Tom Sullivan – Oak Lawn, IL
With joy in his heart, and a full treasure chest of memories, Tom Sullivan is creeping up on his 85th birthday, one step at a time.
He’s not slowing down. Much. After breakfast and some time on his stationary bike, he either attends mass or watches one online from Ireland or Toronto. Then Tom works for a couple of hours before filling up his tank with his daily 4 mile walk.
Tom has been walking every day since January 2000, and he knows its keeping his juices flowing. “I started in January of 2000, as a millennium resolution, to walk 1000 miles,” Tom said. “Well, I finished before Thanksgiving and I thought that was pretty cool, so then I said I’ll do 10,000. If I make a commitment I better be consistent.” If it’s one thing Tom is, it is consistent. Since adding an insurance career to his teaching career, Tom has always been a top producer. His school day friends, and now his former students, all have trusted Tom with their futures. “People really, really, more than ever, need somebody that is sincerely interested in their financial future.”
Tom’s friends know he is the real deal, and they are reminded at least once a year. On their birthday, he calls every one of them, because there’s nothing finer than hearing the voice of a friend. At first, that seemed like a good business idea, but it soon became much more about sharing his heart. “I was sending out birthday cards with my business card included, and a business reply card, I started to think to myself, ‘Sullivan, are you trying to wish them a Happy Birthday or are you looking for business?” so I gave that up. Some things sound too good to be true, but Tom Sullivan really is this sweet.
Three years ago his lovely wife, Judy, passed away after they had been married 45 years. They have a son and a daughter, and five beautiful granddaughters. In them, Tom sees his unforgettable Judy. “I see a great deal of love and generosity in them. They use her as a role model.” All day, every day, Tom is reminded of how much he has been blessed. Every time his phone lights up, there’s Judy smiling back at him. “Oh my God, when I turn on my cell phone there she is. I think of her almost the entire day,” Tom said. “Just a beautiful woman of generosity who was always giving and thinking of others. That’s why her grandkids and my son and daughter think of her so much.”
And he knows he’ll be with her again someday, but he has a few things to do first. He’s had to deliver more than 100 death claim checks, and seven times he’s been with families of suicide victims, still trying to put the pieces back together after some family members have gone home, after the priests have helped, leaving sadness and financial strain.
Maybe Tom was the only person who could have helped that family back when they first sat down to talk about life insurance. Their trust in him opened the door.
There are others. So many people are terribly under-insured. Many others haven’t updated their coverage of contracts for years. “Some of the people, when I go through their portfolio, still have found out that they still have Mom and Dad as beneficiaries, and they’ve been dead for years. I’m teaching, I’m trying to counsel them as much as possible. I try to keep busy because if I just sat around and did nothing I don’t think I’d be here today.”
So time marches on, and so does Tom. A number of years ago he set a new goal of continuing to walk until his total since 2000 reached 25,000 miles. “Judy used to say you should go for 25,000 so you can tell people that you walked around the earth,” he said. “Right now I am at 21,700 so there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” He may eventually walk “around the world,” but hopefully he’ll be able to board a plane to actually go back to Ireland next summer with a group from his parish. Tom grew up in the Chicago area, but his family brought over the spirit of Ireland when they came to the United States.
An Irish greeting:
Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play,
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song,
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!
As Tom turns 85 in November, he looks back on his “lucky” life, filled with “friends,” “joy,” and “gladness,” and he can’t wait to hit the ground walking. “As long as I can. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t. I am in good health. My mind is good. (It’s not perfect, but it’s good.) There’s no reason to walk away.” Daily, his faith provides his path. With a hearty laugh, Tom explains, “Very much so, because I know my days are numbered and I want to be among the chosen.” Whenever it’s time for Tom to go to heaven, we hope God places the phone call. As we know, Tom prefers to talk rather than just receive a card.