The Memoirs of Sally Eckerd Sullivan
Sally Eckerd Sullivan
Member of the prominent Eckerd & O'Herron Families,
the founding families of Eckerd Drugs Stores.
She's the daughter of an heiress, the granddaughter of a successful business icon, and the member of a prominent American family. She carries a name that yields recognition and expectation; a fairytale of wealth and privilege. Yet Sally Eckerd's life has been anything but a fairytale.
Her father made sure of that.
(see excerpt below)
That morning, Sunday, December 12, 1976, the phone call that I received was not the ritual call from my mother and grandmother that I eagerly anticipated each week. That morning, the phone call was something else indeed. It was my uncle, Ed O’Herron Jr., my mother’s brother, and he was calling with the devastating news that my mother was dead.
My head was spinning. Shock setting in. Uncle Ed tried to gently explain to me that there had been a terrible accident. My mother had shot herself, he said, and she was no longer with us. His voice was cracking and he said I must come to Charlotte right away. I was in a state of complete confusion and disbelief. Nothing made sense. I must have started to go through the motions of preparing to go to Charlotte. I had to tell Bob. Then I had to make arrangements to be away for an indefinite period of time. I was trying to understand how — or why — my mother would even have a gun in her hand, let alone point it at herself. I don’t remember the specific events of the next few hours. It’s a blur. But one thing I do remember very poignantly: I did not get a call from my father that day.
We contacted our close friends in town, asking them to take the children. Then Bob and I headed to Charlotte as soon as we could. When we arrived at my parents’ home, I was stricken at the sight of it. The elaborate decorations were stunning, with two beautifully decorated trees packed with presents underneath. I envisioned my mother carefully decorating her home, happily anticipating the Christmas she’d wanted for so many years; Christmas with her entire family, all together.
This vision of beautiful Christmas ornaments and my mother’s happiness was contrasted with the reality of the moment. On this day, the house was filled with people, many of them strangers to me. It seemed odd that they were drinking wine and cocktails, while at the same time their spirits were somber, sullen. I wondered if any of them even knew how excited my mother had been in those last few weeks.
I wandered around the house until I finally found my father. I had to know. I had to hear it from him, to look into his eyes and ask him what happened to my mother. He hardly looked at me, and in a tone that lacked emotion, he said he didn’t know what happened. He’d come home from playing golf that morning and found her on the bathroom floor with a bullet in her head. It was clear from his demeanor that he had nothing more to say on the matter. There was no hug. There was no comforting. There was no shared grief. The only other thing he told me was that my uncle Ed was sending his private plane to pick up my sisters from college and bring them home. This was his way of ending the conversation and dismissing me. He offered no possible explanation as to why my mother would take her own life.
I was consumed with sadness, paralyzed by it, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the events of the last few weeks had led her to suicide. I wondered if this could possibly have happened because my father was giving her such a hard time about inviting us to spend Christmas with them. It didn’t seem rational, yet there it was in the back of my mind. I knew just how overbearing he could be. I knew just how hard it must have been for her to finally stand up to him, after being complacent for so many years. And now, I couldn’t help but wonder if the angst he had cast upon her had driven her to this. It couldn’t be. There had to be something else going on, but in the chaos and confusion of the moment, I wasn’t able to focus or even ask myself what that might be. The only thing I was certain of was that I would never get to spend the time with my mother that I had so desperately wanted to for so many years.