Remembering Billy Sullivan

Ron Scutt

Billy Sullivan passed on June 6th, 2021. His memorial was held on Saturday, October 9th, at John and Patty Wilsey’s home here in the valley. Billy’s grandnephew, Caleb Wilsey, conducted the ceremony.  Many of those in attendance at the memorial shared stories of Billy’s life.

One of the themes shared by those sharing thoughts about Billy’s life was an appreciation for Billy’s passion concerning the preservation of Stehekin’s recorded history.

Billy employed many methods to accumulate historical documents and photography. One example of Billy’s dedication to this goal is that he spent two winters working at the Golden West Lodge library copying files of historical documents and newspaper articles dating back to the 1814 Alexander Ross exploration. His labor resulted in the accumulation of five jam packed file drawers containing copies of these historical documents.

Looking towards the future while recording the past, he copied all the files on acid free paper in the hopes they would retain their quality over time. Realizing we live in a digital age, Billy worked with Mairin Corkern and Stehekin Heritage to digitize these files. In short, Billy did everything he was able to preserve Stehekin’s heritage by researching and cataloging historical writing and photography.

Another theme shared at the memorial concerned Billy’s sense of generosity. Attendees spoke of Billy’s acts of kindness directed towards them as individuals and as a family.

Billy shared digital copies of written historical artifacts and photography never charging for the discs of pictures and documents he accumulated. Stehekin Heritage is especially thankful for Billy’s research and generosity.

Speaking personally, I got to know Billy best when he visited my home office twice a week for two years. He would work organizing his files while I worked on my own writing projects. We’d talk during these work sessions. Billy told tales of his time living in Stehekin and of his current research. My job was listening. When we’d end these two-hour sessions, we traveled to the bakery for salad and soup sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the door and continue our conversations.

One of the last times I shared this meal with Billy, he told me of finding one of his old report cards from Lloyd Bell, his teacher in the old Stehekin School. With a delighted smile he related one of Mr. Bell’s comments, “Billy is a mischievous student.” This recognition of another side of Billy’s nature brought Billy a great sense of delight. He knew Mr. Bell hit the nail on the head with that comment.

Without a doubt, Billy possessed a passion for preserving Stehekin’s history, he was generous with individuals and families, and he welcomed opportunities to be “mischievous.”