's death brought me back to the church," she recalled in our profile on Nov. 24, 2010. For years she attended daily Mass at Ascension Church on East Avenue and served as a Mass captain on Sundays. She was also a PADS volunteer and did her own yardwork.

Oak Park is three miles long and 1.5 miles wide. According to Village Engineer Jim Budrick, there are 103 "center lane" miles inside Oak Park, meaning the distance you would travel driving every street in a car. Since she walked both sides of every street, that means she covered at least 206 "sidewalk" miles.

Jean Sullivan is survived by her children, Pattie, Kathy, Maureen (Dan Szpak), Denise Wiora, Lorna (Jerry) Cunningham, and Teri (Ross Simmons) Sullivan; her nine grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Gene; her son, Jimmy and Mike Sullivan; and her sister, Amy Bondi.

Visitation will take place on Friday, June 24 from 2 to 9 p.m. at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, 203 S. Marion St. in Oak Park. A funeral Mass will be celebrated on June 25 at Ascension Church at noon, followed by private interment.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Ascension Church, 808 East Ave., Oak Park, IL 60304 are appreciated.

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