Beverly Knight Sullivan

Beverly Knight Sullivan passed away June 29, 2024 surrounded by her husband of 46 years, John Fox Sullivan, her four children and spouses, as well as close friends. Her beloved dog, Charlie, was home in mourning.

She died peacefully at Hidden Springs Senior Living in Bentonville, Va., due to complications from Alzheimer’s which she endured for eight years. She spent most of her adult life living in both “Big” Washington (Georgetown, D.C.) and later in “Little” Washington, Va., as well as its county, Rappahannock, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Beverly was born in Philadelphia in 1937, daughter of Morgan and Beverly Knight, both of whom died when she was a child. Her brother Morgan predeceased her in 2019.

She attended Briarcliff College and later graduated from George Washington University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in geology.

In 1959, Beverly married William Lilley III of Philadelphia with whom she had her four children. The couple were later divorced. William Lilley’s wife, Eve, a close friend of the family, was at Beverly’s bedside.

In 1978, Beverly married John Fox Sullivan, a longtime Washington based publisher of National Journal, The Atlantic and other specialty political publications. John later became mayor of Washington, Va. for eight years and Beverly became First Lady.

Beverly’s life was a particularly full one:

As a mother, raising four children — Buchanan, Brooke, Whitman and Justin;

As a role model for her 10 grandchildren instilling in them her love of art, travel and opera —  Morgan, Cole, Macklin, Will, Whitney, Thomas, Bayley, Weaver, Madeline and Mary Morgan as well as her great grandson George, nephew Morgan and niece Whitney.

As a dog lover and trainer, raising Puli dogs, a breed that originated from Hungary that she trained and showed at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show winning top honors;

As a cat lover, serving on the board of RappCats;

As a keen observer of Haiti’s needs and its artists, traveling there 20 times over the years to collect art, bringing it back to the states to sell to help raise money for seven new eye clinics there;

As an avid traveler to Europe, Asia and Africa, not so much to London or Paris, but to less touristic destinations, experiencing the grit and rough and raw of Haiti, China, Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Tajikistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan and the Galapagos;

As a docent for 20 years at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History putting to use her geology background teaching children — which she enjoyed — about rocks, stones and minerals;

As a skilled gardener, orchid grower extraordinaire with a strong interest in horticulture, cultivating an extensive collection of plants that beautified her home, The Meadows;

As a host of a dozen or so fundraisers for Rappahannock County nonprofits at her home;

As a board member of the Child Care and Learning center (CCLC) and the Town of Washington’s Architectural Review Board.

To her family and close friends, Beverly (“Bunkie”) was seen as beautiful both on the outside and in. She was warm, caring, generous in spirit, soft spoken and loved making all those around her joyful. She knew how to give and loved bringing people together.

Although usually at the center of the action, she disliked being the center of attention. Losing her parents at an early age, and suffering from dyslexia, she quite disliked school, taking tests and public speaking.

What became her passion in life was Haiti, its culture, its people and especially Haitian art. It dominated her life for nearly four decades beginning in 1977. A vacation trip with John to Haiti led to a love for a world so unlike Philadelphia where she grew up, and Georgetown where she had lived.

She soon joined the board of Eye Care, Inc., a Washington, D.C. nonprofit which managed seven eye clinics in Haiti. Beverly would travel to Haiti year after year purchasing and bringing back 150 or so paintings and art work which would be sold at annual sales in Washington, D.C. and New York.

The profits would pay for the construction and management of the eye clinics, the training of doctors and the first laser treatment room in the Caribbean. The artists benefited from the sale of their art.

As a consequence of Beverly’s passionate interest in Haitian art, she and John assembled a noteworthy, stunning collection of paintings at their home, often described as worthy of a museum.

Indeed, the collection came to the attention of the National Gallery of Art. At the request of the museum, the Sullivans are donating 12 pieces of their art to be exhibited Sept. 29 of this year through early March of next.

A celebration of Beverly’s life will be held in the fall.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Haitian Art Society, 620 R Street N.W., Washington, DC 20001 and Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue, PO Box 238, Washington, VA 22747.

 

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