When Patricia Sullivan learned in the late 1970s about a construction site in Farmingdale where no women had been hired, she went to the job site and climbed on top of a mound of dirt where a man was operating a large piece of machinery to dig a hole, effectively shutting down the entire site. She didn't leave until the foreman agreed to provide jobs for women.
"A lot of things that she did changed the face of Long Island for women," said Eileen Sullivan Alber, Sullivan's sister, of Seaford.
Sullivan, a fierce advocate for women and minority rights and founder of one of the first women- and minority-owned construction companies on Long Island, died June 20 of lung cancer, her family said. She was 70.
Born March 19, 1943, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Sullivan moved to Brooklyn with her family as a toddler, and then to Levittown. She graduated from Island Trees High School in 1960.
Sullivan received her nursing degree from Brooklyn Nursing School in 1963 and went on to become an emergency room nurse at Massapequa General Hospital and worked there until the mid-1970s. During that time she married, moved to Seaford, had three children and divorced, according to her family. Struggling to pay the bills as a single mom, Sullivan began looking for a different career path.
She found a new passion in the construction industry after seeing a lack of women and minorities in the building trades, her family said. She started working for Nontraditional Employment for Women, where she trained women and minorities to work in the construction field.
"Coming from a strong line of women, she felt that there was so much more that women could do as equally as men," said Jennifer Kocienda, Sullivan's daughter, of Massapequa.
Sullivan held positions at several organizations advocating for women, including the National Organization for Women.
In the early 1980s, Sullivan and a partner opened Job Opportunities for Women in Hempstead, one of the first women- and minority-owned construction companies on Long Island.
Gov. Mario Cuomo appointed Sullivan to various positions that enabled her to help New York State work toward equal employment rights. She was one of the first women to be appointed a member of the Department of Labor Apprenticeship Council Representing Employers.
In 1986, Sullivan ran for the congressional seat in New York's Fourth District. She was unsuccessful, but the experience led to years of involvement with the Democratic Party, according to her family. She became a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from New York in 1988.
In addition to her daughter and sister, Sullivan is survived by two sons, Christopher Luciano of Seaford, and Joseph Luciano of North Massapequa; a sister, Mary Dwyer of Freehold; partner Dominick Germano of Lawrence and several grandchildren.
Services have been held.