A life of global reach, dedication

Crash victim was mother, researcher

Mary Patricia Sullivan 1961- 2008

August 15, 2008|By Kevin Rector | Kevin Rector,Sun Reporter

When Mary Patricia Sullivan returned with her three daughters to Maryland in 2003 after spending seven years researching HIV/AIDS in Uganda, she was intent on giving them the best American school experience possible, friends said.

After researching several school systems, Ms. Sullivan moved her family into a two-story house with light purple shutters on York Road in Hereford to take advantage of the schools in northern Baltimore County, they said.

Ms. Sullivan, 47, was killed Tuesday morning when a stolen pickup truck swerved off York Road and smashed through a wall into the first-floor bedroom where she was sleeping.

FOR THE RECORD - An obituary for Mary Patricia Sullivan that appeared in Friday's editions misspelled the last name of Cindy Kobbe.
The Sun regrets the error.

A manager at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's division of infectious diseases, she was active in the local arts scene and brought a sense of an adventurous global lifestyle to Hereford, friends said.

"It's just such a tragedy," said Tami Satterfield, owner of The Gallery at Monkton Community Arts Center, which sold scarves and other items Ms. Sullivan had knitted. "It really is one of those situations that is so hard to understand."

The truck's driver, Aubry Carlton Miller Jr., 30, of the 20700 block of Old York Road in Parkton was arrested on multiple theft and burglary charges, Baltimore County police said.

Two of Ms. Sullivan's daughters were in the house at the time but were not injured, police said.

According to a Web site created by her colleagues at Hopkins, Ms. Sullivan began her 20-year career with Hopkins soon after graduating from the University of Maryland. She moved to Uganda in 1996 with her three young daughters - Caileigh Meehan, now 18, Shannon Meehan, now 16, and Aidan Meehan, now 14 - to help develop a laboratory for the Rakai Project, which researches HIV infection in that country, colleagues at Hopkins said.

"She was just outstanding, not only extremely competent and rigorous, but she had wonderfully warm, supportive relationships with all her Ugandan colleagues," said Dr. Ronald Gray, one of the project's principal investigators. "I've been getting phone calls and e-mails from her old friends in Uganda that they are devastated by this tragedy."

According to Dr. Maria Wawer, another principal investigator, Ms. Sullivan advanced the program by training her Ugandan colleagues to take over the laboratory when she left.

Ms. Sullivan worked at the Hopkins medical center, the medical school and the public health school, colleagues said, and most recently managed a care project for sexually transmitted diseases.

"She's had a long, very dedicated career playing important roles in a wide variety of projects," said Dr. David Thomas, director of Hopkins' infectious diseases division.

"She was fascinating to talk to," said Cindy Koppe of Monkton, who met Ms. Sullivan two years ago at a county school function. "To me, that was huge to know somebody who had really made a difference in the world."

Mrs. Satterfield said Ms. Sullivan's ability to do so many things well was impressive.

"For a [47-year-old] woman, she really had ... made waves that influenced a lot of people in a lot of communities all across the world," she said.

"Every time she came into the gallery she always talked about her girls," she said. "You could see how much she cared for them."

Diane Bechamps, a family friend who grew up with Ms. Sullivan for a few years in Jackson, N.J., said she "always enjoyed intellectual conversations and witty, dry humor" and was "really close to her family, a really great mother to her daughters, very intelligent and just very caring and really fun."

"This is just such an improbable tragedy," Dr. Gray said. "What one of our Ugandan colleagues said was that when [Ms. Sullivan] was working there, her biggest concern was the hazard of traffic on roads in Uganda, and it's just so ironic that she should have died in such an extraordinary accident in her own bedroom in the U.S."

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today at Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church, 18310 Middletown Road, Parkton.

In addition to her daughters, other survivors include her parents, Thomas and Patricia Sullivan; brothers Thomas Sullivan, Brian Sullivan and Sean Sullivan; sisters Eileen Orgen and Megan Greene; 13 nieces and nephews; and her former husband, James Meehan.

kevin.rector@baltsun.com

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