City’s Unofficial Historian Dies
Planner Remembered For Love Of Harrisonburg
Posted: February 7, 2013
HARRISONBURG — The city’s unofficial historian of recent years, Robert “Bobby” Sullivan, died at age 75 on Monday after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
From a young age, Sullivan developed a love for painting and drawing that continued throughout his life, family said, and the longtime Harrisonburg city planner showed particular interest in mapmaking as a youth.
“He used to draw maps of everything around [Harrisonburg],” brother Lawrence Sullivan of Winchester said. “He would envision what things would be like in 20 years … and a lot it came to pass.”
Growing up in a smaller Harrisonburg, Bobby Sullivan imagined roads lengthening that have been extended, and a larger city that has been expanded.
He lived his whole life in the Friendly City, family said, except for when he attended Mount Saint Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., and the University of Pittsburgh a few years later.
He returned to Harrisonburg to work as a planner. As the population grew, Sullivan’s boyhood maps were proven prophetic when the city annexed land from Rockingham County.
“He liked being part of that process … of annexing the territory to make Harrisonburg bigger,” his wife, Kathleen Sullivan, said Wednesday.
But Bobby Sullivan’s love of Harrisonburg didn’t stop at work. Sullivan, who is also survived by three daughters and two sons, lived as the unofficial city historian, giving walking tours and spreading his knowledge incessantly.
“Somebody from the [Daily] News-Record was always calling here to ask him a question,” Kathleen Sullivan said, adding that the calls continued even to last week.
Bobby Sullivan’s historian status included Harrisonburg High School sports history. He kept logs of games and scores going back to 1926 and he rarely missed a sporting event.
When Lawrence Sullivan talked to his brother a few days before his death, they discussed how Harrisonburg’s basketball teams were doing.
“He was loyal to anything he belonged to,” Kathleen Sullivan said. “He didn’t want to be anywhere else. He was interested in everything, especially anything to do with the high school and the football programs.”
A Funeral Mass for Sullivan is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Church, 154 N. Main St., Harrisonburg.
Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or email@example.com