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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    ‘Sully’ now resting alongside Knute Rockne

    Waterford — There they were, Friday at the Birdseye. Two guys at the Notre Dame table who identify as “Sully.” But really, for purposes of the day’s remembrance, there was really only one Sully who counted: the late Craig J. Sullivan.

    And on the one-year anniversary of Sully’s death, there was, of course, a Notre Dame bowl game on television. This was the same Sully whose Mass card at his wake featured his picture on the front and the words to the Notre Dame Victory March on the back.

    Craig J. Sullivan: a 33-year employee at The Day, the man who always made sure you got your paper that day. Loyal to his family, friends, the Yankees, Giants, UConn Huskies and the Fighting Irish, not necessarily in that order. Sully died of a heart attack while driving his car Dec. 29, 2022. His friends remembered him watching the Irish throttle Oregon State on Friday in the Sun Bowl. But what they did for him a few months back should be in a hall of fame somewhere.

    “We went to his family and asked if it was OK for us to get some of his ashes to sprinkle them at Notre Dame,” longtime friend (but no relation) Jerry Sullivan was saying Friday. “So Sully traveled out with us to South Bend (for the Oct. 28 game against Pittsburgh). I had him in my pocket.”

    Sully never missed the gang’s annual pilgrimage to South Bend. They claim to have stories not suitable for print. But where there was Craig J. Sullivan, there was laughter. He did positivity from habit.

    “There's a bar called the Linebacker Lounge (near the Notre Dame campus) that we go to every year. They play the fight song every half hour,” Jerry Sullivan said. “I took his ashes in the urn and set it on the bar next to us. Later, we sprinkled some outside. Then we went to campus and sprinkled some by Touchdown Jesus and in different areas. And then we went to Knute Rockne’s grave and sprinkled them. After that, he tailgated with us.”

    An inquiring mind asked if perhaps Sully’s ashes might be on the playing field.

    “They charge you $10 to go down there now,” Sullivan said.

    Ah, capitalism.

    “He always went with us to Notre Dame,” longtime friend Chris Muckle said. “He was a huge Yankee fan, Giants fan, UConn football, basketball and he loved Notre Dame. He made many trips with us over the last 30 years. When we saw the back of his Mass card, we kind of got the idea to honor him. Notre Dame is the one thing that we all have in common.”

    This has not been an easy year for Sullivan, Muckle and the rest of the gang. Their friend’s death was sudden. He was 58. He was also unforgettable. So many reminders of the man who, whether you were male or female, innocently greeted you as “Big Fella.”

    “Sully always accepted you at face value when he met you. He accepted you for who you were,” Muckle said. “It was important to us to honor him like this.”

    Maybe it was serendipity that led to Notre Dame’s 2023 bowl game landing on the one-year anniversary of Sully’s death. Or maybe there really are greater forces at work. Just know that it meant the world to his friends, especially Muckle and Sullivan, whose tattoos of the Waterford Lancer logo suggest their undying love of the town, the school and their friends.

    And their loyalty, which runs like a current throughout the 06385.

    There wasn’t much hollering, coaching or angst from the group watching the big TV at the Eye (a rarity for most sports watchers at the best place of them all to watch a game). The Irish were never threatened. And Craig J. Sullivan was right there with his friends, very likely humming cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame every time the Irish scored.

    Now part of him rests alongside Knute Rockne, the preeminent “Big Fella” in Notre Dame lore and legend.

    Sully is home indeed.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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