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Posted at 5:38 PM ET, 09/ 5/2007

Patricia Sullivan

By editors

I've ricocheted around the country in my career, covering a wide variety of beats in a number of fascinating places, with a single common thread: I can't hold a danged job.

I've been an obit writer at The Washington Post since September 2003, covering the lives of such personalities as Rosa Parks, Betty Friedan, the brightest boy of 1929, and scientific superstar Francis Crick, as well as many, many homemakers, lieutenant colonels and government employees.

I came to The Washington Post in November 2001 as the local technology editor on the business desk after living in the West for nearly 20 years.

Born in Joliet, Illinois (a prison-and-steel town when I was growing up), I started in newspapers as a copykid (a friend and I made them change the name from "copyboy") at the Milwaukee Sentinel while I was in college at Marquette University. I interned at The Milwaukee Journal in the summer of 1976 and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1977.

I worked, consecutively, for the Joliet (Ill.) Herald-News and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel then enrolled in graduate school in environmental studies at the University of Montana. Never finished the master's, because I went to work at the Missoulian where over the next 11 years I covered higher education, politics, social issues, local and state government and (my favorite) the wing-nut beat where I wrote about the militias and various conspiracy theorists. I'd also been a night city editor and state editor there.

I was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University in 1992-93, where I learned about the newest thing, the World Wide Web. In the fall of 1995, the Missoulian publisher agreed to let me develop a web site for the paper; convinced this was the future of journalism, I resigned my "real" job and began doing online work. A four-month bout as an online freelancer ensued; I mostly wrote and edited web site descriptions for Lycos from my Missoula home.

The San Jose Mercury News found me that winter (1996) and brought me back to California to create an online column which became "Good Morning Silicon Valley," a daily, hyper-linked e-mail newsletter of tech news, one of the first online. I also did general-purpose online editing there and became editor of

At the peak of the dot-com mania just before January 2000, the Industry Standard magazine in San Francisco offered me a job running its web site. It was a lot of fun, until "the most successful new magazine in history" began losing all its advertisers. In June 2001, I laid myself off along with most of my staff just prior to the magazine's bankruptcy during the Great Dot-Com Bust. I spent the summer of 2001 traveling in the West, reading good books and enjoying San Francisco.

The Post called and interviewed me just before Sept. 11, and in the greatest stroke of career luck, hired me a month later. I'm still here.

By editors  | September 5, 2007; 5:38 PM ET
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Near the end of her life, my mother, Ann Cottrell Free, a journalist who appreciated the fine art of obituary writing (having written many herself), used to frequently say, "I hope Patricia Sullivan will be the one to write my obit."

As luck would have it, Pat was on duty Oct. 30, 2004, the day my mother died. True to my mother's expectations, Pat wrote a magnificent obit which perfectly captured my mother's personality. It ran the next day in the Sunday paper. It's one of many things I wish I could tell my mother.

Thank you Pat!

Posted by: Elissa Free | October 10, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I was unaware of the Post's 'one month' deadline and was late submitting my husband's obituary. Numerous friends and co-workers had contributed to what we hoped would become a News Obituary.
As it turned out, it was serendipitous. Pat Sullivan interviewed many of those friends, read his last emails and wrote a wonderful story about his love of adventure - especially in the Himalayas. Thank you, Pat, for your caring and sensitive reporting.

Posted by: Kathi Robinson | November 19, 2007 3:55 AM | Report abuse

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