Who Was Jake Sullivan?Oct 8th, 2013 | By Admin | Category: Community News, History
By Ted Ensminger & Cynthia Francis
Every year, for nearly two-and-a-half decades now, sportsmen, golfers and dear friends have gathered in October at the Madison Country Club to celebrate an extraordinary young man’s life. His name was Jake Sullivan. Jake left quite a legacy in Madison. Although much has changed since the January day in 1990 when young Jake took leave of this life, those who knew him are determined that he won’t be forgotten. Folks new to our area, those who didn’t get the chance to meet him, however, might well wonder “Who was Jake Sullivan?” Well, as Rock Fraleigh so eloquently explained last week, “You can’t tell a lie about Jake Sullivan. No matter what you say, it’s true!” Jake was born here in Madison County, in January of 1960, to Jimmy and Liz Sullivan. To say that he was an outgoing, imaginative, even somewhat rambunctious, young man would be a huge understatement. He was also quite a sportsman, and he loved the outdoors, the sun, hunting, fishing, and ,of course, golf. The Sullivans’ family property connects to the south side of Madison Country Club, so it might naturally follow that Jake would grow up with a golf club in his hand. Golf was an important part of his life. His dad, Jimmy, was also an avid golfer, as is one of Jake’s younger brothers, Jarrod. Former Madison County resident, Sim Cave, had known Jake Sullivan since they were kids. “I’ve got a million stories,” he said. “If people did not know Jake personally, it might be hard to relate to him. He could sometimes be unpredictable. If he was coming over, and got a better offer to have more fun, then, chances are, he’d not show up. But if you ever needed him, he was always there.” One might have called Jake mischievous, too. It wasn’t too hard to spot that characteristic behind his lively smile. “Greenville was playing Aucilla in basketball,” remembers Cave, “when Jake caught a live possum and placed it on the Greenville team’s bus while they were playing. You should have seen them scramble off that bus with that possum running loose in there! Everyone got a big laugh out of that prank!” Cave also laughingly recalls that, for years, Jake and his buddies would meet on Wednesday nights at the family property on the Withlacoochee River. “We’d cook burgers, play some cards, tell a few stories over a beer or two. Instead of going to Wednesday night supper at church, we went to Jake’s!” “Every time I come back to Madison,” Cave says, “I go by the cemetery and say hello to Jake. I still feel like I can see him in the woods or out on the water.” Jake was born with a mole on his chest; nothing that would normally cause concern. While he played around with his puppy in 1988, however, the dog somehow managed to scratch the mole, setting in motion the events that would take Jake from us, and forever change the lives of many people. After the mole became infected, it changed in size and color, and was consequently removed. Routine biopsy showed it was malignant. Jake was diagnosed with melanoma in late 1988, when he was 28 years old. Fourteen months later, at only 30 years of age, he was gone. Every time this writer asked someone about Jake, they bowed their head and shook it regretfully. To a man, they responded that his was a life taken too soon. Jake was full of life, and he showed it to everyone, every day. His funeral was standing room only. “Afterwards,” Jarrod Sullivan said, “dozens of people came up to me and said, ‘I was Jake’s best friend.’ That was the way Jake made everybody feel; like they were all his best friends! He was always there for you. He never met a stranger. Everyone had a Jake story; some good,” Jarrod chuckled, “and some not so good.” It is Jarrod’s opinion that Jake was a great big brother. It was Jake who first took him to play golf, and to duck hunt. There’s little doubt that Jake influenced his younger sibling’s professional career, as well. Jarrod became a golf pro in Lake City, and owned his own retail golf shop. Jake graduated from Aucilla Christian Academy and attended Valdosta State University for a couple of years. “But,” his brother says, “He lived at the Country Club!” The Sullivans’ made every attempt to find medical help for their son. In 1989, Jake’s family learned of a doctor in Athens, Greece who had notable success in treating late-stage cancer. His success rate was said to have been in the 70 percent range. They were scheduled to see the doctor in September of 1989, but the doctor had to delay their appointment. They were able to re-schedule, and flew to Athens in January 1990. It was too late. Jake died there in Greece. That year, in October, the very first Jake Sullivan Golf Tournament took place, raising money for the American Cancer Society. Jake is also remembered for his creativity. He performed a “rap” song he concocted about some of his friends at Madison Country Club. Here’s a sample of his lyrics, at least the clean ones: “Billy Sullivan is kin to me, he used to change my diapers when I was only three.” He also sang “Big ‘Bubba’ Howerton, he’s big and bad, he makes #1 tee look like a launching pad. He’s a nice guy, he’s not mean, he likes double cheeseburgers and chocolate ice cream.” Jake liked to end each stanza about a buddy with the chorus line “There’s no place he would rather be, than golfing with his brothers at the MCC!” Many of us, as we go through life, are lucky enough to know a “Jake,” someone with an invincible spirit, who fills our lives with joy and memories, but is taken from us too soon. Perhaps the Jake Sullivan Golf Tournament is not only a way for those who knew him to continue sharing love for him, but a way for all of us to remember our “Jakes”. The 24th Annual Jake Sullivan Golf Tournament is scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20 at Madison Country Club. Friday is a free practice day for participants. Entry fee includes dinner and dance Saturday evening. For additional information, or to sign up, call Madison Country Club at (850) 973-2788.