On October 9, 1940, Bertie Lou was born into the Magee, MS, home of Nolen & Delories Walters, joining her older brothers, Evans & Vernon. She grew up enjoying a close relationship with aunts, uncles and cousins. Bertie attended grade school in the Janice community for several years, and was a graduate of the Gulfport High School Class of 1958, where she was awarded a nursing scholarship. Instead of enrolling in college, Bertie married and became a young mother of two girls, Faye & Eileen.
To help support her family, Bertie was employed as a bookkeeper at John Gimma Chrysler, Inc., in Gulfport. It was not unusual for her to go to the car dealership after the close of business, place a pallet on the office floor, and put her young girls to sleep while she worked. She was a hardworking and determined mom.
During her second marriage, Bertie learned that she was expecting her third daughter, Jacqulyn. There were complications with the pregnancy, and the baby died on the day that she was delivered.
In 1965, Bertie’s family moved to Hattiesburg, where Bertie worked as a bookkeeper, accounts receivable clerk or office manager for Belk-Whitley, Pioneer Furniture,
The Diana Shop, and Economy Supply Company. She enjoyed the challenge of working out payment plans for debtors by helping them see that they could nibble at their “elephant-of-a-debt,” instead of having to eat the whole elephant at once. It was during these years that she became active in March of Dimes, a national organization that promotes the health of moms and babies. She also joined Credit Women International (CWI), where she was very active in her local and state chapters. Also, Bertie networked with North Forrest High School, Business teacher and Yearbook sponsor, Mrs. Virginia Lott, by speaking to the business classes about the importance of establishing and maintaining good credit, and was always at the top of Ad Sales for the school yearbook during her girls’ high school education. In addition, Bertie has maintained membership in Beta Sigma Phi Sorority for several decades.
By 1970, Bertie, Faye & Eileen had become members of First Baptist Church of Glendale in the community where they resided.
Bertie loved serving people. When her girls were young teens, she saw their need for Christian leadership, and founded and led a Y-Teens chapter of the YWCA that met monthly in her home.
When Bertie married Newell Sullivan in 1974, she left her job at Economy Supply Company to invest in Newell C. Sullivan Construction Company as co-owner and office manager. Not only did she gain a new husband and become a step-mom to Newell’s four children, Newell & Bertie ran a successful business building custom homes and commercial buildings, many of which were school additions and county offices.
A couple of years into their marriage, Newell & Bertie learned of a teenage girl who needed a family and home. They quickly found a way to bring their newly adopted daughter, Tammy, into the fold to complete their family. Shortly thereafter, Bertie started a chapter of Rainbow Girls, associated with Eastern Star, which met in her home. This was a bond that she and Tammy shared.
Because of Newell’s love for Bluegrass music, Bertie & Newell began attending nearby weekend festivals. They purchased sound equipment and formed Sullivan’s Superior Sound, and ran sound at many Bluegrass festivals. And the rest is history! At the time of her death, Bertie was serving as treasurer of the Magnolia State Bluegrass Association (MSBA). She has been voted MSBA Promoter of the Year, as well as the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) Promoter of the Year. She has traveled extensively across the U.S. attending, working, promoting and producing Bluegrass events of her own, as well as Bluegrass events of others. Bertie even reached across the borders of our country to book international Bluegrass talent to perform at her events.
Perhaps the thing that Bertie loved best was spending time with her family and friends. Mrs. Mary Wiggins and Bertie have worked together tirelessly to promote Bluegrass music. Wherever you saw one of these ladies, you could be sure that the other was not far away. The thing that brought the most joy to Bertie was spending time with her “littles.” Bertie’s hugs and kisses were the best! She believed that her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were the best! At times during Bertie’s recent hospital stay, nurses would rush into her room and loudly ask her a litany of questions, such as: “Mrs. Sullivan, do you know where you are? Who is the President? What year is it? What year just passed? What is the next year?” Each time she would quietly answer each question correctly, wondering what all the excitement was about. Except for this one time when she was asked, “Who is the President?” Her quiet response was, “My granddaughter!” The nurse chuckled, but little did she know, Bertie has taught her children and grandchildren by example, “You can accomplish anything that you set your mind to do!” She lived it!
Bertie breathed her last breath on Thursday, February 21, 2019, at Forrest General Hospital, Hattiesburg, MS, surrounded by her loving family. She was preceded in death by her husband, Newell C. Sullivan, and is survived by their blended family of four daughters and three sons: E. Faye Alvarez, Eileen M. Patterson (Buddy), Genia C. Leake (Jeff), Tammy D. Walker, Hulon C. Sullivan (Betty), R. Wayne Sullivan (Margaret), and Jerry R. Sullivan (Chandra), fourteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. Bertie is also survived by her brother, Evans O. Walters (Joan) of Gulfport, MS. Other immediate family members who preceded her in death are her parents, Nolen & Delories Walters, brother, Vernon W. Walters, Sr., and daughter, Jacqulyn Herrington.
A private graveside service will be held at 11 am on Monday, February 25, at Biloxi National Cemetery. Pallbearers are Giovanny Alvarez, Cliff Aultman, Justin Byrd, Andrew Moye, Murphy Mullins, Marshall Parrish, Jordon Russ and Vernon Walters.
A Celebration of Life Service is set for Sunday, March 3, at First Baptist Church of Glendale, 2311 Glendale Avenue, Hattiesburg, MS. Her daughters are requesting that memorials in Bertie’s memory be made to First Baptist Church of Glendale or March of Dimes, P. O. Box 18819, Atlanta, GA 31126.