PHOTO: Willie Sullivan Jr. (center) is flanked by members of the Mobile City Council and Mayor Sandy Stimpson following the Tuesday, June 27 vote to officially name Theodore Park in honor of his father, Willie Sullivan Sr.

In a unanimous decision the evening of June 27, the Mobile City Council voted to name a park in Theodore in honor of a man who lost his life fighting off a group of home invaders.

On the suggestion of Councilman John Williams, the park known as Theodore Park was renamed Heroes Park, and its first honoree was Willie Sullivan Sr.

“This was a guy who was very central to the community,” Williams said in an interview after the meeting. “He had a tragic but heroic death.”

In 2011, Sullivan fought off a group of three men who had entered the house in which he and his grandchildren were sleeping, his son, Willie Sullivan Jr., said. The now-retired Mobile police officer said his father and nephew were killed in a gunfight after what appeared to be a random break-in attempt. Sullivan Jr.’s niece was later found hiding in her bedroom, he said.

A neighbor heard gunshots coming from the elder Sullivan’s home and called his son, who prepared to go to his father’s home, about a half-mile away.

“I got up, got my service weapon and went over there,” Willie Sullivan Jr. said. “I saw that the door was partially open and knew something was wrong.”

When he entered the home, Sullivan Jr. said he saw his father lying facedown on the floor. His nephew had also been killed, but his niece was found alive. Two of the three suspects had been injured in the fight and were arrested at the hospital, Sullivan Jr. said. The third suspect, the getaway driver, was captured a few days later, he said.

His father’s actions helped to make the “close knit” community safer because it got criminals off the streets, Sullivan Jr. said.

“What he was involved in — his actions helped protect him and his grandkids,” Sullivan Jr. said. While the park is named Heroes Park, “It made the community a better, safer place.”

The newly named Heroes Park will feature signage dedicated to the elder Sullivan, with an honoree added about every decade, Sullivan Jr. said.

“It means a lot because it was my father,” he said. “He’s been in this community a long time.”

Sullivan Sr. was well known, in part, because he owned a concrete company and hired a lot of local folks.

“My dad was a good man,” Sullivan Jr. said. “He worked all his life up until his death.”

The park itself was recently renovated, Williams said, adding there were just the “remains of a park” when the city annexed the area.

“There were broken fences and high grass everywhere,” Williams said. “The city said we’d restore the park.”

Since then, the city has added a concession stand, rebuilt fences, added a new playground and began work on a walking path. The funding has come from the city’s capital improvement plan as well as Community Development Block Grant funds, Williams said.

“Really, it’s a new park and it needed a new name,” Williams said. “This park has received its due.”