- May Sullivan and Sherman Miller were married for 33 years.
- Sherman Miller died last week.
- Sherman Miller’s funeral service is today.
Sherman Miller and his wife, Mary Sullivan, were driving to a Christmas party.
When they arrived in Boulder, they quickly realized they had shown up on the wrong night for the party at the University of Colorado Real Estate Center at the Leeds School, where he was the executive director.
On the drive back together, Sherman took an unusually serious tone for someone who was usually irreverent and witty.
“Mary, the chances of me going before you are really high and I want you to know that I want you to be happy when I’m gone,” he told his wife, on their drive back to Denver.
He told Sullivan that he would be ok if she remarried or had a “relationship” with someone else after he had passed.
“Sweetheart, first of all, no one could ever come close to replacing you,” Sullivan told him.
“Plus, as you know, I am not the most user-friendly person in the world,” Sullivan, by far that most successful commercial real estate investment broker in Denver’s history, let her husband of more than three decades, know.
Sherman Ralsey Miller IV, died last Wednesday, after a 16-year fight with prostate cancer.
He was 64.
His memorial service is at 12:30 p.m. today (Monday, April 27) at Christ the King Church, 830 Elm St. in Denver.
Sherm, as he was known, joined CU in 2011, after a career in Denver commercial real estate that spanned three decades.
Real estate was what he did, but not who he was.
His close friend, Jim Miller, the president and CEO of Denver-based Miller-Global, said a lot has been written about what a great businessman he was.
“He was an incredible businessman and he had all of this energy,” Miller said.
“But the thing about Sherman was that he was this amazing friend and family man,” Miller said.
“He was a wonderful, wonderful father and husband,” Miller said.
The two Millers (who are not related), often would jog together in the morning before their long days at work.
Sherman had no ulterior motives to drum up brokerage business with one of Denver’s most prominent developers and real estate investors during those early morning runs.
“We had some great talks about families and life and business,” Jim Miller said.
When he couldn’t run anymore, Sherm would often workout in his friend’s basement and they would continue their talks.
“I saw him a few days before he passed way,” Miller said. “I will miss him a lot.”
Mary Sullivan met her future husband around 1979 or 1980, when she was handling a California developer’s industrial property in Denver.
She was in an office by herself, without even a secretary.
“I would crash other developer’s parties to see what my competition was up to,” she said.
Plus, the developers always put up good spreads, with lots of shrimp and crab claws and other treats.
At one of these lavish events, she met Sherman, who was an industrial broker at the time, for the first time.
Was it love at first sight?
“Not for me. I had just broken up with someone and I was not interested at all in getting involved with someone else. I was not interested in him at all.”
Later, she was crashing another party and was talking to two other industrial brokers.
“Sherman came over, put his hands around my shoulder and said ‘let’s go over to the hour d’oeuvre table.’”
Later, Sherman would contend that he rescued her from two nerds.
At the table, they both picked up rumakis, chicken livers wrapped in bacon at the end of a toothpick.
“Sherman says I put my rumaki in his mouth and he was like, “Wow!” At least that’s how Sherman tells it. I am not so sure that is true.”
Later, Sherman called Sullivan at her office on the pretense of showing her industrial properties.
Sullivan was not fooled and tape-recorded the tour.
He continued to pursue her. He told her he was living with someone and he didn’t think it was working out. He wondered if she would be willing to go out with him?
“Why don’t you figure out what you are going to do, first,” she told him.
Then, one Saturday night she broke a date with a guy she was just not that into.
She was going to take a hot bath, when her phone rang.
“Sherman called and asked ‘Are you free tonight?’ I told him as a matter of fact I was.”
For their first date, they went to the Hotel Boulderado to play backgammon.
“He told me he had lived in Turkey when he was 16 and he was an expert backgammon player. In that case, I said let’s bet on the games,” Sullivan said.
But Sherman, who later managed offices for Coldwell Banker Commercial (now CBRE) and Cushman & Wakfefield, didn’t mind being beaten by a pretty, smart woman.
“Apparently not,” said Sullivan, an investment broker with HFF.
They started dating and Sullivan decided to become a broker at CB, where her future husband was still a broker.
“Bob Caldwell, the manager, said I really want to hire you, Mary. There is only one problem. You and Sherman are dating and what happens if you break up?”
Sullivan had a quick response: you keep the person who is making the most money and you fire the other one.
“He looked kind of shocked and I told him I was kidding. Truthfully, I had no idea.”
But their love only grew and Sherman wanted to tie the knot.
“I never really had been in a long-term relationship before and I told him that I would give him an exclusive,” Sullivan recalled.
But there were conditions.
“I told him after we passed two years together, something I had never done, we could talk about our next step,” she said.
After the two years were up, they eloped, first getting married by a Denver judge. They didn’t tell anyone.
“We got married on the Ides of March,” Sullivan said.
A few months later, they got married again, this time at a public ceremony with friends and families.
They remained married for 33 years.
“I really loved him and he really loved me,” Sullivan said, at times almost breaking into tears.
“He was my best friend. And while the term ‘soul mate’ is over-used, we were truly soul mates.”
They were both independent, focused, busy professionals, “but we loved spending time together. And not in a co-dependent way,” she said.
They loved to scuba dive together, in exotic locations all around the world.
Later, they would share that passion with their children, Sherman ‘Buzz,’ 23, and Ralsey, 18.
They also loved skiing Colorado’s mountains together, especially as a family, in Vail.
Sullivan even loved going to Colorado Rockies games or CU football games with Sherman, “even though I couldn’t give a (hoot) about sports. Sherman was a walking encyclopedia of all things sports.”
They also took a safari in Africa, when he was feeling better after an especially tough time with his cancer.
“He was a ton of fun,” Sullivan said.
Byron Koste, who preceded Sherman as the executive director at the CU Real Estate Center, was sorry when he learned that Sherman had lost his battle with cancer.
“It is tragic,” Koste said. “We all thought he had beat it.
Koste said Sherman’s enthusiasm for life was infectious.
“He enjoyed people,” he said. “You just couldn’t help but share his enthusiasm. He always had a very positive attitude and we all benefitted from it.”
Like Miller, Koste said it is important to remember more than Sherman’s long history in commercial real estate.
“He was a great husband, he was a great father, he was a great community leader,” Koste said.
“And he was great at his last calling, as executive director at the CU Real Estate Center,” he said.
For Sullivan, the memories live on.
But it is hard.
“My heart is broken…I love him so much! We had a great life together. But a thousand lives together wouldn’t be enough.”
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com.