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Perhaps it’s the devotion to their family that keeps them going.
MEEKER I There may not be a better example for Valentine’s Day than Meeker natives Fran and Carolyn Sullivan. The couple will have been married for 65 years in March. They were born and raised in the area and as their family grows their example of long-lasting marriage continues through the generations.
Carolyn Russell, her older sister Norma and twin brother Jack were born and raised on what is now the Franklin Ranch near Meeker. If being a twin gave Carolyn the ability to share, marrying another twin doubled that strength.
Fran and his twin brother, along with nine other siblings, were raised on the Sullivan Ranch on the Williams Fork.
Fran and Carolyn grew up learning the value of hard work and the importance of family. The two were married in 1946 and have spent 64 years side by side enjoying their family. Now 84 and 85 (their birthdays are only a day apart) they’ve often been seen walking and laughing together.
“I can’t remember not being married‚“ Carolyn said.
Carolyn attended Mesa Junior College after high school and then took a break in her education before finishing her degree at Brigham Young University. She taught first grade at the Meeker Elementary School for more than 30 years, retiring in 1991.
Asked why she picked first grade, Carolyn replied, “Well, first grade came up and I needed a job. I just loved it.”
Although she has been retired for 20 years, Carolyn hasn’t slowed down. She still rides her 1975 Yamaha dirt bike every summer. The bike has 23,351 miles on it. She and long-time “dirt biking friend” Betty Kincher started riding together in 1982.
“We went everywhere you could go off-road. We had a lot of fun,” Kincher said. “I have 19,000 miles on my second bike since then.”
Fran worked for the county for 39 years before retiring alongside his bride — sometimes in the passenger seat of a 4-wheeler. Carolyn got a new ATV in 2002 and she drives with “Frannie” riding along on back.
They prove that perseverance in marriage is both admirable and attainable. Maybe one of their secrets of success is never missing a chance to take a walk or to get out and dance. They are frequently the only couple still on the floor at weddings when the couples who have been married the longest are asked to keep dancing.
The Sullivans have four children: Jacque (Duzik) married Duke in 1966, Joe married Melanie in 1973, Mike wed Barbara in 1974, and Kelly married Pam in 1990. The four are all still married, and have compiled an impressive 131 years of married life. Asked what makes their parents so special, Mike said, “They have always been there for us kids, and that’s in everything.”
There is no greater compliment for parents and Fran and Carolyn have earned this one again and again. For six decades Fran and Carolyn have attended endless athletic events and countless rodeos, along with any other activities their kids were interested in. They’ve watched their four children, nine grandchildren, and now 10 great-grandchildren in a variety of events from high school basketball, to cutting horses and team ropings, to volleyball. Whether it’s the family passion for dirt biking or piloting, the Sullivans have supported their children in any endeavor.
Perhaps it’s their devotion to their family that keeps Fran and Carolyn young. They are modest and kind, with what can only be described as a great appreciation for the things that truly matter. Only positive things are heard from community members when asked about the Sullivans and the same is true of the couple’s comments about their hometown.
In a time that finds divorce soaring to a startling 60 percent in America, a family tradition of enduring marriage like that of the Sullivans is truly an admirable accomplishment.
If Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate relationships, the Sullivans deserve their own holiday.