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Leppert Mortuaries - Nora

740 East 86th St, Indianapolis, IN

OBITUARY

Joanne Dillon Sullivan

February 2, 1928February 28, 2020
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Joanne was born on February 2, 1928, to Margaret Stewart Niehaus. Joanne’s father, Francis Christie Niehaus, had died a few months before she was born, so Joanne’s family consisted of her mother and her two-year-old brother, Charles. As a widow with two toddlers, Margaret was struggling to work and raise them, and then the Great Depression hit. Margaret entrusted her children to St. Mary’s Orphanage in Nauvoo, Illinois, so she could go to work, and she would visit them on Sundays. Joanne and Charlie stayed in the orphanage until they were in elementary school, then moved with their mother to several cities as she pursued her working career. As a consequence, Joanne attended 8 different schools in 12 years. But she was always determined to make the best of things, and learned at a very young age to make friends wherever she found herself.

When she was a senior in high school in a suburb of Washington, D.C., her mother encouraged her to take the civil service exam in order to qualify for government employment. World War II had just ended and Joanne got a job in the secretarial pool on Capitol Hill. She was promoted to work in the office of Claude I Bakewell, a member of the House of Representatives from Missouri, and later for Chester A. Chesney, a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, who was a former football player for the Chicago Bears. One high point for Joanne was the day she and several of the secretarial staff were invited to the White House and had tea with Bess Truman.

One of Joanne’s girlfriends in the office was newly married to a young doctor. She introduced Joanne to her husband’s friend, Dr. John Dillon, and they were instantly attracted to each other. They married on September 24, 1948 and began their lives together in Washington, DC. John’s career took them to many places – The Manchester Cancer Research Centre in Great Britain, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, hospitals in Augusta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota – before they settled in Indianapolis in 1963. Along the way, their family grew to six children, Sally and Agnes were born in Houston, Margaret and Francis were born in Augusta, Vincent was born in Minneapolis, and Katie was born in Indianapolis. Through all those changes and relocations, Joanne relied on her childhood experiences to help the children deal with the moves and make new friends in new places.

In 1963, Joanne became a member of St. Luke’s Catholic Church where all the children attended elementary school. Joanne was involved at many levels in the church and school community. One year, she organized a cooking class as an elective for the eighth grade boys, who walked the block-and-a-half to her house once a week and learned to make souffles and Baked Alaska. Joanne served on the House Committee at St. Luke’s for several years, and served in several capacities as a volunteer to help keep the church, rectory and convent running smoothly. She spent many hours in the Adoration Chapel at St. Luke’s, praying for the special intentions of family and friends. She was an enthusiastic and talented gardener, always striving to expand her competencies from the backyard garden of vegetables and herbs to elaborate Bonsai arrangements. That love of gardening is reflected in one of her favorite bible verses, which she read frequently to uplift her spirits as she grew older:  

Psalm 92 12 But good people will grow like palm trees They will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon 13 Like trees planted in the Temple of the Lord They will grow strong in the courtyard of our God. 14 When they are old, they will still produce fruit; They will be healthy and fresh. 15 They will say that the Lord is good. He is my Rock, and there is no wrong in him.

When Dr. John Dillon was diagnosed with cancer, Joanne did her best to keep the family’s faith and spirit focused on comforting him and supporting each other. Upon his death in 1983, Joanne continued her community and church activities as a tribute to his memory.

Joanne was a volunteer at the St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged Poor and participated in fundraisers like the Annual Fashion Show and the Holiday Market. She enjoyed her chances to work alongside the sisters to care for the elderly, and her commitment to them increased when her elderly mother, Margaret, became a resident there. Joanne met Arthur J. Sullivan through her involvement with the Little Sisters, as his law firm, Ayres Carr & Sullivan represented the Little Sisters. Joanne and Arthur found that they had many things in common, and they married in 1984. They traveled together, visiting places Joanne had dreamed about (like Hawaii) and places she never imagined she would see. She and Arthur went to Rome to see Pope John Paul II and received a special Papal Blessing. Closer to home, she and Arthur were inducted into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. She particularly enjoyed their annual trip to Sarasota in the winter because during the drive from Indianapolis, she and Arthur would take turns reciting the rosary while on the road. Joanne and Arthur were married until his death in 1999.

After Arthur’s death, Joanne continued her volunteer work with St. Luke’s and with St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged Poor. She strove to attend mass on a daily basis and spent many hours in the Adoration Chapel at St. Luke’s praying for her children and her friends. She took great joy in meeting her friends for lunch, and told everyone in the family how blessed she was to have so many people in her life who cared about her. In her later years she particularly enjoyed crocheting for her friends – afghans, purses, baskets and (her signature creation) cat beds.

