PANTON – Frances Ann (Wisell) Sullivan, 78 from Panton, passed away peacefully at Helen Porter Health and Rehab in Middlebury, Vt on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. “Ann” was born on July 25, 1942 in Burlington, Vt., Daughter of Dr George P. and Ms Frances M. (McAuliffe) Wisell. She attended Vergennes Schools and was proud to be a member of the first class of Vergennes Union High School (VUHS) in 1960, where she was voted most popular and versatile. She was also named DAR Good Citizen. No one is surprised that these accolades so early in life really define his legacy. She then graduated from Trinity College in 1964 with a BA in Language Arts.
Ann began her successful teaching career in Long Lake, New York, then returned to Vergennes and taught at Weeks School. In 1971, she began her career at her alma mater Vergennes Union High School. She quickly became the beloved teacher whom many knew as “Mrs. Sullivan” or “Sully”. She retired from VUHS in 2008 after 38 years of sharing her love for British Literature (Brit Lit), English, Vermont History, Shakespeare, the Humanities and Speaking with many beloved students. She was a true leader and wore many hats during her tenure at VUHS; his many roles included that of athletic director, senior advisor, credential coordinator, supervisor of student activities, and coordinator of Gifted and Talented and National Honor Society programs. In 1984, she was named one of Vermont’s Top Teachers by the University of Vermont. She completed her professional career at Champlain Valley Christian School as an admired educator with over 45 years of dedicated service.
Ann’s voice was a gift; when she spoke, people listened. She also had an incredible ability to read and communicate with people, knowing exactly what to say, when to say it and perhaps more importantly, how to get her message across. As a captivating storyteller with a penchant for writing poetry and prose, Ann celebrated many friends with personalized poems in honor of their milestones and comforted many grieving families with her heartfelt praise. Most famous, however, were his beloved class poems which carefully mentioned each member of the senior class and were shared on VUHS graduates for many years.
Music was her passion and she shared her gift by singing with friends, family or anyone nearby. She treasured her time both as a member and director of the Otter Creek Choral Society. Her rich, tenor voice could often be heard echoing throughout St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where she has been a faithful and active parishioner her entire life. She served the parish as an organist, member of the folk group, choir director, catechism teacher, and member of St. Anne’s Society, pastoral commission, and parish council. She has also hosted the annual Penny Fair fundraiser for over 40 years. In 2007, she was recognized and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI for 50 years of continuous service playing the organ. She has also performed and sang for various weddings, funerals and Sunday services throughout the region.
Ann was a true pillar of the local community. She received the Melvin T Jones Fellowship Award from the Vergennes Lions Club. She was proud of Panton and sat on the Selectboard, was the town moderator and notably served as a justice of the peace in Vergennes and Panton. As a justice of the peace, she painstakingly wrote and officiated over 300 wedding ceremonies. Ann announced the annual Vergennes Memorial Day Parade for 25 years and received the American Legion Post 14 Community Service Award. She was a member of Auxiliary Unit 14 of the American Legion and the Lions Club in the area. from Vergennes. She has served on the boards of the Bixby Memorial Library and the Sam Fishman Memorial Pool.
Ann received special recognition for all of her community contributions on August 28, 2010, when Vergennes Day was renamed F. Ann Sullivan Day. She received a proclamation from the State of Vermont, as well as keys to the town of Vergennes and the towns of Panton, Waltham, Ferrisburgh and Addison. His words of acceptance were humble and true: “None of us need to recognize a plaque for what we do. It is just the result of living in a wonderful region like this and the people who make it such a region. If I’ve touched lives and helped people see that, that’s what is special to me.
Her voice, now forever silent, leaves an incredible legacy of service and a fine example of how to live her life.
She is survived by her children; Sean Sullivan, Michelle (Glen) Eastman, Martha (John) DeGraaf and Christopher Sullivan (Kristy Sargent). She also leaves behind the Seven Lights of her life, her grandchildren, Brendan and George Sullivan; Hannah (Nicholas Toker), Kristin, Madeline and Gunnar DeGraaf; and Connor Joseph Sullivan. She leaves behind two brothers, William (Karen) Wisell and their children, Wm Todd (Cristy) Wisell, Meghan (Devin) Mahoney and Malinda (Cris-Hawk) Farrin; brother Ret. Colonel George (Diane) Wisell and his son George Wisell (Stacia Werner). She also leaves her sister-in-law Kathy (Glenn) Rossier and their children, Emily and Ryan (Annie) Rossier; brother-in-law; John (Marion) Sullivan and their children, Jonathan, Micah (Dan) Lee, Jeremiah (Emily), Josh (Bailey), Zach (Rachel) and Moriah Sullivan; sister-in-law Mary Sullivan and her children, Patrick (Kory) Sullivan and Sarah (Chris) Hale; sister-in-law Lynne Sullivan; and his beloved nephews, Kenneth (Betsy) and Kevin (Sarah Stradtner) Sullivan; and her “Burlington cousins,” whom she all loved very much.
She was predeceased by the father of her children, Michael; beloved son Joseph; parents Dr George P. and Frances M. Wisell; in-laws Kenneth and Mary Sullivan; and two brothers-in-law, Jim and Bill Sullivan.
The family would like to thank the many people who have taken care of their mother over the past few years, including the staff at Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehab.
There will be a funeral mass at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 29 at the Saint-Pierre Catholic Church in Vergennes with burial in the Saint-Pierre cemetery immediately after. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Peter’s Ramp Replacement Fund, PO Box 324 Vergennes, VT 05491 or donate online at osvhub.com/stpetersvt/funds/st-peter-s-ramp-replacement/pledge . To send condolences to his family, visit brownmcclayfuneralhomes.com.◊