Earli Malcolm Sullivan, a fifth generation Florida Cowman, passed on in the early afternoon of Friday, September 20, 2019, just shy of his 85th birthday, at his home on the family ranch North of Polk City, FL. He was born, at home, on the Sullivan family homestead in the Reedy Creek area of Western Osceola County on September 30, 1934. The youngest of 11 children (8 of which survived to maturity) born to William Lafayette “Fate” Sullivan (1884-1955) and Carrie Campbell Sullivan (1892- 1965) both descendants of pioneer Florida Families. Earli was predeceased by his parents and all of his siblings. (Brothers- Leslie Sullivan, George Sullivan, Curtis Sullivan, Clayton Sullivan; Sisters- Annie Mae Joiner, Elsie Joiner, Jimmie Forehand)
A 1953 graduate of Osceola High School in Kissimmee, FL, Earli was a member of the Kowboys football team, and it was there that he met Marlene Wicker. Marlene was a dark haired beauty, originally from Ohio, and a self-confessed “City Girl”. They would marry on March 16, 1954, and were by each other’s side, even at his passing, for 65 years. He would often remark about what a wonderful rancher’s wife and southern lady his “Ohio City Girl” had become.
Earli spent his young life fishing, hunting, and handling livestock, passions that would continue his entire life, and also be his livelihood. He spent time cowhunting at ranches across the state including operations like Latt Maxcy’s, Lykes Brothers, and the Triple E. He rode and worked closely with other pioneer Osceola County families, and built friendships that have lasted generations. After a short time working on the railroad traveling around Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, Earli went to work for the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission (FWC) as a game warden in 1957. A career that fit perfectly with his love and knowledge of the woods and wildlife, which also allowed him to continue to build his diversified ranching operation. He worked for FWC for over 28 years, retiring in 1985. Earli built a reputation as an outstanding and even legendary Game Warden. He made big cases all over the state, sometimes serving in an undercover role, he later learned that his tactics were used to train new wardens enrolled in the academy. Upon retirement he was recognized by his fellow wardens as the best warden the state ever had, a distinction he was incredibly honored by. After his retirement from FWC he continued wildlife management by building and successfully operating the “Sullivan Fox Pens” for 25 years.
Always a tireless worker, he continued to build his cattle operation, eventually having cattle on the home ranch and on leased land in as many as 6 Florida counties at once. Later in life he was able to purchase a peanut and cotton farm in Turner County, GA, with excellent soil, big deer and a beautiful fishing lake. While Earli “made a living” outdoors and off the land, it was also where he enjoyed his favorite recreation. An excellent hunter, he had a streak of 49 years straight of harvesting a good buck, 50 years wouldn’t have been hard for him to achieve but he liked to handle and put in the dogs, so that someone else on the hunting crew could claim the deer.
A natural leader, whose mere presence seemed to inspire obedience and loyalty, he was the one that the family and any hunting or cow crew he was a part of looked to for guidance, advice and any plan of action that might be needed. He was incredibly decisive once he had considered the facts, deeply loyal, honest, and his word was as solid as oak. If Earli told you something, he meant it, there was no ambiguity.
Earli was a long time member and supporter of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association (affiliating with various County Cattlemen’s Association over the years, mainly Polk and Osceola), the Silver Spurs Riding Club, and was a Master Mason with membership in the Orange Blossom Lodge No. 80 of Free and Accepted Masons. He was honored by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association as an Honorary Team Captain at the 2012 Ranch Rodeo State Finals and Cowboy Heritage festival and was the 2014 Silver Spurs Rodeo Coca Cola Cowboy.
He and Marlene have been supporters of Polk City Little League baseball for 30 years, where many Polk City Little Leaguers have proudly worn “Sullivan Ranch” on their uniforms. He was a staple at his descendants’ baseball and football games and practices, and truly loved to watch the little ones play sports. He even served as an Assistant Coach one year, and was in charge of the team’s discipline, resulting in potentially the most well behaved dugout in Little League history. Earli liked all sports, but he loved football. He would often show up at high school football games to watch the children and grandchildren of friends play, and thoroughly enjoyed watching college football especially the Florida Gators.
Earli loved his family, and all he did, he did for them working at all times for decades to build a future. He taught all much about life, cattle, horses, dogs, land, wildlife and the woods. A true family patriarch, who supported all in every endeavor any way he could. He was extremely proud of the families’ successes, and a huge part of all of them.
He is survived by his wife Marlene Wicker Sullivan; daughter- Rebecca Sullivan Finley (James); son- Rawl Malcolm Sullivan; Seven grandchildren- Amie Facente (Mike), Kelsey Davis (Chris), Dusty Holley (Hilary), Kate Kibler (Mike), Hunter Holley (Jessica), Jake Sullivan, Jared Sullivan; Twelve great grandchildren- Carrie Facente, Kaylee Facente, Radley Facente, Karlin Facente, Hattie Davis, Mack Davis, Webb Holley, Damon Kibler, Gracie Kibler, Wayden Kibler, Garrett Holley, Weston Holley: Sister in Law- Terry Hickman (Paul); Brother in Law- Bob Wicker (Maryanne) and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews and countless other family and friends.
In Lieu of Flowers the family would like you to consider supporting the Florida Cattlemen’s Foundation a 501c3, donations may be sent to PO Box 421929, Kissimmee, FL 34742 (place “in memory of Earli Sullivan” in the memo line)
The family will receive friends from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at the Roger C. Thompson Memorial Chapel at Conrad & Thompson Funeral Home.
Funeral services for Earli will be held at 11:00 A.M. Thursday, September 26, 2019 at Oak Hill Baptist Church, 8060 Osceola Polk Line Road, Davenport, FL. 33896, with the Reverend David Cheek, Green Pond Baptist Church, Polk City, Officiating.
Active casketbearers: Mike Facente, Chris Davis, Dusty Holley, Mike Kibler, Hunter Holley and Jake Sullivan.
Interment to follow at Oak Hill Cemetery, Loughman, Florida.
The Sullivan family is being cared for by CONRAD & THOMPSON FUNERAL HOME, 511 EMMETT STREET, KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA 34741 (407)847-3188