George Brown Sullivan, 84, of Middletown, died at Rhode Island Hospital on Thursday, July 12, after a brief illness. For 38 years, he was the husband of the late Barbara J. (Lopes) Sullivan, who passed away in 2004. A proud Fifth Warder, George was born in Newport on April 15, 1934 to the late George C. and Margaret Brown Sullivan. He attended St. Augustine’s School and graduated from Rogers High School in 1952.
While working for T.J. Brown, a landscaping company owned by his uncles, he tended to many of Newport’s most illustrious homes and estates. He was proud of the fact that he parked cars at the Newport wedding of Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier. George was drafted into the Army in 1954 and sent to helicopter maintenance school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he discovered his life’s work as an aviation mechanic. He spent two years in the Army, including a stint in Korea, and also traveled to Tokyo while overseas.
Upon his discharge from the Army, he attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College, then located in Miami, which sparked his lifelong love of airplanes and South Florida. After graduating from Embry-Riddle in 1960, he returned home to Aquidneck Island to work for more than twenty years as chief of maintenance at Newport Aero at the former Newport State Airport in Middletown. He was awarded the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Mechanic Safety Award in 1972 and named Rhode Island’s Aviation Mechanic of the Year in 1973 by then-governor Phillip W. Noel.
In 1978, he founded Quonset Aircraft Services, Inc., at the former Quonset Naval Air Station, with Barbara serving as the company’s chief bookkeeper. He held an FAA Airframe and Power Plant (A&P) license, and Quonset Aircraft was an FAA-certified repair station. His customers included former Rhode Island Governors Joseph Garrahy and Bruce Sundlun, and singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett. George and Barbara retired in 1997 and enjoyed winters in Ft. Lauderdale and summer days in Brenton Cove onboard their beloved boat, 'Sea Wings'. George was inducted into the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame in 2010.
He leaves his daughter, Marie Sullivan Force, and her husband, Daniel Force, of Portsmouth, and his son, George T. Sullivan, of Peacedale. He was a proud, loving grandfather known as “Da” to Isabel Sullivan of Newport, Emily Force of New York, NY, Jesse Sullivan of Providence and Jake Force of Portsmouth, a delighted great-grandfather to Harper Gaudet and a dear friend to Isabel and Jesse’s mom, Holly Sullivan of Newport. He also leaves his sisters-in-law Elizabeth “Betty” Mello of Middletown and Eva Betty Lopes of Portsmouth. He is survived by his adored canine companion, Sam Sullivan, who was his best buddy for the last few years of his life and who has joined the dog pack at the Force household that also includes George’s granddogs, Brandy and Louie.
In addition, George leaves many beloved nieces and nephews, his devoted Ridgewood Road neighbors and many close friends, including the Newport Yacht Club “Senate,” which met over coffee each morning to solve the world’s most pressing problems. He loved his Westley and Brown cousins, who were like siblings to him, as well as so many of Marie and George’s close friends, who considered him a second father.
He was a more than 40-year, lifetime member of the Newport Yacht Club, where the Sea Wings resided at dock B9 for thirty years, and he was also a member of the Newport Elks Lodge, the Narragansett Bay Power Squadron and the Navy League.
George was a kind and generous man, always willing to lend a hand to a friend in need, especially if their needs were mechanical. He joked that he could fix anything but a broken heart, and though our hearts are broken to lose him, we’re comforted to know he and Barbara are finally back together. George’s life was all about his family, his friends, his boat, his airplanes, his dog and a Miller Lite or two at the end of the day.
Calling hours will be held on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 from 4:00-8:00pm at the Memorial Funeral Home, 375 Broadway, Newport.
Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, July 18, at 9:00am from the funeral home, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00am in St. Mary’s Church, Spring Street, Newport. Burial will be St. Columba Cemetery, Middletown.
Donations in his memory can be made to the Seaman’s Church Institute, 18 Market Square, Newport, RI, 02840 or online at seamensnewport.org/donations/donate-to-sci/.