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
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
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
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