Support our mission

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — About 500 from the DODDS-Okinawa community gathered at Camp Foster’s chapel on Monday afternoon to pay tribute to and honor the memory of Chris Sullivan, who was the boys basketball coach the last five years at Kubasaki High School.

Sullivan was found dead, apparently of a heart attack, in his hotel room on April 8 in Angeles City, Philippines, where he had gone for spring vacation. The longtime DODDS educator and 1973 graduate of Mannheim High School in then-West Germany was 51.

Students, members of the basketball team, coaches, teachers, and administrators remembered Sullivan as the “epitome of professionalism, student-oriented, vibrant and energetic” by those who reflected on his life during the memorial service.

“He had a passion for what he did,” said Dr. Nancy Bresell, who was for nine years the director of DODDS-Pacific. “It’s true of a lot of people in that field. DODDS is like a family. It always saddens and touches all of us when we lose someone.”

Sullivan had transferred to Kubasaki for the 2001-02 school year after seven years at Nile C. Kinnick High School in Japan, where he coached varsity basketball his last three years there.

Sullivan led Kubasaki to the 2003 Far East Class AA tournament championship game, which they lost to Seoul American 84-74. He also took them to a fourth-place finish in 2005.

But it was more what he taught about life off the court that his players say they will remember most.

“He taught me how to be a leader, made me step up to the plate, that being a captain is not just a title,” said senior forward Steven Thompson, who played for Sullivan for two seasons. “The years that I knew him, I learned so much more about life, not just basketball. He was a coach, husband, father and friend. He will be missed.”

“He approached every day with confidence and commitment,” Kubasaki principal Dr. Gloria Clark-Arnold said. Addressing Sullivan directly, she said: “You touched many lives. We will miss your gentle spirit.”

“The hardest thing about this is to walk into that gym and not see him,” Kubasaki physical education teacher Charles Burns said.

From around the Pacific, those who knew him, coached with him and squared off against him remembered Sullivan fondly.

“He was a genuine, kind, positive-type person,” said Paul Ettl, Yokota boys basketball coach and Sullivan’s predecessor as the varsity coach at Kinnick. “You never heard him say a bad word about anybody. He was one of those four or five nicest guys you meet in DODDS. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Kinnick assistant coach and Yokosuka Naval Base athletic director Kyle Rhodus called Sullivan “as nice a guy as I’ve met in the six years I’ve coached in the Far East. He will be missed by players, students, parents and especially by the coaching fraternity.”

Sullivan is survived by his wife of 13 years, Susan, a teacher at William C. Bechtel Elementary School on Camp McTureous, and their daughter, Catherine, 11. Donations may be made to a soon-to-be-established memorial scholarship fund in Sullivan’s name at Kubasaki.

twitter Email

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up