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Billie Sullivan – In Memoriam

Last updated on December 8th, 2020

It is with tremendous sorrow that I must inform you that Billie Sullivan passed away early on the morning of December 1, 2020 rather unexpectedly with heart complications. Fortunately her beloved son was by her side. Billie had two children, Sean and Nicole and three grandchildren, Chloe, Michael and Ryan, and she had been excitedly awaiting one due in the next few weeks.

Billie Sullivan, Vice President Underwriting, had worked for Roanoke for 40 years, and her claim to fame was bringing Roanoke the ‘Transportation Advantage Policy’ (TAP) when she joined the company (some remember it was once called the ‘Anduril’ program). She worked in Roanoke’s Long Beach office, closely with Gina Patterson for decades. Billie and Gina supported all of the Roanoke offices and clients with dedicated TAP service and underwriting, and did so with passion. Concerning her long and formative time spent with Billie, Gina says,

“I was very surprised when I received the opportunity to work with Billie in my 2nd month at Roanoke.  It turned out that she had asked for me out of a field of other candidates, and as I grew to know her, I realized it was due to her appreciation of the curiosity that drove me – one curious mind to another. Billie had a pure love of learning and acquiring new information.  She thought I was absolutely crazy to pursue designated studies, but she supported me in my academics nevertheless.  As I frequently would tell her “inquiring minds gotta know!”

Her dedication to her clientele was fierce – her motto was that if she taught her clients how to correctly use insurance to improve and protect their businesses, that would be the best way to educate them and ultimately keep them out of business pitfalls, and she was exceptionally good at all of it.  She made dedicated friends with most of her clients who remained steadfastly loyal to her for decades. They loved her.

Billie would share her years of experience and knowledge with anyone who asked. When presented with a dilemma, she would work the figures and terms/conditions until she came up with a solution that worked for everyone. The transportation industry, Roanoke Insurance Group, her clients, and her colleagues all lost one of the brightest and most experienced minds in the domestic transportation fields with her passing, and I lost a mentor, a friend and a soul sister.”

Billie’s understanding of the transportation-related insurance needs of our clients, and her connection with the logistics industry, ran deep. In fact, Billie was the first woman to set foot into Lloyd’s of London to conduct transportation insurance business of this nature. Early in her career faxing was the optimal mode of communication, so underwriters never saw or heard her—they just knew that this “Billie” character had a good book of business. When the Lloyd’s underwriter finally met her for the first time in London, he said “You’re Billie?!? Good gracious, we always thought you were a man!” It was not normal for women to be in this business, and that is why many refer to her as a trailblazer. Billie loved this story, just as much as she loved sharing her knowledge of the business with anyone wanting to learn. I am blessed to be one of the people she taught and I am just a long list of those she helped and supported in their careers.

One of those whose life and career was blessed by Billie is Vice President of Business Development, Glenn Patton. Patton says,

“When I started Roanoke at the age of 26, Billie took me under her wing and taught me everything she could. I so admired how much she knew and how well respected she was in the industry. I had the privilege of working with her for 22 years and even till the day she passed, I was always learning from her. Billie was not only a mentor to me, but she was like a second mom, always looking out for me. I will miss Billie dearly.”

Another Roanoke colleague who was deeply impacted by her long tenure working with Billie, Karen Rzeszutko, Vice President Head of Underwriting says,

“It was a privilege and honor to have worked with Billie.  She was a pillar in the industry, supportive, gracious and kind.  She will so deeply be missed by me and those who had the great honor of knowing her.”

And Rick Bridges, VP of Business Development, shares a story of Billie’s devotion to helping our clients,

“Thanksgiving is a time in which I always look back to how much of a mentor Billie was to me and advocate she was to our clients for one particular experience that I will never forget. A client at the time had the contract to deliver the ballots following the invasion of Iraq. This was to be ten 747s from four countries delivering ballots to a still hostile region. Most insurers would have run away at the prospect of insuring this, but Billie’s perseverance convinced underwriters to insure this and on Thanksgiving day of 2004 we got it done. All that aside, she will be missed as a friend, confidant, and a true pillar of knowledge. She is a bright star shining down on all of us.”

Other interesting facts about Billie surround her longtime seat on the AEMCA Board, active member of the LAACA, and participation on the Planning Committee for the highly acclaimed AirCargo Conference. If you ever forgot to dot an “i” or cross a “t”, she was there to fix it, and if you were ever new to attending an association event or conference, all you had to do is stick by Billie’s side, and you’d know all the key players before the end of the night. It was like you’d instantly become recognized and significant, just because you knew Billie!

Without a doubt, there is and will always be a ‘Billie Fan Club’ among the TAP clients she developed over the years, demonstrated by their fierce loyalty with decades of client retention. Billie is a shining example for all of us—that being a person who cares about others, lifts them up and supports them will reap the benefits of loyalty and meaningful relationships in return.

Here is Billie’s bio and a link to her WIT-LA Global Trade Catalyst Award recognition.

Our hearts and prayers are with Billie’s family, friends and colleagues. I, along with you, will personally cherish many fond memories and remember her always.

Karen M. Groff, President
Roanoke Insurance Group, Inc.