Sullivan is Pine Beetle parade Grand Marshall

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Willard Sullivan loves to garden, gives vegetables
to friends in the Castor community
Castor's Pine Beetle Festival Committee met and decided early this year as to who would lead off as Grand Marshall of their annual parade. The group voted unanimously that Willard Sullivan was the ideal choice and agreed that Sullivan is a community minded--all round Good Samaritan. "Nobody knows Castor like he does," Mayor Vicki Pickett, said.

Sullivan made light of the inquiry as to his contributions to the town and community. "I do anything I can find to do," he said. "I can't just sit, have to have something to do. I feel better when I'm doing something."

So, after asking around, we learned that his something to do includes, mowing six lawns--five for neighbors unable to mow, and his own, plus cultivating a large garden full of okra, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, and other vegetables. "I sell some of the peas and tomatoes," he said, "just enough to recover my expenses, then give the rest away. I have a good lawnmower and can buy my own gas and I enjoy getting out and meeting people."

"I do anything I can find to do," Sullivan continued. "The Methodist Church is right next door to my house. I do a little maintenance there, nothing major, make sure the air conditioner is on before services. It's just all part of going to church, nothing special."

A man of quiet demeanor, most often wearing overalls, and driving a pick-up truck, doesn't ordinarily draw a lot of attention. His life story began when he was born south of Castor alongside Topy Creek. He and his family moved south to Campti when Willard was five years old. He attended school until his graduation in 1951. After graduation he volunteered for the United States Air Force and, in June of 1952, he married his sweetheart Zora Tingle, former classmate at Campti High School.

Many important events made up a part of Willard's life during the twenty-one years he served in the Military Service. With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the United States sent forces to Korea. The next year the United States committed to defend Japan against Communism. 1955 saw US intervention in Iran. In 1960, the US committed its full military resources to the struggle to contain communist influence in South Vietnam. In 1962 the Cuban Missile crisis put the world on the brink of nuclear war, and 1967 saw Anti-Vietnam War protests in the United States.

Like most veterans, Willard did not elaborate on his war experiences. Instead, he remembered places he had been, three years in Spain, one year in Saudi Arabia, and one year in Vietnam. He and his family, Zora, son Jerry, and daughter Amy also traveled throughout the US, to Texas, Kansas, Michigan, and South Carolina. Retired Master Sergeant Willard Sullivan and his family returned closer to their roots at their new home in Castor in 1972.

The Sullivans became active in their community attending local churches, first Ebenezer and then First Baptist. Zora served as pianist at both churches and gave private piano lessons until she became disabled. Jerry and Amy attended Castor High School and Willard went to work for the State Highway Department. "It was just a job," he said. "It was close to home." After 22 years with the Highway Department, he retired and began taking care of his wife.

As a resident of the Village of Castor, a deacon in First Baptist, it followed that Willard would become interested in the business of the town council. He began working for the town as meter reader, and as maintenance man for the water and sewer system. "I worked for the town for twelve years and began to think that I knew Castor inside out. Over the years I've lived here I've seen so many changes. It's just a great place to live! When my wife passed away I had to move forward, find something to do to fill the void of her being gone."

Rev. Stephanie Kidd, pastor of Castor United Methodist Church said, "Zora's death opened doors for Willard to begin a new season of his life as part of the family of Castor United Methodist Church, where he is loved and loves greatly. From maintaining the churchyard and minor maintenance on the building to participating in Vacation Bible School and their monthly Souper Saturday outreach, he is always willing to do what he can. He even hosts the Men's Bible Study in his home every Wednesday night. He is a vital part of our church family."

A tour of Sullivan's garden led past the front porch of the former Minchew home built during the late 1940s. We stopped as my guide explained that the mandevilla vines growing along the porch posts were there because Zora used to like them. The two acre garden in the back yard had lush tomato vines, more okra than you might ever want to pick, a big pumpkin laying out in the open, and a couple of bare areas where peas had grown. A huge pine tree stretched upwards to the right of the garden and made me wonder if it had seen the birth of the town in 1900. Banty chickens in a fenced in yard squawked and cackled as Willard went by to give them water. An old Farmall tractor was taking a rest in the shade.

Willard Sullivan will ride in the Pine Beetle Festival Parade on Saturday, October 5, 2013. His Great Grandson Cooper will accompany him. "I feel honored to serve as Grand Marshall," he said.