Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – One of Chapin High School’s many legends passed away yesterday after a fight with cancer that lasted several years. “Coach” W.F. Sullivan slipped away leaving this earth a much better place through the thousands of people he touched with his teaching and coaching career.
Sullivan had been at Chapin High School from the early 1970’s until he retired in 2016. In total, 46 consecutive graduating classes were touched by Sullivan as he educated students in every discipline of math, made them healthier through their participation in a sport, and generally learned a great deal about life with Sullivan’s help and caring. Students also remembered Sullivan as a man who had his own unique and off the wall sayings that stuck with them forever. This was long before other famous people like celebrity chef Guy Fieri uttered his first “Flavor Town,” a phrase he’s made famous worldwide. Coach Sullivan’s “Tough Mustard,” something he said with frequency, might not have been world famous, but that phrase was definitely Chapin famous.
In addition to teaching math to many generations, he also coached football for 30 years, basketball for more than 20, and even played in the school’s jazz band for about 10. He was on the coaching staff of the football team when Cecil Woolbright was the head coach and Chapin was playing in the SC High School League’s smallest classification. This was a time when the Eagles were powerhouses in S.C. high school football even though they still played at the old field behind what’s now the sheriff’s department substation and the old alternative school on Columbia Avenue.
Although sports were his forte during his teaching years, music was also a great love and he was very good at that too.
Those who had never heard him sing would never have suspected it, but he also had a beautiful singing voice. He even participated in several student led talent shows. In one show in the mid to late 1970’s, he took to the stage in the gymnasium and sang a perfect rendition of Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” while many in the audience sat with their mouth agape! He also participated with three other men in a barbershop quartet that was in its formative stages in the 1970’s. The group met weekly at Chapin United Methodist Church and belted out old tunes such as “Wait Till the Sunshines Nellie” and the classic "Shine On Harvest Moon,” as well as many other period correct classics. His many talents, quick wit, and kindness brought a smile to student and faculty members alike.
In November of 2017, Coach Sullivan was diagnosed with stage 3 or 4 esophageal cancer. Former students, and current and former staff members, rallied around him offering him support through thousands of cards, well wishes, prayers, and even financial donations. They held fundraising events and Coach Sullivan always seemed as if he were surprised that everyone was making a point of singling him out with their attention. When money was donated, Sullivan said that anything above what was needed to cover his own medical expenses he would donate to a well-know cancer hospital that treats children with the disease at no cost to them or their parents. He also said that some of it could be used to prepare students to take the college entrance exams, a test he had tutored hundreds of teens in over the years.
In his final days, Coach Sullivan was weak and semi-conscious at best, finally slipping away. Although it creates a huge hole in the hearts of those who loved him and the Chapin community, he’s certainly no longer in pain and joins some elite old friends who have gone on before him. As of this writing, funeral arrangements had not been released.