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Nov-09-2006 20:59printcomments

Coach Dewey Sullivan Has Left The Field

Dewey Sullivan was one of the 10 Winningest active coaches in the nation and among the Top-20 All-Time!

Dayton Oregon High School, Oregon
Dayton High School, Dayton, Oregon.
Photo: Bonnie (Ehry) King,

(DAYTON, Ore.) - To the dismay of Pirates everywhere, Dewey Sullivan, the winningest football coach in Oregon prep history, died at 4:30 Wednesday morning in McMinnville.

Dayton High School's coach for 42 years, 71-year old Sullivan was struggling to recover from a September surgery, and had been fighting a losing battle with pneumonia and infection ever since.

Finally, in typical Sullivan fashion, he called the play, and his family cooperated, removing him from life support on Sunday.

25 miles from Salem, Dayton has a long reputation of tenacity, strength and drive, of it's deep rooted spirit. Dewey Sullivan encompassed those same qualities, and Daytonians counted on that.

The town was not ready to let go of Coach Sullivan, but he knew when the game was through. With the same humble bravado he showed for decades on the field, he called it. Sullivan was born in Oklahoma, and in 1965 moved to Dayton to become a teacher and football coach where he quickly became rooted in the community. Some called him a giant in the small town, so well-known in football circles for his winning record.

And he had a way about him, a "you're here for a reason, so get it right" attitude. He mentored and guided innumerable students, on the field and in the classroom, he raised the bar at will and made his expectations known. Students worked to gain Mr. Sullivan's respect, and it was rewarded mutually.

His team. The Pirates have always been Dewey Sullivan's team. During his career, Sullivan amassed a career record of 352-84-2 and won five state championships, even winning two games before being hospitalized this season.

Without Sullivan, the team lost two games, but bounced back to win the Class 3A West Valley League title, going undefeated in league play.

And the (pep) band plays on.

This Saturday the Pirates make their 25th straight playoff appearance when they host Grant Union at 1:00 PM in the opening round of this year's Class 3A state playoffs under interim coach Rob Umbenhower.

The school song, "Cheer Cheer for ole DHS" will be echoing through the stadium while the team roars onto the field, ready to take on another contender. The excitement of the state playoffs will only be rivaled by the challenge to make Dewey proud.

But I think he already is. I am one of the many alumni that sat in the chairs in Mr. Sullivan's biology class so many years ago. We were all "his team" in a way, and our lives are better for knowing him. He was, after all, one of the good guys. And if you want to argue that fact, I'm sure he'll pull out some films for us all to go over together.

Dewey Sullivan is survived by his wife Vera Sullivan and four children. A memorial service is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 PM at the McMinnville community center.

Thanks for the memories Mr. Sullivan.

Please feel free to leave your comments, condolences and anecdotes below.


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Osburn Family July 1, 2012 5:49 pm (Pacific time)

All us girls took his class. What a true loss.Thoughts and prayer to his family.

Kyle September 24, 2007 1:27 pm (Pacific time)

I new coach Sullivan from the day I was born he wanted me to play for since I was playing little guy football I played for coach sullivan for 3 years Me and My family will love and miss Coach Sullivan

sarah November 15, 2006 12:59 pm (Pacific time)

Coach Sullivan affected my dads life alot. My dad talked about him all the time. Coach was like a father to my dad and he was devastated. Thank you Coach Sullivan and his family for brightening my fathers life.

Henry Ruark November 14, 2006 11:31 am (Pacific time)

To all: Overall operational attitude dislayed by "Coach" is what makes the world go ' many learn all too late in life.

Mike Strehlow November 14, 2006 10:27 am (Pacific time)

I never took a class from him and I didn't play football at Dayton. Still I attended his memorial because I knew about him and knew his effect on my classmates. I gave up football in my sophmore year at another local high school. I was the slowest, most inept player on the team and I was pretty much drummed out by my teammates (I guess they were tired of running extra sprints because of me). When I transferred to Dayton, I was done with football and put my energy into music. I regret that decision now. I wish I'd known him better.

Marjorie Ehry, Dayton November 12, 2006 2:29 pm (Pacific time)

What a legacy for a teacher to leave a community and how blessed we are to have teachers with the commitment of Dewey. We have lived in the area for forty four years, our four children went through the Dayton school system, two grand children and now two great grand children. Your story relates to everyone just what Dewey Sullivan met how he touched so many lives. I know Dayton will carry high the spirit he has left behind.

Darlyne Dresbach November 11, 2006 8:21 am (Pacific time)

I as well sat in the chairs in Mr Sullivans Economic and Biology classes and am so very fortunate that he touched my life and made me I believe a better person in this world. He will be missed by all.

Henry Ruark November 10, 2006 8:34 am (Pacific time)

To all: What a fine, sensitive, understanding and strong statement about the role and function of a real who affected many lives in solid behavior change, which is the real criterion for "teaching". Thanks, Bonnie...that beautifully illuminates the real role teachers play for many persons, to the great honor of "Coach".

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