Palo Altan Tim Sullivan, 20, dies in Capitola skateboard fall

Sullivan was a University of California, Santa Cruz student and Gunn High School graduate

Tim Sullivan, 20, a lifelong Palo Altan, was pronounced brain dead Monday from head injuries sustained in a skateboarding accident in Capitola early Sunday.

"For us as parents, it's the middle-of-the-night call we all dread," his mother, Sherry Cassedy said of the predawn phone call that notified them of the accident, involving a backward fall off a skateboard while Sullivan was returning from a party.

Sullivan, a sophomore at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a 2008 graduate of Gunn High School, remained on life support at Valley Medical Center in San Jose while doctors worked to arrange organ donations.

"He's a young, vibrant healthy body from the neck down and, hopefully, his healthy body will allow others to sustain their lives and he will live on in those people," Cassedy said Monday.

Cassedy and Sullivan's father, Matt Sullivan, spoke in an interview of the back yard of their Maureen Avenue home, where Tim grew up and attended Fairmeadow, Jordan and Gunn.

Sullivan was taking upper-level math and German courses at Santa Cruz and had just learned he had been accepted to study at the Free University of Berlin next fall, his mother said.

"He was so excited about it. He was trying to get his German to the level where he could study and take classes in German in Berlin."

Sullivan was an athlete, having played soccer and baseball at Gunn.

He loved skateboarding, Hacky Sack, surfing and "just playing, just being out in the world," his mother said.

He was just a very fun-loving, open-hearted person."

Among the community members who surrounded the family since the accident were neighbors and close friends of Tim's from his earliest childhood, including Ben Siemens and Brian Keating.

Cassedy and Sullivan had visited with Tim, the youngest of their three children, Saturday evening at his home in Santa Cruz.

"We spend some time in Santa Cruz since he's been there, and we stopped by their little house to say hi and chatted for a few minutes," Cassedy said.

"We went off to the movies, and they went off to a party later on.

"I think we've really instilled the message that you don't drink and drive, so if you're going to a party you don't drive," she said.

Sullivan's roommate was on a bicycle and Sullivan on his skateboard, without a helmet, when the accident occurred around 3 a.m. Sunday, she said.

"He had just come down a hill in Capitola and was moving pretty fast when the board came out from under him. He fell backwards and hit hard on the back of his head," Cassedy said.

He was airlifted to Valley Medical Center. His roommate called Cassedy and Sullivan, who drove to the medical center, arriving at about the same as their son.

"From the first consultation we had with the emergency doctor, the trauma doctor, he was not optimistic about Timmy's survival at all," Cassedy said.

Sullivan never regained consciousness, his mother said.

"For us as parents, it's the middle-of-the-night call we all dread," Cassedy, a longtime family lawyer and mediator in Palo Alto, said.

"You dodge so many bullets during your parenting years where they survive a near miss.

"I think we just feel really blessed to have had 20 years with him, and that's what we want to really hold onto and focus on.

"Sometimes you can sit and talk about it rationally, and then that all goes out the window and you're hanging on by your fingernails and it shifts again.

"As I said in my e-mail to our friends early this morning, we're just putting one foot in front of another until we can move into a future that until now seemed unimaginable."

Cassedy and Sullivan said they hope to meet the recipients of their son's organs, assuming the transplants do occur. The donation process is anonymous unless both recipients and donor families choose to meet.

The family plans a memorial mass for Friday at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 3233 Cowper St.

A celebration of life will be held Saturday at the amphitheater at Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road. Family and friends are invited to gather at 2:30 p.m., with eulogies beginning about 3:30 p.m. and ending by 6 p.m.

The services will be the same weekend as those for Tim Sullivan's great-grandmother, Maryon Hunt of Palo Alto, who died last Wednesday two months short of her 100th birthday.

In addition to his parents, Sullivan is survived by his brother, Tyler, of Santa Cruz; his sister, Cassedy, of Portland; his grandmothers, Alma Sullivan of Woodside and Paddy Cassedy of San Jose; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Sherry Cassedy represented the Catholic Community of Palo Alto last August on a community panel of faith leaders in response to the recent student suicides at the Caltrain tracks.

Recalling the death some years ago of a 15-year-old member of her extended family, Cassedy said at the time she had found support from "two cores of the Catholic tradition," community and ritual.

"We clung to each other and cared for each other ... No one was alone. We felt too vulnerable and found strength in one another," she told a packed auditorium at Cubberley Community Center last Aug. 31.

