Former Archbishop Stepinac High School football coach Joe Sullivan died Thursday at age 91.
Sullivan, who lived in Hawthorne for many years before moving to Lake Carmel, was on the staff of the White Plains Catholic school’s football team since its inception in 1949.
Sullivan served as the head coach from 1958-71 and coached numerous notable Stepinac graduates, including Bob Hyland, a former NFL lineman who is now a businessman in White Plains, and Tony DeMatteo, the Section 1 coach with the most wins.
“He had a tremendous influence on my life,” said Hyland, who owns the Sports Page restaurant. “He taught me to be a good football player and what is required to succeed in that sport. He deserves a lot of credit for any success I had afterward.”
He could be tough on his players, recalled Jim Purcell, a 1963 Stepinac grad who was a receiver.
“He once told me I had more excuses than a Christmas turkey,” recalled Purcell, who went on to play for Notre Dame.
Sullivan was inducted into the Stepinac Hall of Fame in 2008 as much for how he conducted himself as his success on the football field.
“Joe Sullivan did what we’re supposed to do,” DeMatteo told The Journal News in 2008. “There’s too much today about a kid getting a scholarship, who’s going to make it to the pros, who’s going to be a millionaire. Joe taught you to be a man and be a winning person, to learn how to work hard so you can be successful in life. He taught that lesson, and that’s why so many people love him.
“There’s a lot of guys who did not like Joe Sullivan when they played for him and, when you speak about him to those guys today, they’ll break down and cry because they know he’s the guy who developed them.”
Sullivan was also remembered for his deep commitment to his family, especially his late wife, Bernadette, who was disabled.
Sullivan is survived by two daughters, Janet Girgus of Mount Kisco and Gail Bennett of Carmel; two sons, Neil Sullivan of Mount Kisco and and Brian Sullivan of Southbury, Connecticut; and four grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Carmel. A private cremation was held earlier and interment of the ashes will take place at St. Sylvia’s Cemetery in Tivoli, New York, at a later date.
Calling hours are set at Beecher Funeral Home, 1 Putnam Ave., Brewster, from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday.
Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, PO Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148-0142.