Barbara McHugh Sullivan, 80, died May 23 after a heart attack. Her initial obituary noted she was a homemaker. Having raised 13 children, now ranging in age from 37 to 52, she was a homemaker in the sense that Grand Central Terminal has a general superintendent.
In 1951, she married Paul Sullivan, a transportation lawyer, and they spent much of their life in Northwest Washington. Known for striking blue-green eyes and a relentlessly positive attitude ("top of the mornin' " was her greeting at daybreak), she managed to provide for the family on a tight budget, maintain long and wearying hours and retain an enviable sense of composure. When a child asked what she wanted for Christmas or her birthday, her humorous reply was, "A moment's peace."
Perhaps the greatest measure of her life's work was a comment she offered a son who once asked if she was happy.
"You can always tell how happy a husband and wife are," she said, "by the number of children they have."
Here are selected short memories of Barbara McHugh Sullivan from her children.
Steve Sullivan of Olney, who works in security firm management: She was "arguably one of the best fans and basketball enthusiasts when it comes to D.C. basketball in the '70s and '80s. . . . My favorite story about 'Babsie' was the advice she gave me as a young boy before my first b-ball game: 'Don't worry, just shoot it.' Apparently, she gave all my brothers the same advice. To pass the ball in the Sullivan family was considered a 'mortal sin.'
"Which leads to my story. One Saturday afternoon, I found myself at confession at Blessed Sacrament church behind my brother George, who was second in line going to confess his 'sins.' We overheard the kid in front of George say, 'Bless me, father, for I have sinned since my last confession. I stole two packs of Bazooka Bubble Gum from the Broad Branch Market.' Next was George: 'Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I passed the ball six times since my last confession.' "
Dave Sullivan of Bethesda, co-owner of a computer and office products company: "My mom would go up to Magruder's grocery store on Connecticut Avenue or A&P grocery store on Yuma Street NW and clean out the cabbage section. She would buy 10 or 15 heads of cabbage at any given time, and with the day-old bread section, she would clean that out, too. She knew when they stocked their shelves. She always froze the bread and then toasted it. She would say, 'It's better than fresh bread.' She would make 20, 30, sometimes 40 or 50 sandwiches of cabbage, toast and ketchup."
Jim Sullivan of Silver Spring, a supermarket clerk: "Mom was a devout Catholic. Many times she would be driving a carload of us home after school activities and, as we were driving by the [Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington], say, 'I'm just going in for a few minutes to say a quick rosary.' She would emerge 30 minutes later to a big fistfight [in the car]. The fistfight would stop usually just by her presence."
Bill Sullivan of Milton, Mass., an endocrinologist: "She was also incredibly patient -- even despite the demands of taking care of such a large family. I remember the pile of laundry clothes down the basement. . . . She would be working on the laundry till the wee hours of the morning."
Paul Sullivan Jr. of Potomac, a certified public accountant: "In recent years, she had two passions. The first passion was spending time with her  grandchildren. . . . Her second passion was watching college and professional basketball. Knowing so much about this sport, she could discuss it in detail with her 11 sons. Her favorite was the NCAA and ACC tournaments. She was an expert on the brackets, the teams, their members and the coaches themselves. When a coach switched teams, she knew it.
"After the college season was over, she would watch the pro teams. In the nursing home and even up to the time when she died, we would divert her thoughts of her problems by discussing the teams that are playing now."
Joan Sullivan Atkinson of Kensington, a homemaker: "In 26 years of raising my kids, I could always call Mom and tell her what was going on with this one and that one. I never got a lecture on what to do or how to do it. I always got a smile and the words, 'Oh, I don't know anything about that -- that never happened to me,' which always brought laughter to both of us and made me feel better."
Dennis Sullivan of Kensington, an executive at an information technology solutions company: "My mom was great even when she was pregnant. She had many children very close in years so we had to stick together. Once, she drove all of us to the community swimming pool when she was nine months pregnant, and then she drove herself to the hospital while she was in labor. My father was at work and picked us up later. Great woman. Great life."