Catholic ritual, allowing community participation as a priest took time to share peace with 80 young people lining the aisles at a memorial service, also offered some measure of comfort, she said.

Rather than flowers, the Sullivan family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Timothy Sullivan Legacy Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 2440 West El Camino Real, Suite 300, Mountain View, 94040.


Posted by G TOWN, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:03 am

Tim sullivan RIP.My prayers are with you and your family.

Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

So tragic. What a bright young man.

Posted by Jon, a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

Heartbreaking news, and heartfelt sympathies go to family and friends.

As an organ recipient I wanted to say that I was touched by the mention of organs being donated, and say to the Sullivan family that their son will continue to bring life and hope to (many) others.

Posted by jack, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:17 am

Rest in peace. Condolences to the family, as well.

Posted by your neighbors, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:32 am

Tim was a delightful young man. We are sorry to hear about your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all your family.

Posted by mike madison, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Friday at 7:00 PM, Our Lady of the Rosary Church, 3233 Cowper Street, Palo Alto.
A Celebration of Tim's Life will be held from 9:00 AM to Noon on Saturday at the Lucy Stern Community Center outdoor garden, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

Posted by Kiley, a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

I am so moved by the mother's words.... She is how I would like to be if I should ever experience such an unimaginable event. May peace and blessings find all the friends and family of this precious soul who has been called home.

Posted by Enough, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Apr 27, 2010 at 10:39 am

So, sooo sorry for Tim, and his family's loss.

Posted by mom, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

this is a heart wrenching tragedy, I'm so sorry. it's one of our kids, every mother's heart is with you at this time Mrs. Cassidy.

Posted by Zach, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:11 am

Timmy, you were a great teammate and an even better friend. You were such a unique individual who I felt had so much to offer everyone. I'm so glad I got to play soccer with ya for the 3 or 4 years at Gunn, because you always brightened everyones day and saw the better side of things. You were open to everyone you came across and I can't believe you are gone. We will remember you always. Love ya man.

Posted by Helmets & Crashes, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

To Tim's family...My heart goes out to you.

To community children. Note that Tim was NOT wearing a helmet. Incidence of fatality in crashes like this can be reduced more than 85% if you wear a helmet. Put on your helmet and buckle it every time you get on wheels. Don't put yourself at risk of brain injury or death. Don't put your family and friends at risk of losing you.

I am so very sorry to hear of this heart breaking loss. May his memory be a blessing.

Posted by Mom, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:35 am

He was a delightful young man, full of life. He was on the soccer team at Gunn with our son. He always gave his best effort.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:48 am

My sincere condolences to the family of this precious young man. What a tragic loss of talent and promise. Choosing organ donation is also very commendable. I am sure that Tim''s organs will give new life to many.

I appreciate the fact that "don't drink and drive" was instilled in Tim and that he and his friend made the right decision by not driving. I think it important to realize, however, that skateboards and bicycles can be dangerous vehicles to operate as well especially without a helmet on. Even more dangerous is doing either of these activities under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. I am not assuming that alcohol or other drugs were involved but young people often use fun-enhancing substances at parties and could have their lives spared by taking a cab or having a designated driver.

Posted by hbr, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I am in tears reading this. The mom is so brave and her thoughts so beautiful. We must all hug our children today.

Posted by Gunn Graduate, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I am so proud of their family. Their son was a terrific human being and I can see where he gets it now. How brave of them to be able to talk about organ donation and just trying to be thankful for the time they had. How brave.

All our community sends it's prayers to this family.

Posted by Terry, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Sherry & Matt, I am saddened,my heart goes out to you two and to the rest of your family...How can you handle this? Yet I know how you will handle it...with the grace and faith you have always shown, and the love of the community you have built. Terry

Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

What a sad thing to go through. God bless his family and make their lives less painful during these difficult times. My prayers are with you and all the students who knew him.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

My heart goes out to this family; I am so sorry for your loss.

To other posters: please, although well-intentioned, it may be most sensitive to use this board to express support for the family and avoid addressing issues. It's important, but perhaps not the best time or place to do so. Just a thought.

Posted by Buddy, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Timmy was a responsible, caring, respectful, and happy kid from a wonderful family with a bright future. He will be missed by many.

Posted by friend, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

love you and miss you timmy :(

Posted by Take good care., a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

To community parents... Note that Tim was NOT wearing a helmet. Incidence of serious brain injury or fatality in crashes like this can be reduced more than 85% if you wear a helmet. Tell your children this story. Talk with them about wearing a helmet and buckling it EVERY time they get on wheels. MODEL good behavior. Wear a helmet every time you ride.