When it became clear that Joanne could no longer live alone, Vincent and Sharon Dillon, along with their children Grace and Arthur, welcomed Joanne into their home and took responsibility for her daily care and comfort. Vincent and Sharon, along with Sharon’s sister Christina, took Joanne to medical appointments, shopping trips and church events. Joanne also had the good fortune to meet Jeff Pecor who helped with all the home chores she asked be completed and gave Joanne someone to remind to not “jump on the bed.” Joanne lived with Vincent and Sharon’s family for several years until Sharon’s sudden and tragic passing in April, 2017. Joanne moved to Assisted Living at The Barrington of Carmel in 2018 and was a resident there until her death.

Her family is truly grateful for the excellent care Joanne received in recent days. She was truly blessed to reside at The Barrington of Carmel, where she made many friends and was adopted into the Catholic community of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. Volunteers from that church frequently held rosary and mass ceremonies at the Barrington, brought communion to residents there and even brought ashes on Ash Wednesday. She was so fortunate to have the loving care and support of Sandy Butler, Katie Miller and Christina Schaefer, who made her life so much happier as she approached the end of her life. Also, she was lucky to have the hospice services of St. Vincent’s Hospice under the direction of Andrea DiBortolo, RN and her compassionate associates. Her family appreciates each of you in helping them celebrate the amazing life of Joanne – a brave and happy prayer warrior now gone home.

Services

  • Visitation Wednesday, March 4, 2020
  • Mass of Christian Burial Thursday, March 5, 2020
  • Burial Thursday, March 5, 2020

Memories

Joanne Dillon Sullivan

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joanne sullivan

March 2, 2020

I was privileged to befriend Joanne through my Aunt and Godmother, Betty Chepules. Joanne was a wonderful friend to Aunt Betty, and I enjoyed seeing Joanne almost every time I visited Indy over the past 20+ years. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful obituary and tribute to Joanne. Please know that you are in my prayers, and I am certain that Joanne was greeted with open arms by the Legions of Angels in heaven.
Peace,
Marilou

Elsie Young Cerrone

March 2, 2020

To my dear St. Luke and neighborhood friends ! Some of my fondest memories were spent at the Dillon family households.... so many great memories, too many to share... but all were sprinkled with a LOT of laughter.... your mom had a great laugh that I can still hear in my memory to this day and she shared it often.... much like Margarets. She also had a way of making others feel good with her kind ways. Sally, Ag,Maugrit, Francoise, Vinny and Katie ... I am so so sorry for your loss, she was a special person. Your Dad too. Love, Elsie

Kate Wilson

March 1, 2020

Thank you to Joanne's family for the rich, deep, and loving tribute. It shows why, when it mattered, she chose to embrace the world and hold us close.

Joanne had the gift of making people (me) feel as if nothing could make her happier than to see us, and that we are the most important hope she had had that day.

I will miss this never boring, Christ filled woman.

Rest in peace and throw a party in heaven.

Kate Wilson

Mary Anne Barothy

March 1, 2020

Joanne you will be missed - you were such an inspiration to me and I am grateful we had such a wonderful visit just hours before you went to Heaven. God bless you for ALL you have done for so many people over the years - your awesome legacy will live on - Thank you for touching my life - love and miss you!

Mary Anne Barothy

FROM THE FAMILY
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FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
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Biography

Joanne was born on February 2, 1928, to Margaret Stewart Niehaus. Joanne’s father, Francis Christie Niehaus, had died a few months before she was born, so Joanne’s family consisted of her mother and her two-year-old brother, Charles. As a widow with two toddlers, Margaret was struggling to work and raise them, and then the Great Depression hit. Margaret entrusted her children to St. Mary’s Orphanage in Nauvoo, Illinois, so she could go to work, and she would visit them on Sundays. Joanne and Charlie stayed in the orphanage until they were in elementary school, then moved with their mother to several cities as she pursued her working career. As a consequence, Joanne attended 8 different schools in 12 years. But she was always determined to make the best of things, and learned at a very young age to make friends wherever she found herself.

When she was a senior in high school in a suburb of Washington, D.C., her mother encouraged her to take the civil service exam in order to qualify for government employment. World War II had just ended and Joanne got a job in the secretarial pool on Capitol Hill. She was promoted to work in the office of Claude I Bakewell, a member of the House of Representatives from Missouri, and later for Chester A. Chesney, a member of the House of Representatives from Illinois, who was a former football player for the Chicago Bears. One high point for Joanne was the day she and several of the secretarial staff were invited to the White House and had tea with Bess Truman.

