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Eileen Sullivan--
Calhoun's Special Ingredient
by Maricia Mylnek

Updated on Wednesday*:

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There are several ingredients in homemade bread, but which one is most important?

Many may say flour, some may state water, and others will claim yeast.

The ingredient that is truly most important are the hands that knead the dough and the love in all the labor. These ingredients are what make the bread taste divine.

The same is true in our county. We have a variety of different ingredients and various flavors, but the love and pride we put into our community will be what makes us stand out as a place worth calling home.

Eileen Tolley Sullivan is one of those people who understands the art of bread making, and she is also one of those special ingredients that make Calhoun County as delightful as a warm slice of her “light bread.”

Eileen was born in 1923 in a town called Leroy. The second of seven children, she remembers growing up on the family farm. After attending Leroy Grade School, she graduated from Gilmore High School in 1941.

Her health as a young woman was poor, and she recalls the shots she had to take to treat her anemia.

“The treatments were expensive, and I had to work for an elderly couple to pay for them,” said Sullivan.

After regaining her health, she went to Parkersburg to work in the Ames shovel plant. World War II was raging overseas, so Eileen’s work was to make shovel handles for the army.

She soon discovered a new desire to become a medical technician. She began studying for admission into the Army Air Corps program.

She enlisted in November, 1944, and left for basic training after Christmas. Private First Class Tolley graduated from training on Feb. 20, 1945.

She was stationed in Texas to complete her advanced individual training to become a medical technician. Next, she was sent to Orlando, Fla., to work in an allergy clinic and later in a nursery.

Eileen had met her future husband in Sandyville: “When I was 18, I went home with a girlfriend of mine. When we passed Earl’s home, he was walking to the barn, and I was excited to meet him. He came to church that evening, and we met.”

Later that evening, Earl Sullivan drove her home. The courtship began and continued only through letters as Earl left for the Army the following day.

He was overseas in North Africa and Italy for four years. He and Eileen wrote letters and kept in touch, but would not see each other again until 1945 when Sgt. Earl Sullivan and PFC Eileen Tolley were back in Sandyville on furlough.

The young couple married immediately and the end of the war was the beginning of the Sullivan family.

Earl went to work for Hope Gas, and the family was re-located to Calhoun County in 1953. A mother of three, she was busy keeping house and raising her little ones.

Earl bought the former Polk Berry School house lot (1-1/8 acres) on Broomstick Road for $800 and a boat.

The family became comfortable in their new home, and Eileen became active in the community.

She served as membership chairman for Pleasant Hill U.M. Church for over 30 years, began the church card ministry, and was active in this outreach for over 25 years. She was a volunteer for Calhoun General Hos-pital Auxiliary for several years.

Eileen delighted us with her tales of the past and her courtship with Earl.

“The first thing I had to learn to do when I got married was to make light bread,” she said. “My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all made the light bread, and I had to know how to make it too.”

“I guess I’m known for my light bread,” she said smiling, “but I haven’t made it in a few years because the kneading is too much for my arms.”

That was when I knew that Eileen was going to share with me more than her story; we were going to make bread together. I humbly asked this master baker if she would teach me her secret in bread making.

I anticipate the lessons needed to learn this precious tradition that Eileen has promised, and I am certain that her bread is only part of the legacy she will leave to her three children, six grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Eileen Sullivan has been a member of Co. 4, 3rd Regiment, First WAC Training Center, a medical technician, loving wife, devoted matriarch, and famous light bread maker.

There is nothing like the aroma of bread baking or the stories told while the dough rises. Eileen has more than yeast in her bread; it is the love she adds that makes it famous.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt said, “. . . Is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?”

Yes, Mr. McCourt, there is, and her name is Eileen Sullivan.

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