My annual U.S. Air Force unit reunion is almost over. The USAF Syracuse University Russian language group met in Charleston, S.C. on Sunday and will depart for home on Thursday. At this writing, I do not know how many will be in attendance.
Our group first met in September of 1954 for Russian language, history and cultural studies classes at Syracuse University. We were in class eight hours a day, five days a week. After graduation, we were fairly proficient in Russian, but most have lost their ability due to a lack of use. Only the three or four career men in the group who went back for refresher courses still speak the language with any degree of fluency.
There were 23 members of that class and four have since passed away. Two have not been located. All but three of the rest have attended at least one reunion since we renewed old acquaintances approximately 12 years ago. We have met in many different cities as we have scattered all over the United States. Reunion sites have included Syracuse, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Washington, Branson, Missouri; Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, New Orleans, San Francisco, Orlando, Casa Grande and now Charleston.
Most of us are 70 or older and with the numbers thinning yearly now, one can only hope that there will be more such reunions. They have proven to be high priority for most of the group and the wives seem to look forward to the meetings as much as the old airmen.
April 12 and 13 were special days for me at Bank One Ballpark. This was the first time I had the privilege of meeting Cory Sullivan, rookie outfielder of the Colorado Rockies.
Regular readers of this column will know that Cory is the son of Sean Sullivan, my former student and one of the nicest people you will ever meet.
He is also the grandson of Helen Sullivan Campbell, a long time Winslow kindergarten teacher who did a magnificent job getting many Winslow youngsters off on the right foot. She also would have to rank as one of the best people one could ever hope to meet. Helen now lives in Phoenix, as does her other son and Cory’s Uncle Mike. Sean lives in Wyoming and has since 1995. Sean’s father, the late Neil Sullivan, was very active in youth sports in Winslow.
Another Winslow native, Gerri Herrera Sullivan, is Cory’s mother. Her father Milton Herrera was a prominent Winslow citizen. She and Cory’s older brother Danny and sister Mary have been ardent supporters of Cory and are enjoying his successes.
Cory played baseball, soccer and basketball in high school in Pennsylvania. He was an outstanding college baseball player at Wake Forest University and was a candidate for the Dick Houser Award as college baseball’s most outstanding player. He played two years in the minor leagues before being injured all of last season. He made his major league debut with a RBI double on opening day.
“My biggest thrill is just being able to play in the major leagues,” Cory said and you could tell he meant it.
Asked who his boyhood hero was, Cory answered without hesitation, “My dad.” He went on to say that Sean was a wonderful father who had accomplished everything he set out to do in life.
Asked who his current hero was, he repeated, “My dad.”
Sean Sullivan is a lucky man. He is, undoubtedly, a success in every way you can measure success. The esteem with which his equally successful son holds him is priceless, though. My guess is that any father would trade their “successes” for that type of testimonial from their sons or daughters.