Kathleen "Kay" Sullivan
Kay Sullivan, 94, died Oct. 21, 2021, in Mountainside, N.J. She was born Kathleen Orsillo on April 12, 1927, in Elizabeth, N.J. Her father, Joseph Orsillo, had immigrated from Pietrelcina, Italy, where he grew up with Padre Pio. Her mother, Margaret Cullen, was the daughter of immigrants from Ireland. She was the first member of her family to graduate from high school: Battin H.S. class of 1945.
Her first job out of high school was typing up Girl Scout cookie orders at Burry Biscuit in Elizabeth. She went on to work in personnel for Topper Toys and National State Bank and retired as supervisor of the typing pool at the Union County Probation Department.
Just after the end of World War II, she met Joe Sullivan, who looked dashing in his Army uniform, at a dance while he was back home in Elizabeth. She didn’t think she would see him again but there he was a week later at another dance in Elizabeth, standing at the top of the stairs at St. Michael’s church hall. They were married on Oct. 14, 1950, and she loved being Mrs. Joseph Sullivan. She spent the 1950s contributing to the Baby Boom: Daniel (Danny), Joseph (Joe), Thomas (Tom), Maureen (Maur) and Kathleen (Katie). She cherished her children and each one knew they were her favorite. Every one of them grew up to love watching old movies on TCM, just like their mom. They also grew up loving her amazing spaghetti sauce and meatballs, prepared perfectly every time without a recipe.
During her days in Elizabeth, she was active in Holy Rosary Parish, serving as president of the Rosary Society and a stalwart of the Friday night bingo games. In 1969 she moved to Linden and in 2001 to Cranford.
She enjoyed cruises and vacations on the Jersey Shore and traveled to South Africa, Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, England, Ireland, Italy, Bermuda, the Bahamas and, of course, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where she always seemed to win on the slot machines. With her wit and charm, she made friends wherever she went. She was also feisty and enjoyed her time as a labor union representative, which earned her the family nickname Norma Kay. A child of the Great Depression, she was a lifelong Democrat and fan of FDR, who died on her 18th birthday.
Nana, as she came to be known to all the kids in her orbit, was always ready to babysit for her grandchildren and push some dollar bills into their hands. She listened to their saxophone practice, cheered at their games and even put in enough hours volunteering at one school that she won an award. She was generous and intrepid, flying round-trip to Hong Kong twice by herself to help care for Maureen’s infants. In addition to her children, she is survived by her nine grandchildren -- Brendan (Joanna), Kristen (Bill Grzyb), Daniel, Joe (Desiree), Cara (Kevin Kropp), Timothy, Julia, Meredith and Trent -- and her six great-grandchildren -- Sean, Colleen, Kylie, Caylin, Bridget and Brody. She was also a wonderful mother-in-law to Connie, Marta, Kathy, John Koppisch and Paul Valentine. She is also survived by her Sullivan sisters-in-law, Sue and Clare, and dozens of nieces and nephews. And, as Trent wrote about her in a poem, “all dogs love you," Nana.
Kay was pre-deceased by her husband, Joe, who died in October 1981; her parents; daughter-in-law Michele, and many brothers and sisters.
A wake will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25, at Higgins & Bonner Echo Lake Funeral Home, Mountainside. A mass of Christian burial will be said at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 27th, at St. Michael's R.C. Church, Cranford. Burial will follow at St. Gertrude's Cemetery, Colonia.