Roger W. Sullivan, loving husband of the late Blanche C. Sullivan, passed away on Jan. 9, 2018, in Woodland, California, after complications from a long illness. A resident of Davis for nearly 50 years until the debilitating years of his illness, Roger was 89.
Roger was born on April 5, 1928, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the son of William W. Sullivan and Frances L. Keenan. Along with his older brother Robert, Roger was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and spent many an idyllic summer in Parkersburg. As a youth, he excelled in sports, and through his athletic prowess, he earned himself admittance to the selective Walnut Hills High School, graduating in 1946. There, he shined as quarterback and captain of the football team, number 57 of the Eagles.
After high school, Roger attended college, first, at the University of Cincinnati, and then on to Notre Dame University, where he graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree. Proud of his alma mater, Roger was a Notre Dame man through and through: passionately devoted to Fightin’ Irish football, he also fervently appreciated the Catholic education he received at Notre Dame and often spoke highly of the Fathers who taught and inspired him.
While a student at Notre Dame, Roger met his lovely future wife, Blanche, and they married in 1953. Like Roger, Blanche was raised in Cincinnati, and there, until 1963, they raised their growing family. When Roger was drafted into the U.S. Army, they also lived for two adventurous years in Munich, Germany, where Roger was stationed and where their second child, William, was born.
As they raised their young family in Cincinnati, Roger furthered his studies and worked at the Christ Hospital Institute of Medical Research in Cincinnati under the tutelage of his mentor, Dr. Leon H. Schmidt. In 1963, when Dr. Schmidt became the founding director of the National Center for Primate Biology at the University of California at Davis, Dr. Schmidt invited Roger to join his team of researchers, whereupon Roger and family moved out west to Davis. At the Primate Center, Roger worked for many years as a hematologist; in later years, he worked as a laboratory researcher at UC Davis. He never lost his youthful awe of science and its intricate marvels.
In his private life, Roger enjoyed spending time with his family and keenly following the whirl of current events and politics and sporting events of all kinds. He took great pleasure in music, and he enjoyed quietly observing and taking care of animals. Meticulous and visually sensitive, he was an exceptionally talented photographer. And he loved to drive: his family will always fondly remember the Sunday jaunts and day trips to San Francisco and Lake Folsom, the camping trips to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, and the long road trips across country to Cincinnati.
Predeceased by his older brother Robert, and Blanche, his wife of 56 years, Roger is survived by his six children: Kevin, Bill (Piper), Michael, Jane (Dave Gilhooly), Jim (Denise), and Anne (Bobbie Saltzman). Survivors also include nine grandchildren (Heather, Christopher, John, Haley, Thomas, Leslie, Sarah, Hannah, and Leah) and six great-grandchildren (Christopher, Delaney, Jordan, Michael, Nixon, and Camellia), as well as one sister-in-law, Mary Ellen Jacobs of Cincinnati, numerous nieces and nephews and cousins.
Having suffered from an Alzheimer’s-like dementia for over a decade, Roger was cared for in different ways and by many different people throughout the years—from doctors and professional caregivers to family who gave much needed practical assistance and managed Roger’s affairs when he could no longer do so. Along with these many helpers, the family wishes to thank Roger’s granddaughter Heather who lovingly cared for Roger in the family home, his devoted family visitors who surrounded him with love, and the kind staff at Woodland Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, where, for several years, Roger received the round-the-clock medical care he needed.
Roger’s funeral service was private. On Jan. 19, he was laid to rest with a Mass of Christian Burial at St. James Catholic Church in Davis.