Let's all learn from this terrible loss.

Posted by Gunn mom, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

My family's thoughts and prayers are with you. We are so sorry for your loss. Our son was a classmate of Tim's.

Posted by Seanna, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

My thoughts are with you guys.


Posted by Paly Friend, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This is very sad. With work and school it's easy to forget what being alive means. Timmy you are a ray of life. That's what you will remain in my mind.

Posted by Rick, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I lost my son five years ago at the age of 21. He was part of the Monterey Bay area skating community. This tragedy rekindles the grief, but also inspires me to try to help. I hope the family takes advantage of such services as Hospice, Compassionate Friends, and Palo Alto's own Kara Grief Support, 457 Kingsley Avenue, Palo Alto - (650) 321-5272. See Web Link . God bless.

Posted by Gunn Grad 08, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

My prayers are with the Sullivan Family. You were a great and fun person.

Posted by Sara Wall, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Aloha to Tim's family from their friends on Kauai. This news is heartbreaking and such a loss of a beautiful young man. Our prayers and Aloha are with you all.

Posted by Heidi Maier Deveau, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I was Timmy's Kindergarten teacher at Fairmeadow and was so shocked and saddened to hear about Timmy. It seemed improbable. A lot of kids come and go through our school and it is hard to remember each name or face over the years. But Timmy was one of the kids who I do remember immediately. He was always happy and giving. He was curious and engaged. His spirit made you smile. Finding the right words to say at this time is difficult because everything seems so inadequate for this loss.
I am so sorry.
Heidi Maier Deveau

Posted by Mike, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm

RIP Tim.

Am amazed by the even-handed and compassionate words from his mother, inspirational.

Posted by Uncle Bill, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Because of your genuine kindness, zest for adventure, and willingness to help your cousin Logan whenever asked, you will continue to be an inspiration to him for the rest of his life. For that, we are eternally grateful. Your family and friends have such deep admiration for you. You've truly shown others how to live a full life. Your time with us was far too short, but the things you did when you were here will have an long-lasting, significant effect on all of us who were fortunate enough to know and love you. Timmy, you will always be with us in spirit.

Posted by Mom 1st, MD 2nd, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 27, 2010 at 8:56 pm

As the mother of two wonderful sons who are also skate-boarders, this made me cry. My heart goes out to this family for their loss and also their willingness to let us know how this happened (in hopes, no doubt, that other parents could be spared this grief) and for considering organ donation. My thoughts are with you.

Posted by How sad, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm

To the family who lost their son (I do not know you), but I have nothing else by prayers and God gives you strength and lightens your pain. It sounds like you were great parents because people talks so great about your son. Being a parent in this days is hard, but you did it. I am glad you saw your son before he depart from you. Blessings.

Posted by John the Man, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Wear a helmet. They save lives and prevent parents and loved ones from having to go through such pain.

Posted by Friend, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2010 at 3:56 am

Timmy -- I grew up with you. We went to Elementary, Middle, and High school together. I remember how we were a few of the kids who did all the noon-leagues at Fairmeadow and how you loved to drop kick the soccer ball when you saved a goal. I remember hanging out with you on field trips (like the whale trip in 2nd grade). Even though I hadn't seen you since graduating from Gunn, and even then at Gunn we never really hung-out, I'm going to miss you buddy.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 28, 2010 at 6:53 am

Inspiring presence of mind to speak of organ donation at such a difficult time. Matt and Sherry, you have a beautiful family and are not alone in your loss.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:32 am

I believe that Tim's spirit lives on in all these community members, friends, and family who were touched by Tim's vibrant life! My thoughts and prayers turn to his family members with hope that they feel the love surrounding them and that the pain lessens a little each day.

Posted by cindy, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm

My daughter was a Paly friend of Tim's; he found her lost wallet at Christmas time and took the time to mail it to her at college in January. She's heartbroken for the loss and that she won't be home for the celebration of his life...but sending her love, as are all the families Palo Alto.

They are all our children.

Posted by Katherine Warner, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Just got the news. I am so sorry to hear this. You sound so brave in this interview Sherry. The ITP community supports you in both your losses. Hope to see you on campus soon.

