Ernest Sullivan

[Age 87] The World War II flier ran a mill for Bethlehem Steel.

August 13, 2007

Ernest Sullivan of Baltimore, a former Army Air Forces navigator and steel mill manager, died Friday at University Specialty Hospital of complications from injuries suffered in a June car accident. He was 87.

Mr. Sullivan, who was born in Baltimore, graduated in 1938 from Polytechnic Institute, where he was a wrestling champion in his weight class during his junior and senior years. He attended the Johns Hopkins University's old evening school, McCoy College, until he enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943.

He was one of the "90-day wonders," completing flight training in just three months.

"That's World War II," said his son, Craig Sullivan, of Baltimore. "The greatest generation. My father was the epitome of that."

A first lieutenant, Mr. Sullivan navigated a bomber over land and sea using dead- reckoning piloting, radio and celestial navigation. He flew 33 combat sorties, a total of 233 combat hours, as navigator in a B-24 aircraft with the 15th Air Force in the Mediterranean.

He was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious achievement in flight and was authorized to receive five Bronze Service Stars for air combat in the Balkans, North Apennines, Po Valley, Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns.

Once discharged, Mr. Sullivan finished his education at Hopkins, earning a bachelor's degree in 1947 in mechanical engineering. He was the only one of 11 siblings to graduate from college.

He married Naomi Lassahn on Sept. 6, 1947, after meeting her on a blind date. The couple would have celebrated their 60th anniversary next month.

Mr. Sullivan took a job at Bethlehem Steel that same year, rotating through different mills at what was then called the "loop" program. He worked his way up the ladder and retired in 1980 as assistant superintendent of the primary mill at Sparrows Point.

"He was a man's man," his son said. "He ruled by example and by kindness, but tough as nails. You just sensed there was a line you just did not cross. ... I don't know what my father sounded like with his voice raised."

Mr. Sullivan made music a part of his life. His son remembers hearing Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett on the stereo, and housework was always accompanied by pop music on the radio.

On Saturday nights, Mr. Sullivan and his wife would go dancing, which they continued to do well into their 70s. They took it seriously, his son said, and his father could handle ballroom moves.

Mr. Sullivan was in extremely good physical condition - at 77 he could do 35 pullups by grasping the tips of his fingers to a door- frame, his son recalled. "He's the fittest man I've ever known. He led a very clean, decent, quiet life. He was not a man of excess."

In his retirement, he enjoyed golf, games of bridge and pinochle, and traveling to Florida and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

He belonged to the Polytechnic and Johns Hopkins alumni associations and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road, Timonium.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife; his daughter, Jeanne Iley of Timonium; a brother, William Sullivan of Towson; sisters Marie Sims of Lutherville, Teresa Maskeroni of Mays Chapel, and Jean Anders and Elinor Stella, both of Orlando, Fla.; and three grandchildren.

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