Frances Ann (Wisell) Sullivan, 78 of Panton, passed away peacefully at Helen Porter Health and Rehab in Middlebury, VT on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. “Ann” was born on July 25, 1942, in Burlington, VT, the daughter of Dr. George P. and Mrs. Frances M. (McAuliffe) Wisell. She attended schools in Vergennes, and was a proud member of the first graduating class at Vergennes Union High School (VUHS) in 1960, where she was voted Most Popular and Most Versatile. She also was named DAR Good Citizen. It is no surprise to anyone that these accolades so early in her life would truly define her legacy. She then went on to graduate from Trinity College in 1964 with a BA in Language Arts.
Ann started her distinguished teaching career in Long Lake, NY, then returned to Vergennes and taught at Weeks School. In 1971 she began her career at her alma mater Vergennes Union High School. She quickly became the beloved teacher so many knew as “Mrs. Sullivan” or “Sully”. She retired from VUHS in 2008, after 38 years of sharing her love for British Literature (Brit Lit), English, Vermont History, Shakespeare, Humanities, and Speech with many cherished students. She was a true leader and wore many hats during her tenure at VUHS; her many roles included that of Athletic Director, Senior Advisor, Graduation Coordinator, Supervisor of Student Activities, and coordinator of The Gifted and Talented and National Honor Society programs. In 1984 she was named one of Vermont’s Outstanding Teachers by the University of Vermont. She completed her professional career at the Champlain Valley Christian School as an admired educator with over 45 years of dedicated service.
Ann’s voice was a gift; when she spoke, people listened. She also had an incredible ability to read and connect with people, knowing exactly what to say, when to say it, and perhaps most importantly, how to deliver her message. As a captivating storyteller with a penchant for writing poetry and prose, Ann celebrated many friends with personalized poems in honor of their milestones and comforted many grieving families with her heartfelt eulogies. Most famous though were her beloved class poems that thoughtfully mentioned every member of the senior class and were shared at VUHS graduations for many, many years.
Music was her passion, and she shared her gift by singing with friends, family, or anyone nearby. She cherished her time as both member and Director of the Otter Creek Choral Society. You could often hear her rich, tenor voice echoing throughout St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where she was a faithful and active parishioner her entire life. She served the parish as an organist, member of the folk group, choir director, catechism teacher, and a member of St. Anne’s Society, the Pastoral Commission, and the Parish Council. She also emceed the Annual Penny Fair fundraiser for over 40 years. In 2007, she was recognized and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI for 50 years of continuous service of playing the organ. She also played and sang for various weddings, funerals, and Sunday services throughout the area.
Ann was a true pillar of the local community. She was awarded the Melvin T Jones Fellowship Award by the Vergennes Lions Club. She was Panton Proud and served on the Select Board, was the town Moderator, and most notably served as Justice of the Peace in both Vergennes and Panton. As Justice of the Peace, she thoughtfully wrote and officiated more than 300 wedding ceremonies. Ann announced the annual Vergennes Memorial Day parade for 25 years and was awarded the Community Service Award by the American Legion Post 14. She was a member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 14 and Vergennes Area Lions Club. She served on the boards of both the Bixby Memorial Library and the Sam Fishman Memorial Pool. Ann received special recognition for all of her community contributions on August 28, 2010, when Vergennes Day was renamed F. Ann Sullivan Day. She was presented with a proclamation from the State of Vermont, as well as keys to the City of Vergennes and towns of Panton, Waltham, Ferrisburgh, and Addison. Her words of acceptance were humble and true, “Not one of us needs recognition of a plaque for what we do. It is just a result of living in a wonderful area like this and the people that make it so. If I have touched lives and helped people to see that, then that to me is what is special.”
Her voice, now forever silent, leaves an incredible legacy of service and a beautiful example of how to live one’s life.
She is survived by her children; Sean Sullivan, Michelle (Glen) Eastman, Martha (John) DeGraaf, and Christopher Sullivan (Kristy Sargent). She also leaves the seven lights of her life, her grandchildren, Brendan and George Sullivan, Hannah (Nicholas Toker), Kristin, Madeline, and Gunnar DeGraaf, and Connor Joseph Sullivan. She leaves two brothers; William (Karen) Wisell and their children; Wm Todd (Cristy) Wisell, Meghan (Devin) Mahoney, and Malinda (Cris-Hawk) Farrin; Brother Ret. Col. George (Diane) Wisell and his son George Wisell (Stacia Werner). She also leaves her sister in law Kathy (Glenn) Rossier and their children; Emily and Ryan (Annie) Rossier, Brother in law; John (Marion) Sullivan and their children; Jonathan, Micah (Dan) Lee, Jeremiah (Emily), Josh (Bailey), Zach (Rachel) and Moriah Sullivan; sister in law Mary Sullivan and her children Patrick (Kory) Sullivan, Sarah (Chris) Hale; sister in law Lynne Sullivan, and beloved nephews, Kenneth (Betsy) and Kevin (Sarah Stradtner) Sullivan, and her special “Burlington Cousins”, all of whom she loved very much.
She was predeceased by the father of her children, Michael, beloved son Joseph, parents Dr. George P. and Frances M. Wisell, in-laws, Kenneth and Mary Sullivan, and two brothers-in-law, Jim and Bill Sullivan.
The family would like to thank the many people who cared for their mother over the past several years including the staff at Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehab.
There will be a funeral mass at 11:00 AM on Saturday, May 29th at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Vergennes with interment at St. Peter’s Cemetery immediately following. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the St. Peter’s Ramp Replacement Fund, PO Box 324 Vergennes, VT 05491 or donate online at https://www.osvhub.com/stpetersvt/funds/st-peter-s-ramp-replacement/pledge. To send condolences to her family please visit www.brownmcclayfuneralhomes.com