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Longtime library and community volunteer Bud Sullivan dies

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Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 7:03 am, Tue Jul 12, 2011.

Bud Sullivan had a problem saying no, whether it was volunteering for a local organization or taking his daughter for a late-night ice cream run.

"He was a really generous, nice man and always willing to get involved. He's an extremely high achiever, and looking back I'm just now realizing all of his accomplishments. I'm so proud of him," said his daughter, Stacey Heminger.

Sullivan died from a heart attack on July 3 at the age of 77.

The Lodi native volunteered for dozens of community organizations, but his main passion was serving on the Lodi Library Board of Trustees for 27 years, including 19 years as president. He was widely recognized for his expertise in First Amendment issues.

He was inducted into the Lodi Community Hall of Fame's first class in 1998 for his contributions to community service.

During his first decade on the library board, he focused on getting a new building at the corner of Locust and Church streets. The library's community room is named after him.

Sullivan was a "rock" for the library because of all of his community connections and his passion, said Kathleen Andrade, who worked with him while she was the library director.

"Over the years, he was just an advocate for the library. He believed in it. He felt that education, intellectual freedom and the ability of individuals to have access to information of any kind was fundamental," Andrade said.

While growing up, his daughter remembers going to the library with her brother, Michael, and her father and mother.

"My dad just loved that it was open to everyone from every walk of life, and everyone had an opportunity to learn and have fun learning," she said.

Sullivan was born and raised in Lodi. He graduated from Lodi High School in 1951 and then went to University of the Pacific, where he earned his bachelor's degree. He then entered the U.S. Army, serving in Germany for two years.

Upon returning home, he went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with a law degree in 1960.

Heminger said her father was a self-made man, putting himself through school because he came from a poor background.

Sullivan then worked as an attorney for all of the school districts in San Joaquin County and taught at Humphrey's College of Law.

He then became a full partner at Litts, Mullen, Perovich, Sullivan & Newton for 23 years before retiring in 1989.

Tom Newton was partners with Sullivan for more than 20 years. For a small-town lawyer, Newton said, his friend could handle a wide range of cases. Sullivan also was the leading authority on the education code, Newton said.

While working as Lodi's assistant city attorney on a contract basis from 1964 to 1979, Sullivan handled cases that Newton said would be foreign to many lawyers, including condemnation cases where the city was taking land for the public's benefit.

When Newton needed a sounding board, he often asked Sullivan's opinion.

"He just had a great deal of insight into making complicated things seem simple. Any trial lawyer is looking for someone to help him or her with the cases they are handling," Newton said.

Stephen Snider works at Sullivan's former firm, which is now called Snider, Diehl & Rasmussen. Snider said Sullivan was a mentor and very dedicated to his clients.

Even though he had a brilliant mind for the law, Sullivan could still connect on a "real person" level with everyone who walked into his office.

"He understood that when people are involved with lawyers, it is typically a situation that carries a lot of emotion and stress. He had a way of putting people at ease," Snider said. Tom Peterson got to know Sullivan when he first moved to Lodi in the mid-'60s. Peterson was assistant city manager and Sullivan was assistant city attorney, and they often attended the same city functions.

Their families formed a lifelong friendship that included going to a beach house in Aptos for at least 20 summers.

Peterson described his friend as a brilliant man with a typical Irish sense of humor.

One time while rafting in the ocean, they were no match for the rough waves, Peterson said. Right before the two-man raft flipped, Sullivan joked, "If you don't know how to swim, it's too late to tell me now."

As for working in the community, Peterson said Sullivan was the "epitome of reliability."

"He just wouldn't say 'no.' If you needed a job done in the community, you'd ask Bud and he would do it," Peterson said.

When he wasn't volunteering, Sullivan played bridge and was in a bowling and softball league.

"He didn't waste any time during his stay with us. He lived life to the fullest and had a lot of fun doing it," Peterson said.

He also was a co-owner of the Lodi Dodgers, a minor league baseball team.

During the Lodi Dodgers games, Mullen remembers his frugal law partner, who was known to clip coupons, commenting every time something happened during the game.

"Every time we would go to a game, he would yell out '$3.75!' if they would foul out a ball and '$5.90!' if they broke a bat," he said.

Several people said he never hesitated when it came to donating to charities or helping others.

Carol Marvel was Sullivan's neighbor for years, and said that Sullivan always stopped for conversations and invited people into his home.

She remembers that he was always generous, whether it was giving away the peaches from his tree in the yard or donations that Marvel collected door-to-door.

"No matter what I was collecting for, he was always so very, very generous. Of all the people who lived here, he was always the largest donor, and said he was happy to help others," Marvel said.

Even though Sullivan was involved in a variety of community organizations, he still valued his time with his family, Heminger said. When she was a kid, she used to prod her dad to go to Baskin-Robbins on Ham Lane.

"In the evening, he'd get home and be tired ... and I would coerce him into getting ice cream more than he probably would have liked," she said.

He also was a gourmet cook who would serve his family cold soups and food with strange sauces while all the other kids in the neighborhood were having taco or pizza night, Heminger said.

Throughout his entire life, Sullivan took care of his brother, Daniel Sullivan, who had a disability. He would take him on errands and on outings to the movies and other family events.

"When their parents died, my dad was going to make sure his brother was taken care of," Heminger said.

One of Sullivan's proudest memories was when his only grandchild was crowned Miss San Joaquin in 2004. Stefanie Heminger remembers that he encouraged her to enter the pageant for the scholarship money.

He also encouraged her to go to his alma mater Pacific, where she minored in pre-law. He helped her both financially and if she was struggling in classes.

"He was so intelligent. It just blew my mind what he knew," Stefanie Heminger said.

While she was in college, Sullivan hosted parties on St. Patrick's Day for students that included a gourmet feast and open bar. His house was also open on holidays for any students who couldn't afford to fly home.

For his 72nd birthday, Stefanie Heminger arranged for his birthday party to be at the Phi Kappa Delta house, which is what he pledged at Pacific.

"He was a party grandpa. All my friends couldn't wait to go to his house and hang out," she said.

Stefanie Heminger was looking through family photos recently and remembered a specific fond memory.

"I was 12 and asked if I could put makeup all over him. He said, 'Sure, why not?'. So I covered his face and put his hair in a mohawk. And I don't think many grandfathers would be down for that," she said. Memorial contributions should go to the Lodi Public Library Foundation, 201 W. Locust Street, Lodi, CA 95240. For more information on Sullivan's life or to sign the guestbook, visit www.lodinews.com/guestbook.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/city_buzz.

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