My grandmother’s obituary showed up in the Tri-Cities Herald this morning. The level of accomplishment in this woman’s life is astounding. She defined success in the eternal sense for her kids and grandkids, and I am far better for having known her. Forgive the personal bent to the blog for the past few days. This one is important to me…
Johanna Patricia ‘Pat’ Sullivan Roach, age 90, passed away in Pasco on May 16, 2012, surrounded by thirty descendants. Waiting until her family had gathered and completed the final Hail Mary of the Rosary and the simultaneous arrival of Fr. Dan Barnett, her priest, Pat passed to the Land of the Living and into the arms of her late husband, Jack.
The first baby born at Our Lady of Lourdes in Pasco, Pat was the second child of John and Ellen (Makens) Sullivan, Pasco pioneers, both of 100% Irish ancestry. Pat’s love for siblings Agnes, John (‘Brud’) and Tom and their spouses and children was strong. She graduated from Pasco High, was the first ‘Miss Pasco’, and then departed for Marylhurst College. She transferred to Seattle College, returning home after her second year of studies to help her parents operate their pharmacy, New Pasco Drug. In Pasco she met and fell in love with John F. ‘Jack’ Roach, the handsomest guy to ever hail from Walla Walla. Higher education was of utmost importance to the Sullivan/Makens clan so Pat soon returned to Seattle College and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology while Jack was away at war in England, Italy and North Africa.
In 1946 after WWII, Pat and Jack married in Pasco. They started their family with sons Mike and Pat in Walla Walla where they were surrounded by Jack’s family and made and kept many friends. They moved to Kennewick in 1948 where Jack began his career with Metropolitan Life. While in Kennewick, they had five more children, Tom, Jerry, Mary, Liz and Dan. Because St. Joseph’s in Kennewick did not then have a Catholic school, Jack and Pat moved to their Brown Street home in Pasco so their children could attend St. Patrick School. Soon their last two children, Katie and Theresa, were born.
In 1968, Jack’s heart valve failed and he became one of the early recipients of an artificial aortic valve. In those days that meant an end to one’s working career. Jack retired and in the early 1970s Pat went to work at Mark Twain as a school librarian. Jack died on May 20, 1983.
Pat and Jack believed that their first obligation as parents was to pass their faith on to their children. For them, Catholic education, in spite of great financial sacrifice, was a critical element of parenting. They developed a close and lasting relationship with Seattle University and the Jesuits and somehow inspired all nine of their children to earn Bachelor’s degrees at Pat’s alma mater, Seattle U. Over time, each of the nine brought superb spouses into the fold producing forty-four outstanding grandchildren for Pat and Jack. Pat took special pride in the fact that her descendants have collectively pursued well over seven hundred years of education in Catholic grade schools, high schools and universities.
Faith, family, education, a strong work ethic and service to others were part of Pat’s DNA. Relationships with God, one’s spouse, children and community were what mattered most to Pat. She and Jack exemplified what a Christian marriage should be. Pat was kind to everyone. Conversations with her were never about Pat, but rather, were always about what was going on in the life of the person with whom she was talking.
Pat worked over the years on many projects at St. Patrick School and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. She had a special love for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. She served for years on the Boards of the Franklin County Historical Society and the Mid-Columbia Library. She was an early and strong supporter of Tri-Cities Prep. She also served the community by being a Cub Scout leader, a member of the Altar Society, a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, and a member of many PTA committees. However, her highest priority was always her family’s wellbeing.
One of Pat’s often repeated lines to her children and grandchildren was the duty everyone has ‘to be a contributing member of society’. In 1991, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, Seattle University honored Pat as one if its 100 most significant graduates. While nearly all of the other honorees were included because of their contributions to industry, science, academics, entertainment, athletics and government, Pat was included because of her contributions as a wife, mother and member of her community. In 2004 she was inducted into the Pasco High Hall of Fame, again for her contributions to her community as a homemaker and matriarch.
Pat’s greatest sense of accomplishment was derived from watching her descendants embrace their faith, pursue their educations, succeed in their marriages and give back to their communities.
Pat was preceded in death by her husband, Jack, her parents, her sister and brother-in-law, Agnes and Bill McIlraith, her brother and sister-in-law, Tom and Mary Sullivan, and her grandson, Luke Roach. She is survived by her nine children and their spouses, Mike and Nancy Roach, Pat and LeeAnn Roach, Tom and Nancy Roach and Jerry and Maria Roach, (Pasco), Mary and Bill Chambers (Bellingham), Liz and Ed Johnston (Redmond), Dan and Jacquie Roach (Walla Walla), Katie and Tere Thornhill (Pasco), Theresa and Peter Cedergreen (West Seattle) and her brother and sister-in-law, John and Glenna Sullivan (Brunswick, Maine). In addition, she is survived by forty-three grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren (so far!) and numerous nieces and nephews.
Mom was fond of, and grateful to, all the staff and residents at TriCity Retirement Inn where she lived the last four years of her life. The Roach clan owes a debt of gratitude to everyone connected with TCRI and to Hospice for the care and kindness extended to our mother and grandmother.