The West Windsor community has lost a good friend, with the death of Mike Sullivan on Monday 7th May 2018, a few days short of his 85th birthday. Mike and his wife, Patricia, lived on the Maidenhead Road for many years, having previously lived in Clifton Rise. Throughout most of this time, he was an active member of the West Windsor Residents’ Association, where his keen interest in matters concerning aviation and planning made him their ‘go to’ person for advice.
Mike was born in Perivale, on the western outskirts of London, in May 1933 and attended Drayton Manor Grammar School in Hanwell. National Service in the RAF saw him become a Flying Officer and during this time he had the opportunity to fly the Spitfire fighter plane that had featured so prominently in the Battle of Britain in September 1940.
It was natural that a career in the newly emerging aviation industry should follow and his skills at management took him and Patricia to many exotic parts of the world, including Hong Kong, where his company was providing logistical support to the Americans during the Vietnam War in addition to its routine flight operations.
In December 1988 a terrorist bomb caused the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103, bound for Detroit from Frankfurt, via London. Mike was responsible for the cabin crew on board and the distress that he, his colleagues and the families endured can hardly be imagined. He gave evidence to the investigation that followed and that, too, must have been harrowing.
Mike’s knowledge of aviation matters was extensive and he enabled the WWRA to speak with authority on matters concerning Heathrow operations and plans for its expansion. He recognised that Heathrow brings significant economic benefits to our community but the environmental costs and massive impact that it has on its surroundings had to be managed for the optimum benefit of those living nearby.
The planning policies adopted by the Borough in 1999, followed a period of public consultation and Mike led the WWRA’s appraisal and response to the initial proposals. His extensive knowledge of policy detail enabled him to provide advice right up to the present time.
Mike was a Francophile and he and Patricia made frequent visits to France, staying at the Atlantic Hotel, on the sea front at Wimereux at the beginning or end of their trips. He was a keen collector of fine wines and improved his command of the French language by attending weekly conversation classes here in Windsor.
The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne, was another favourite destination where he and Patricia celebrated milestone dates in their lives, in the company of friends.
Patricia was his ‘rock’. He adored her and when she became unwell with the onset of dementia he became her ‘rock’ and, to counter the effect of this dreadful condition, together they took up ballroom dancing.
Their dance teacher, Anthony Holeska was part of this process and he commented, “I remember first meeting Michael and his wife at a Tea Dance that we run for the Alzheimer & Dementia Support charity. It was always wonderful to see her reaction to different pieces of music and how it would bring her out of her shell and I know that Michael always felt like he had her back during those precious moments”
He was infinitely patient with her and was devastated when she died, a couple of years ago. In typical fashion, he turned his energies to the production of a leaflet that would inform others how to respond when loved ones showed signs of the disease. His sense of community shone through his sorrow and he became a member of an advisory panel set up by Wexham Park Hospital.
Mike’s work on dementia awareness won awards – click here to see his interview and read his leaflets
Mike continued his love of dancing and, remained positive through these dark days and continued with his travels to the United States and to France and with his weekly fitness class and his French conversation as well as taking up ballroom dancing.
He said that was driven by the hope that he would once again be reunited with his lovely wife, when his turn came. They are now buried at the Oakley Green Cemetery, side by side once more.
A true gentleman, he will be much missed by those who knew and loved him.
Former Chairman of WWRA