Anchorage Mayor George Murray Sullivan, 87, died Sept. 23, 2009, surrounded by his family after a long battle with lung cancer. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Burial will be at the Anchorage Memorial Cemetery. George was born March 31, 1922, to Harvey and Viola Sullivan in Portland, Ore. He was raised in Valdez with sisters Lillian and Marion, and graduated salutatorian from Valdez High School in 1939. His father Harvey was the U.S. district marshal and mother Viola was the first woman mayor in Alaska. George had a wonderful life as a kid in Valdez, playing many sports, engaging in school activities and helping at the family store. In 1937, at the age of 15, George was hired at the Kennecott Mine, although the hiring age at the time was 16. He was strong and eager, so he was put to work on the tram. He navigated 750-pound ore buckets off the tram and into the grizzly crusher for 10 hours a day, seven days a week. He once estimated that he put in about 17 miles a day on the job. In 1938, George drove trucks for the Alaska Road Commission and hauled equipment and supplies to the workers active in the Richardson Highway construction project. He worked with the military troops to get the Alaska Highway completed and transported military equipment to the Tanacross airport for Bob Reeve to fly to the outlying bases. In July 1944, George was drafted into the U.S. Army for two years and was stationed at Adak in the Aleutian Islands. He married the love of his life, Margaret Eagan Sullivan, on Dec. 30, 1947, and moved to Nenana. George was the U.S. deputy marshal and Margaret was the U.S. commissioner. Aptly, George would catch the criminals and Margaret would try them. In 1952, George worked for Al Ghezzi's Alaska Freight Lines, trucking supplies to the DEW Line on the first ice road to the North Slope. He worked for Garrison Fast Freight. In 1955, he was elected to the Fairbanks City Council. George took a job in management with Consolidated Freightways and in 1959 moved the family to Anchorage, where he lived for the next 50 years. In 1964, he was appointed by Gov. Bill Egan to fill a vacant seat in the Alaska State Legislature. He was in Juneau when the 1964 earthquake occurred; Margaret was at home in Anchorage with seven children. George spent many agonizing hours trying to get on a plane home to his family. George finished his term in the Legislature and, in 1965, was elected to the Anchorage City Council. In 1967, he ran a successful race to become Anchorage mayor, a position he would hold for 15 years. Anchorage grew fast during those years, spurred in large part by the oil boom. In 1975, voters approved the unification of Anchorage's city and borough governments and elected George its mayor. The creation of the Municipality of Anchorage was an incredible undertaking. As mayor, George successfully merged the duplicative departments, boards, utilities. etc., into one government. After unification, the state was awash with money from the oil pipeline revenues. George and his administration had a vision of what Anchorage could become and what was needed to enhance the city's quality of life for its residents. He worked hard to develop what was known as Project '80s. George lobbied successfully in Juneau and received hundreds of millions of dollars for construction of the Egan Civic and Convention Center, Loussac Library, the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts and the Sullivan Sports Arena. This moved Anchorage into being a modern and vibrant community, which enhanced economic and community growth in the Southcentral area. George finished as mayor of Anchorage in 1982. He then worked for Western Airlines as senior vice president. In 1986, he was a founding member of the Sullivan Group, a consulting firm. He also worked as the legislative director for Gov. Steve Cowper. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska in public administration. George was never one to stay still for too long and remained active in community and state boards up until his illness in 2008. Over the years he was active on the Enstar board, AWWU, state PERS board, Anchorage Senior Center Endowment, TOTE Advisory Board, Military Advisory Board, Anchorage Wellness Court Alumni Group, Alaska Heart Association, Boys and Girls Clubs and many more. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to make Anchorage a little better for those less fortunate or in need. He had a strong faith in the Roman Catholic Church and often assisted at Mass and in the church's organizations, the Knights of Columbus and Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulcher. He was a member of the Elks Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Pioneers of Alaska. George had an incredible love for the community and worked on many projects to enhance the quality of life for all who called Anchorage home. He was a true public servant and visionary who strived to make Anchorage a better community for future generations while he was mayor and during his retirement. George's family said: "Dad was blessed with a kind and generous heart. He and Mom gave so much to their family and community. Dad had a wonderful way with people. He was a great Alaskan with an Irish charm and humor that would put people at ease when they met him. He and Mom traveled extensively and held lifelong friendships that spanned the globe. He loved people and never forgot a name or face." George is survived by his sons, Timothy, Daniel (Lynnette), Kevin, George Jr., Michael and Casey (Paige); and daughters, Colleen (Ted Leonard) and Shannon (Christopher Adams). He is also survived by grandchildren, Tim (Terrill), Conor (Carey), Catherine and Moira Sullivan and their mother, Susan; grandchildren, Kelly, Patrick (Julie) and Erin Sullivan and their mother, Jean; grandchildren, Jennifer Sullivan; Matthew, Adam, Molly and Bridget Glenn; Jared Leonard; Declan and Shane Adams, and Tierney and Parker Sullivan; and six great-grandchildren with one on the way. His is also survived by sisters-in-law, Pat Franklin and Marge Eagan of Fairbanks; and many nieces and nephews. George was preceded in death by his parents, Harvey and Viola Sullivan; sisters, Marion and Lillian; son, Harvey; and Margaret, his wife of 59 years. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Anchorage Senior Activity Center, 1300 E. 19th Ave., Anchorage 99501. Arrangements are with Evergreen Memorial Chapel.
Published in Anchorage Daily News from Sep. 27 to Sep. 28, 2009.