Lillian Sullivan celebrates her 103rd birthday

Published 6:43 am Monday, February 19, 2024

Lillian Sullivan was born on Valentine’s Day in 1921. Over 100 years later, her legacy of love and godliness stretches across the world.

Family has always been a priority. She was born in Baton Rouge. She had three sisters and one brother.

As a child, fishing was a favorite pastime. Lillian’s son Lloyd Sullivan – who is turning 83 next month– said her mother and father were “big-time” fishers and hunters. He recalled how his grandmother would ride in the front of the family boat with his grandfather to hunt squirrels in the trees. This passion was passed down to Lillian and her children.

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“They fished all the time. They had a place out in Baton Rouge. We always went there as a big group. It was a great big house that was just one great, big room with about six beds,” Lloyd said.

While attending Istrouma High School she met her late husband Elmer. After a spell of living in Tennessee, the pair and their family moved to Lake Charles to help at a new City Service plant in Sulphur in the mid-1940s. They lived in a trailer until homes in Maplewood were built for those working at the City Service plant.

Long lives run in the family; Lillian’s mom died at 96, and her dad 10 years prior. Lloyd said that while genetics play a role, he believes that a life of serenity and good morals have contributed to his mom’s lifespan.

“No drinking, no smoking, no cussing, I never heard my parents fight.”

Lillian’s participation in church was pivotal for the family, Lloyd said.

“We went to Sunday school, we went to mornin’ service, we went to evening service, we went to Wednesday service for years and years and years. … You never heard them say bad words, they read their Bibles, and we prayed at the dinner table. They were a very good influence on me and my brother.”

Elmer, an electrician and carpenter, helped build Maplewood Baptist Church. In 1947, they became members. In fact, Lloyd said that some of the proudest moments that they have shared as a family were when he and his dad were baptized in the church.

Their participation at Maplewood Baptist Church ran deep. Together, they ran the Sunday School Department for about 55 years. After Lloyd and his younger brother Lynn grew up and moved away, Lillian began to cook for the pastor and deacons of the church during events and get-togethers. This is a role she held for 20 years.

They volunteered their time and resources to support community members whenever they could.

“Whenever they saw a problem somewhere, my mom and dad would try to help them out, especially if they were friends.”

The habit of living an altruistic life is something that has been passed down through the four generations that have followed Lillian.

Lloyd moved back to Sulphur in 2006, and has carried on their legacy at Maplewood Baptist by teaching third and fourth grade Sunday School classes. He had three children: Shawn, Matthew and Monica.

While Monica is carrying on the Sullivan family spirit in Jennings as a school teacher, Shawn and Matthew have spread the love globally as missionaries. The eldest son Shawn did missionary work in Ukraine with his family for six years, while Matthew spent time doing the same in Chile for five years. Now, they both live in Florida.

Between them, they have given Lillian five great-grandkids and eight great-grandkids. She said the knowledge that her family has followed in her footsteps on a global scale brings her peace.

“It feels great, and Lord be with them.”

On Wednesday, she celebrated her 103rd birthday surrounded by family and residents of her retirement community Stonebridge Assisted Living, where she has lived for about three years.

When asked how she felt about being 103, she had one thing to say: “103? Now you behave yourself.”