Margaret Noble Sullivan of Canton, who won awards for local cable TV news, dies at 85
While producing “Main Street,” a magazine-style show that was shown on what is now Canton Cable Access, Margaret Noble Sullivan was dedicated to delivering local news to her TV audience.
“She was really good at reading between the lines and seeing the story behind the story,” said Tanya Willow, a former colleague who is now the station’s manager. “I would say that Canton is a much better place because of her influence.”
Especially adept at arranging timely interviews with people in town, Mrs. Sullivan invited government officials and members of the police and fire departments to appear, said Willow, who added that “we were a very small show, but she always made sure that every guest left feeling heard.”
Celebrities and prominent regional and national personalities also were on the list of those Mrs. Sullivan brought to “Main Street.” Among the guests she booked were actress Jodie Foster, author William Martin, and sportscaster Bob Lobel.
Mrs. Sullivan was 85 when she died July 28 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She had lived in Canton for more than 50 years.
She was the first person to be hired at Canton Community Television in the early 1980s, when cable access channels were rare. Soon after joining the station, she was named producer of the magazine show, a job she held for more than a decade.
Along with ensuring that the show featured local businesses, everyday happenings, and meetings in town, Mrs. Sullivan arranged for coverage of a visit by Mother Teresa to a local prison and an interview with US Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
“The show was taped live, so it wasn’t easy, especially with very limited technology,” Willow said, “but she kept on coming up with great ideas, and she was determined that we would get them on the air.”
Mrs. Sullivan retired from the station, which was known as Cable 8 during her tenure, more than 20 years ago. But she continued to contact her former colleagues when she heard about stories she believed would interest viewers.
“Margaret was an excellent journalist, sharply intelligent, and a keen observer of important issues,” Willow said. “She really paid attention to what was going on around her. And she always stood up to injustices. She was especially in tune to that.”
Margaret Mary Noble was born in Boston in 1932, the third of six children of Charles Noble and the former Eleanor McCarthy.
Mrs. Sullivan grew up in Scituate and graduated from Scituate High School. She attended what was then known as the Boston Business School. She met John Sullivan at a party and they married in 1963, in Scituate.
Earlier in her career, Mrs. Sullivan was an administrative assistant at the Boston Record American, before it merged into papers that became the Boston Herald. While there, she often was called upon to escort movie stars who were in town promoting new films, said her daughter, Kate Foley of Monroe, Conn.
She recalled that her mother favored clothing in shades of pink and blue and that she believed no outfit was complete without her trademark red lipstick.
“She loved to talk and would talk to anyone,” Kate said in a eulogy. “She’d strike up a conversation with strangers, especially if they were wearing a veteran’s hat, a pretty color, or if they had a Nantucket or Scituate emblem on them anywhere.”
Mrs. Sullivan stayed home to raise her two children but continued to hone her journalism skills by freelancing for the Associated Press and other news organizations.
She served on many boards and committees in Canton while remaining dedicated to Scituate, where she was a member of the historical society and served on a committee to celebrate her hometown’s 350th anniversary.
In 1987, she won first place in a contest for Massachusetts women in media for writing and producing “Main Street.” That same year, the show was honored with a Community Television Award.
“You can’t do it if you don’t have people, no matter what equipment you have,” she told the Canton Journal in 1987. “We’ve got people who care, who want to put out the best programs possible.”
A service has been held for Mrs. Sullivan, who in addition to her husband and daughter leaves a son, John of Nantucket; a sister, Mary Duggan of Scituate; two brothers, John and Joseph Noble, both of Scituate; and seven grandchildren.
One of the pallbearers at Mrs. Sullivan’s funeral was a Canton police officer she had interviewed on “Main Street” decades earlier, Kate said.
“She loved the show so much,” Kate added. “She really loved sharing all the good in Canton. She loved highlighting all the great things about the town.”
Kate recalled that Mrs. Sullivan frequently checked on her children’s whereabouts when they were playing in their Canton neighborhood, while always trying to appear nonchalant.
“They may have coined the term ‘helicopter parent’ for her,” Kate said. “We couldn’t have asked for a more supportive mom. She was with us every step of the way.”