In Memoriam


In Memory of

Richard C. Sullivan

October 25, 1928 - February 1, 2018


Richard “Dick” C. Sullivan, died peacefully in Falls Church, Virginia, on February 1, 2018. All five children, most of his 13 grandchildren, and all five great-grandchildren were able to visit him in his final days. Known as “OWO” (“Oh Wise One”) to his grandchildren, Dick was beloved by his family and vast community of friends that he and his late wife, Harriet Walters, enjoyed over 62 years of married life in Northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Virginia, and St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

Born in 1928 to Cyril Sullivan and Nancy Williams Sullivan in Erie, Pennsylvania, Dick was raised by his widowed mother and maternal grandparents after his father’s untimely death in 1931. He grew up in a small brick house at 217 East Ave., along with a passel of cousins under the watchful eye of a close-knit community of Irish, Polish, and other recent arrivals to the neighborhood. Dick’s elders were active in civic, commercial and political life, several of whom were bricklayers and masonry contractors who built many public and private buildings that remain standing in Erie to this day. One uncle, Joseph C. Williams, served as Erie’s mayor; another was a three-term county registrar. His mother was a bookkeeper in the city public schools. Their diversity and commitment to family, neighbor and city, and to an honest day’s work, influenced Dick throughout his life. All who knew him enjoyed his intellect, congeniality, warmth, and sense of humor.

After graduating from East High School, Dick would be the first in his family to attend college, entering Allegheny College in 1944 and graduating in 1950 with a B.A. in Political Science and Economics, after a break for Army service in Japan. Marriage to Harriet, an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and five children would follow.

Dick had a long and impactful career in public administration that began with his first job with the New York Port Authority as an administrative trainee in 1951. After seven years in the Port Division, Dick was loaned to the State Department as Assistant to the Executive Director to head the US Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, where he also managed the American Theater stage where many luminary American artists appeared, including his personal favorite young artist named Harry Belafonte. Many years later, Belafonte would remark to Dick that his appearance in Brussels was most memorable because it was there that he met Eleanor Roosevelt, a source of great inspiration in Belafonte’s work with the civil rights movement.

In 1961, after returning from his overseas assignment, Dick was named Director of the World Trade Center, where he was responsible for marketing, architecture, engineering, operations and financial planning of the 100-story towers up to the point of actual construction, serving as principal witness in litigation and regulatory hearings. Widely credited with resolving the disagreement between New York and New Jersey regarding the Center’s location, Dick’s recommendation to build it on the lower west side of Manhattan ultimately prevailed. For Dick, the World Trade Center represented something more than the world’s tallest building. As he remarked in a 1964 interview, “They’re not really just buildings, but structures unique in every aspect. We see the creativity of the scores of people who have contributed to them. When we talk of the United Nations, we generally think of the people in the organization and not the buildings that house them. When the Trade Center is completed, people from the world over will be working together daily, and it will represent something more than buildings.” As testament to the skill involved in managing the Trade Center project, Peter Drucker would later say that it was the best managerial job he had ever seen.

After leaving the Port Authority in 1974 as Director of Public Affairs, Dick joined the US Rail Association in Washington, DC, relocating to Philadelphia in 1976 after Congress created Conrail, a public corporation dedicated to rebuilding and reorganizing the US rail system after the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad. For 17 years until his retirement in 1993, Dick would occupy various senior executive roles. As Vice President, Human Resources, he oversaw non-contractual aspects of human resources management for 25,000 Conrail employees. He would also negotiate over 5,000 miles of fiber optic cable telecommunications installations in Conrail’s right-of-way. As Vice President, Passenger Services, he oversaw the consolidation of Amtrak and other commuter lines in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and transferred them to regional authorities in 1982. A “railroader” at heart, he took great delight in his assignment as Chairman and President of the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad which is still operating with its fleet of 1,400 cars in the Chicago area.

After retirement, Dick and Harriet split their time between Leesburg, Virginia and Coral Bay on the Caribbean island of St John. On St. John, Dick would read to kindergarteners at the Guy Benjamin School, while he and Harriet were generous supporters of local artists, attenders of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Paradise, and regular patrons of Skinny Legs, a local watering hole. It was here, on the deck overlooking Coral Bay, that Dick and Harriet often commented that they felt most “at home”. The house they built, “Just Right,” became a haven for family and friends, honeymooners, or simply someone who needed a place to be. There they found plenty of laughter, great conversation, and the St. John spirit. As time wore on, Dick and Harriet took up residence at Goodwin House, a life care community in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia, where they were both surrounded by loving friends and family until the end of their days.

Services to celebrate Dick’s life will be held at Goodwin House in early March. Specific information will be sent when arrangements are completed. The family requests that any memorial gifts kindly be directed to St. John Rescue at

Below are the names of Dick and Harriet’s children:
Betsy S. Gardiner (David McL. Gardiner), Arlington, VA
Nancy S. Skinner (Sherrod E. Skinner), Milton, MA
Richard C. Sullivan, Jr., (Elizabeth C. Sullivan), McLean, VA
Harriet Sullivan, Villanova, PA
Matthew R. Sullivan (Dorian D. Sullivan), Grand Rapids, MI
Plus, 13 Grandchildren and 5 Great-grandchildren


Send mail to
paranynj with questions or comments about this website.
Copyright © 2006 Port Authority Retirees Association, Inc.
Privacy   Disclaimer   Webmaster Contact Us   Subscribe to Para~eblasts
Last modified: Monday, February 12, 2018 08:47:03 AM