Posted by Roxanne, a resident of another community
on Apr 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm

May God's comfort be with each of you during this upside down time. I lost my brother in a diving accident when he was 26 and about to start a new phase in his life after almost completing a graduate program. My heart goes to each of you, but especially his brother and sister. Know you are being thought of. It's hard when most of the attention is on "How are your parents doing?" Please be there for each other and understand that you both will have different times of highs and lows and anger. Be patient and listen when you're up, and talk rather than holding it in when you are down. Your brother sounds like a good guy (he had to be if he was a UCSC banana slug!); I'm sure who he was was also thanks to who both of you are.
Peace and prayers. You will make it through.

Posted by Valerie, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 28, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Tim spent a week hiking in the Sierras with my daughter, Claire, and other students as part of UCSC's wilderness orientation. I remember her commenting on how bright Tim was, that he was well liked by everyone on the trip, and that he wanted to be a doctor. This is such a tragic loss for his family and all who knew him. I never knew Tim, but I honor his family's decision to allow his body to save the lives of others.

May god grant his family strength and peace.

Posted by Kim Perlmutter, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:20 am

Excerpt from Choose Them Wisely:
The meaning of Eternity -
Each blossom forever blooms in its field.
Each child forever clutches your hand,
Each friend forever lingers in your heart.
This is what eternal means.

RIP Dear Timmy - You will never be forgotten. You will live on in all of our hearts for the rest of our living days.
With love -
Kimberly Perlmutter

Posted by Tom and Linda, a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

The waves of tears and sorrow will follow with the many wonderful memories. Our thoughts, appreciation and condolances to all of your family.

Posted by Lani and Jay Deimling, a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Dear Sherry and Matt and Tyler and Cassedy,

We are so sad to hear about Timmy. There seems to be no rhyme or reason sometimes to our lives. He was such a beautiful young man with an exciting life before him. Please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers, and we are hopeful that your strong sense of love, inspiration and community will help you through this sad time.

All our love and prayers are with you,
Lani and Jay Deimling and family
(Sherry's High School Friends)

Posted by classmate, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm

cannot believe that you are gone. you had so much to offer this world timmy, i dont understand. may you rest in peace and may your soul be in a better place. this world lost a lot when it lost you.

Posted by paula, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Please add one more family to the many who are sending you condolences and prayers for this heartbreaking loss. We support, honor, and thank you for the generous gift you are making to organ recipients. What a compassionate way to ensure that Tim will continue to make the world a better place. Sending your family love. and a community with you in spirit.

Posted by Chael Solari, a resident of Stanford
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:57 am

My thoughts and prayers are with the family. It's impossible to read and believe. I share your sadness.

Posted by Sad resident, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

RIP Tim.

Posted by Evan, Diane and Mark Daniells, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2010 at 3:32 am

Our family sends Aloha to your family and friends. We remember Timmy smiling, here on Kauai at the beach and warm in the sun. He was fortunate. Every day in his life was important. We remember Timmy as passionate, living life with no boundries. He was afforded the opportunity to live in the most beautiful place in the world. Never forget that. We will be thinking of you on Saturday. Know that the rain that falls tomorrow here on Kauai will be honoring his memory.
He will always be close. Me Ke Aloha Pumehana..Aloha Timmy

Posted by saddened, a resident of another community
on May 1, 2010 at 4:30 pm

So sorry to hear about Timmy. Thank you for choosing Timmy to be an organ donor. Several lives will be lengthened and touched by this selfless act.

Posted by Adrian, a resident of another community
on May 3, 2010 at 8:49 pm

So sorry to hear about this tragedy, our thoughts and prayers are with you .

Adrian and Karen Rodriguez

Posted by chris from san diego, a resident of another community
on May 4, 2010 at 11:30 am

a great 20 years, with no suffering, at the least we can focus on that. we should all live our lives like they will end tomorrow, within reason. i know way to many people who would just drive home, he should be rewarded for his decision.

Posted by Jennifer Aza, a resident of another community
on May 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

I just learned of Timmy's passing late last night. Timmy was in my 4th grade class at Fairmeadow, my last year there. He was a creative, kind, charming, hardworking young man. I am so sorry for his family, and for our collective loss.

Posted by Heidi Jacobson, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I am from the Seattle community.. Just looking up old friends and found this heart breaking story. I am so sorry for your loss. I am a PE teacher and always telling kids to be sure to wear helmets, but when they get a certain age they just laugh at you... I can understand it however, when I was that age I never wore a helmet. Never, we never did. I a hopeful that all things happen for a reason. So if you don't mind I will share this story with my skate board kid students, at my school. Maybe I will start a skate board club in his honor. Heidi Jacobson,from Seattle, and Los Altos California.

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