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Obituary: Kevin Sullivan, Advocate for the Disabled

The 51-year-old local man founded a company devoted to helping the disabled live independently.

Like many entrepreneurs, Kevin Sullivan figured he would have to take it upon himself to change something he didn't like.

Sullivan was his own first client in 1991, when he founded a company devoted to helping the disabled live at home and, according to its mission, “control their lives and their health care needs in an atmosphere of independence.”

In Sullivan’s time as the company’s founding executive, In Home Personal Care grew to serve and employ hundreds of people, and Sullivan established himself as one of Minnesota’s leading advocates for the disabled.

On June 14, , seated behind the wheel of his minivan, in the parking lot at the . He was 51.

His mother, Laura Sullivan, recalled Kevin as a fun-loving, “very smiley guy who made friends easily."

“(He was) always very optimistic and adventuresome. Nothing would stop him,” she said.  “He’s so optimistic and enthusiastic and fun-loving."

Kevin Sullivan grew up in the Lake Minnetonka area and graduated from Mound High School. He became a quadriplegic in March 1984 during a boating accident off the Florida coast. 

But he didn't let the accident get him down. 

“He never actually was depressed. It was a struggle but he just accepted it," his mother said. 

As part of his recovery, Sullivan spent a year at the Courage Center. In the wake of his death, staff there are remembering him as "a great friend." Sullivan's company has sponsored the Courage Center 5k Your Way in years past. 

Sullivan, who loved to boat on Lake Minnetonka, was also trained as a pilot.

“He was into all kinds of things,” his mother said. “He even invented a pontoon boat that you could drive right into a lake, without a boat trailer. It had wheels on it, and shock absorbers."

There’s still some mystery about the circumstances of Sullivan’s death. Police responding to a medical call from the Byerly’s parking lot and found Sullivan’s Chrysler minivan still running, the windows fogged over, parked in a space for the disabled. An officer had to break the front passenger window to get inside. There, he found Sullivan slumped over the wheel. There were no signs of trauma or alcohol. To his mother’s knowledge, he had been in perfect health.

“It’s a puzzle what happened,” she said. A report from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner has not yet been released. 

Inside the minivan, police found a cell phone and an iPad Sullivan had just purchased from the Verizon kiosk at Ridgedale Center.

“He loved techie things—anything that would make life a little easier,” Laura Sullivan said of her son. "He wanted an iPad, he'd been talking about getting one."

Kevin Sullivan leaves behind his parents, Laura and Denny Sullivan, who live in Golden Valley and his wife Kathy, of Plymouth. Kevin Sullivan was also close to his wife's children, Jenna and Justin Berrett. 

"He was so fond of them," his mother said. 

In Home Personal Care will continue under the immediate guidance of the company’s chief operating officer.

More than 500 people attended Sullivan’s funeral, which was followed by a party that included fireworks. The fireworks, his mother said, were a fitting tribute to her son's adventuresome and outgoing spirit. 

"He was a great influence on many disabled people because of his attitude—it was sort of catching," Laura Sullivan said. “We’re just going to miss him everyday."

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