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Theodore 'Ted' Sullivan, 86, owned crane installation firm and ran hundreds of races

March 24, 1932 — March 3, 2019

Racing ran in the family of Theodore Reidpath "Ted" Sullivan.

When he started running in his 30s, Mr. Sullivan was following in the footsteps of his mother's brother, Charles Reidpath, who won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm in the 400 meter race and as the anchor of the 400-meter relay.

Mr. Sullivan traveled far and wide to run in 5Ks, his specialty, and welcomed every birthday that advanced him to a new age bracket, where he could be the youngest in his group. "He was ecstatic about that," said his daughter-in-law Mary Ann Sullivan. And if he could beat his older brother Richard, also a well-known local runner, "that was like finding a diamond," she said.

Mr. Sullivan, 86, of Amherst, died March 3, 2019, in Beechwood Continuing Care in Getzville after an illness of several months.

Mr. Sullivan was born on March 24, 1932, the youngest child of Frederick and Muriel May Reidpath Sullivan, who lived on Tillinghast Avenue. Frederic Sullivan was the treasurer of a wholesale lumber firm. The Sullivans had five children: Muriel, Frederick Jr., John, Richard and Theodore, who was known as Ted from childhood.

Mr. Sullivan graduated from Bennett High School and studied for a few years at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., before leaving to enter the U.S. Marine Corps on March 3, 1954. He became a test pilot and a flight instructor for the FJ-2 Fury fighter jet.

While in Washington, D.C., he met Joan Lorraine Teller. They married on May 23, 1955, in Texas, where he was stationed.

After being discharged on Sept. 3, 1956, Mr. Sullivan finished his degree in industrial engineering at Lafayette College, graduating in 1959. He and his family then returned to Western New York. The Sullivans raised their three children, Jeffery, Kimberly and Douglas, in Snyder. He and his wife moved to Williamsville in 1995.

Mr. Sullivan worked as an industrial engineer at Buffalo Forge and then at the GM Powertrain plant in Tonawanda before opening his own company, T. Sullivan Material Handling, which he owned and operated until his death. The firm, which installs cranes, will be operated by his son Jeffery.

For about 10 years in the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Sullivan was active in racing Lightning sloop-rigged sailboats. He competed at the Niagara Club, the Buffalo Yacht Club and the Canoe Club.

His family estimated that he ran some 800 races in his lifetime. He ran several marathons, including the Buffalo, Toronto and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., as well as the Grand Island Half Marathon, but was best known for participating in 5K races.

He was an annual participant in many races, including the Williamsville Old Home Days race, which he helped organize for many years, his daughter-in-law said. He also looked forward to the Engineering Society of Buffalo's 5K Scholarship Run.

In 2011, a Buffalo News report called Mr. Sullivan, who placed sixth in his age group of 75 to 79 in the Subaru Four-Mile Chase, "an inspiration." That Friday night race was his fourth event of the week. On Sunday he ran in the Utica Boilermaker 15K, followed by another 5K on Monday, then Thursday's YMCA 5K, for which he was also a director.

For years, Mr. Sullivan was one of a small group calling themselves the "Y's Men," who assisted the Snyder YMCA with repairs, the annual Christmas tree sale and other work. "He was very passionate about the YMCA," Mary Ann Sullivan said.

Mr. Sullivan belonged to the Belle Watling running club, which was founded by his brother Richard, as well as the Checkers running club.

"He didn't just run for the sport, that was his social life," his daughter-in-law said.

Mary Magoffin, a fellow runner who knew Mr. Sullivan for more than 20 years, described him as a dedicated runner who was "very energetic — he didn't like to sit still, he always had his calendar out planning his next race."

Mr. Sullivan was usually quiet, but had a sparkling sense of humor that emerged when he gathered with his friends from the Belle Watling club, Magoffin said. "Everyone loved him," she said.

Mrs. Sullivan died in June 1999.

Besides his brother Richard, sons Jeffery and Douglas and daughter Kimberly Gebhart, Mr. Sullivan is survived by seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Services will be private.

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