Monday, March 16, 1998

George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Retired U.S. Army Air Corps Master Sgt. George Holeso
bows to Maurice Sullivan yesterday at Punahou Chapel.

‘Sully’ receives
warm tribute
from 2,000

Family and friends
praise the founder of Hawaii's big
supermarket chain

By Lori Tighe


Instead of all those people paying tribute to him, Maurice J. "Sully" Sullivan would've preferred they went shopping at Foodland.

Laughter began the memorial service yesterday for the richest guy in town. Rich, not from the millions he earned, but from the priceless wealth of aloha spirit the Irishman shared with everyone he knew and met.

"I'm sure you would agree he would be a little embarrassed by what we're going to say about him today," said his son, Patrick Sullivan. "He did what he could to make life better for those that followed. His heart lives on in us."

Nearly 2,000 people came to pay their respects to Sullivan, philanthropist and Foodland founder, at Thurston Memorial Chapel at Punahou School.

He died Feb. 28 at age 89.

Shopping carts sat still as all Oahu Foodland and Sack N Save stores remained closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. yesterday, and noon to 2 p.m. on neighbor islands. Black ribbons hung on the doors in honor of Sullivan's passing.

Born in Ireland, Sullivan wound his way to Hawaii in 1943, where he managed Mr. and Mrs. Lau Kun's Lanikai store and later married their daughter, Joanna.

Sullivan opened a Foodland Supermarket in 1948 at Kapiolani Boulevard and Harding Avenue, the beginning of what would become Hawaii's largest supermarket chain, and the modernization of Hawaii's grocery business.

In his zeal to modernize, Sullivan always remembered the human touch.

"I didn't know him but I will never forget the time he shook my hand," said Barney Noda, a courtesy clerk of the Dillingham Foodland, standing outside the memorial service to hear the tributes from Hiram Fong, Thurston Twigg-Smith and Roderick McPhee.

"He told me to have a good day and he meant it," Noda said. "He was so warm and down to earth. He was a nice, friendly guy. He came every weekend and talked with the customers and employees."

Forbes Magazine rated Sullivan among the country's 400 wealthiest men a few years ago, putting the him in the $150-million class.

At heart, Sullivan was a simple man, said his granddaughter Marisa Wo. "He wore all the T-shirts everyone gave him," she said. "McChicken sandwich and a Coke was his favorite meal at McDonald's. He bought a Jaguar he had his eye on for a while, but gave it away soon after, saying he didn't like it that much."

Another granddaughter, Alana Wall, gave the opening prayer. She told God she missed her grandpa's playing, teasing, joking, smiling and hugs. "We wish we could tell him, 'We love you grandpa,' over and over again."

Sullivan took joy in giving to charities, said Twigg-Smith.

He gave $25,000 to the University of Hawaii for a sophisticated college of business administration marketing research laboratory; $25,000 from him and his wife went to University Press of Hawaii to publish the first two books of Asian scholarship; and Chaminade University received $70,000.

The Honolulu Boy Choir walked in to the chapel, wearing sky blue aloha shirts, white pants and bare feet. They sang "The Wonderful World of Aloha," and "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

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