One of Joanne’s girlfriends in the office was newly married to a young doctor. She introduced Joanne to her husband’s friend, Dr. John Dillon, and they were instantly attracted to each other. They married on September 24, 1948 and began their lives together in Washington, DC. John’s career took them to many places – The Manchester Cancer Research Centre in Great Britain, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, hospitals in Augusta, Georgia and Minneapolis, Minnesota – before they settled in Indianapolis in 1963. Along the way, their family grew to six children, Sally and Agnes were born in Houston, Margaret and Francis were born in Augusta, Vincent was born in Minneapolis, and Katie was born in Indianapolis. Through all those changes and relocations, Joanne relied on her childhood experiences to help the children deal with the moves and make new friends in new places.

In 1963, Joanne became a member of St. Luke’s Catholic Church where all the children attended elementary school. Joanne was involved at many levels in the church and school community. One year, she organized a cooking class as an elective for the eighth grade boys, who walked the block-and-a-half to her house once a week and learned to make souffles and Baked Alaska. Joanne served on the House Committee at St. Luke’s for several years, and served in several capacities as a volunteer to help keep the church, rectory and convent running smoothly. She spent many hours in the Adoration Chapel at St. Luke’s, praying for the special intentions of family and friends. She was an enthusiastic and talented gardener, always striving to expand her competencies from the backyard garden of vegetables and herbs to elaborate Bonsai arrangements. That love of gardening is reflected in one of her favorite bible verses, which she read frequently to uplift her spirits as she grew older:


Psalm 92
12 But good people will grow like palm trees
They will be tall like the cedars of Lebanon
13 Like trees planted in the Temple of the Lord
They will grow strong in the courtyard of our God.
14 When they are old, they will still produce fruit;
They will be healthy and fresh.
15 They will say that the Lord is good.
He is my Rock, and there is no wrong in him.


When Dr. John Dillon was diagnosed with cancer, Joanne did her best to keep the family’s faith and spirit focused on comforting him and supporting each other. Upon his death in 1983, Joanne continued her community and church activities as a tribute to his memory.

Joanne was a volunteer at the St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged Poor and participated in fundraisers like the Annual Fashion Show and the Holiday Market. She enjoyed her chances to work alongside the sisters to care for the elderly, and her commitment to them increased when her elderly mother, Margaret, became a resident there. Joanne met Arthur J. Sullivan through her involvement with the Little Sisters, as his law firm, Ayres Carr & Sullivan represented the Little Sisters. Joanne and Arthur found that they had many things in common, and they married in 1984. They traveled together, visiting places Joanne had dreamed about (like Hawaii) and places she never imagined she would see. She and Arthur went to Rome to see Pope John Paul II and received a special Papal Blessing. Closer to home, she and Arthur were inducted into the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. She particularly enjoyed their annual trip to Sarasota in the winter because during the drive from Indianapolis, she and Arthur would take turns reciting the rosary while on the road. Joanne and Arthur were married until his death in 1999.

After Arthur’s death, Joanne continued her volunteer work with St. Luke’s and with St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged Poor. She strove to attend mass on a daily basis and spent many hours in the Adoration Chapel at St. Luke’s praying for her children and her friends. She took great joy in meeting her friends for lunch, and told everyone in the family how blessed she was to have so many people in her life who cared about her. In her later years she particularly enjoyed crocheting for her friends – afghans, purses, baskets and (her signature creation) cat beds.

When it became clear that Joanne could no longer live alone, Vincent and Sharon Dillon, along with their children Grace and Arthur, welcomed Joanne into their home and took responsibility for her daily care and comfort. Vincent and Sharon, along with Sharon’s sister Christina, took Joanne to medical appointments, shopping trips and church events. Joanne also had the good fortune to meet Jeff Pecor who helped with all the home chores she asked be completed and gave Joanne someone to remind to not “jump on the bed.” Joanne lived with Vincent and Sharon’s family for several years until Sharon’s sudden and tragic passing in April, 2017. Joanne moved to Assisted Living at The Barrington of Carmel in 2018 and was a resident there until her death.

Her family is truly grateful for the excellent care Joanne received in recent days. She was truly blessed to reside at The Barrington of Carmel, where she made many friends and was adopted into the Catholic community of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. Volunteers from that church frequently held rosary and mass ceremonies at the Barrington, brought communion to residents there and even brought ashes on Ash Wednesday. She was so fortunate to have the loving care and support of Sandy Butler, Katie Miller and Christina Schaefer, who made her life so much happier as she approached the end of her life. Also, she was lucky to have the hospice services of St. Vincent’s Hospice under the direction of Andrea DiBortolo, RN and her compassionate associates. Her family appreciates each of you in helping them celebrate the amazing life of Joanne – a brave and happy prayer warrior now gone home.