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Memorial honors Declan Sullivan

Sarah Mervosh | Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It was a place junior Declan Sullivan crossed dozens of times performing his duties as a student videographer for the football team.

It was a place the Sullivan family chose as a meeting point after Notre Dame football games.

It was a place within sight of Sullivan’s fatal accident almost one year ago.

Now, it is a place of memorial.

About 75 people gathered Saturday afternoon before the football game against USC to dedicate a memorial to Sullivan, who died last October after a scissor lift from which he was filming football practice fell. A plaque, two benches and some trees now sit between the Guglielmino Athletics Complex and the LaBar Practice Field.

Sullivan’s mother Alison addressed the group gathered to honor her son’s life.

“We didn’t envision anything that could be more perfect,” Alison said. “I think if [Declan] could see this, he would be in awe. He would say, ‘Gee, this is amazing. I love this. It’s epic.'”

The group chuckled at the use of the word “epic,” a word that Declan strived to embody in his life.

“He always wanted to be epic, and I think he would look at this and say, ‘Indeed, it is epic,'” Alison said.

University President Fr. John Jenkins led the ceremony and asked God to bless the memorial.

“Lord God, we ask your blessing,” Jenkins said. “May it be a place of memory, a place of prayer, a place of consolation and a place of hope, so that all who spend time here remember Declan and be inspired by his life.”

Jenkins then joined members of the Sullivan family and Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Tom Doyle in sprinkling holy water on the memorial.

Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick also presented the Sullivan family with the flag they helped raise at the opening football game of the year, and representatives from video services gave the family a framed photomontage in the shape of the Notre Dame monogram.

Inscribed on the plaque is a poem written in honor of Declan and a shamrock logo with Declan’s initials inside. Alison said both components are particularly meaningful.

The poem was written by a family friend and refers to Declan’s life as “never ordinary.” Alison said Declan often quoted a line from the movie “American Beauty” when a minor character said, “There is nothing worse than being ordinary.”

“That was kind of his mantra,” Alison said. “The reference in here to ordinary is something I think Dec would really get a kick out of.”

Alison said Declan would also appreciate the shamrock logo.

“From the time Declan was a little boy, he was enamored with shamrocks,” she said. “It’s very significant because it’s a symbol that he really liked.”

Jenkins told The Observer the memorial was an opportunity to honor Declan’s memory.

“The loss of Declan was a tragedy to all of us in the Notre Dame family,” he said. “This [dedication] was a chance for all of us to come together in a place dedicated to his memory, to memorialize it and to give thanks for his life.”

Jenkins also expressed gratitude to the Sullivan family.

“The Sullivan family, from the day Declan died to today, have been such an inspiration to all of us, and it is particularly meaningful for me to bless this place with them,” he said. “We are grateful to them for helping us work through the tragedy of Declan’s death.”

Alison also thanked Jenkins and Doyle for their help with the memorial and throughout the year since her son’s accident.

“I wanted to thank [Jenkins] for giving us a lot of leeway with this and really letting us do what we thought would best memorialize our son and brother,” Alison said. “And [Doyle] for really helping us every inch of the way with everything from the moment of the accident through the past year.”

Megan Doyle contributed to this report.