Catherine Sullivan, a longtime teacher at Oxford Middle School, passed away September 4 after a months-long battle with cancer. She was 56.
Sullivan taught on the OMS sixth-grade “blue team” and supported students throughout the school as a special education teacher since 1999.
She spent a total of 32 years working as a special education teacher.
“She was such a special person,” said OMS Principal Dacia Beazley. “Her heart was with our special education students. She was always the person who was there for our students if they needed lunch money, field trip money. If someone needed a coat or a pair of shoes, Cathy was that person to be able to provide things for our students. She always put students first and was the champion for hundreds of students in her time at OMS. We won’t soon forget our dear friend, and we know her legacy will live on.”
OMS teacher Natalie Daversa had many kind things to say about Sullivan.
“She truly (was) one of the most kind and warm-hearted people I know. Anyone who met her soon realized how she would go above and beyond for her students, friends, and colleagues,” said Daversa, who worked closely with Sullivan for 10 years.
“When anyone thinks of Cathy, they think of ‘kindness’ and ‘patience’ and ‘a warm heart.’ Each of those words encompassed who she was and everyone remembers her for that. She worked with special education students and she had a lot of patience. She was soft-spoken but the kids all listened. They respected her.”
According to Daversa, Sullivan’s devotion to her students extended beyond the school day.
“She would stay after school for hours working on lessons and goals for her students,” she said.
Special education caseload Teacher Mary Owczarzak, who worked with Sullivan for 11 years, said she was inspired by Sullivan’s patience and loving nature.
“Cathy (was) one of the most patient people I know, never giving up, even with the most challenging students, and always shar(ing) a smile and kind word, all the while making it look easy,” Owczarzak said.
OMS geography teacher Melissa Flanagan added that Sullivan’s capacity to love students and staff created a climate of compassion and understanding that made it easier to accomplish difficult tasks.
“Cathy was a unique teacher and person in the fact that she realized, above all else, relationships need to be built with students and with co-workers in order to achieve success,” she said. “She went out of her way to get to know students and her co-workers personally and she would always ask with sincerity about our families, our lives, and if there was ever anything she could do to help us.”
“(Despite) the fact that she was a busy wife and mother of three sons, she always found the time to leave a little gift or personal note on our desks, or for her students, to inspire us and to demonstrate that she was listening and cared so very deeply for both her teammates and her students. Cathy will remain in our hearts forever here at OMS,” Flanagan added.
“Cathy was incredibly thoughtful, caring and kind,” said OMS Spanish teacher Kristin Giroux. “Once you were Cathy’s student, you were always her student. She regularly checked in on her kids from previous years just to see how they were doing and to offer her help.”
Sullivan was the beloved wife of Brian for 32 years; mother of Brendan, Shane and Liam; daughter of David J. Nelson and the late Kiyoko; loving sister of Frank Nelson, Mechelle Nelson and Erik Nelson (Deanna); sister-in-law of the late Kevin Sullivan, Matthew Sullivan, Maura Sullivan, Meg Ballard (Frank), Sheila Howe (Gordie), Eileen Sullivan (Lance), Patty Burnham (Jimmy), Dan Sullivan (Tina), Michael Sullivan, Kate White, and Anne Nash (Derek).
A funeral was held Sept. 9 at St. Mary of the Hills Catholic Church in Rochester Hills.
In lieu of flowers, memorial tributes may be made to Oxford Community Schools. In the memo section of checks, those who donate are asked to write “Cathy Sullivan Memorial.” Funds will be used to benefit OMS Special Education students.