IT WAS easy to see why Earl Sullivan Jr. was such a popular figure in his South Philadelphia neighborhood.

He loved people and was always there for anyone in need.

Earl operated a grocery and delicatessen at Reed and Opal streets for 41 years. No money? Earl would let you "shop till you dropped," as his wife put it, and he would put it on the tab.

A mother needed things for her baby and couldn't pay? She got what she needed from Earl's store and was told not to worry about it.

"If he had a dollar, you got 50 cents of it," said his wife, the former Azalee Kendrick. "If you couldn't pay, you didn't have to. He was very much a people person."

Earl Sullivan, who gave from his heart any time a request for a charitable donation came his way, who provided jobs for neighborhood kids who wanted to work, and who was famous for his stylish attire, died Wednesday of heart failure. He was 72 and a longtime resident of South Philadelphia.

Earl's deli was a delight to the senses. It had that delicious delicatessen odor, was complete with pickle barrel and offered a full line of delicacies. He also liked to boast that he made the best hoagies in South Philly.

With his wife at his side, Earl's place was one of the most popular spots in the neighborhood. And one of its best features was Earl himself.

He was a charmer and his generosity knew no bounds.

He enjoyed dressing up and was rarely seen without a stylish hat. Some thought of him as the best dressed man in South Philly.

Earl was born in Philadelphia the second-oldest of the seven children of Earl and Beatrice Sullivan. He graduated from Bok Vocational High School.

He and his wife were married in 1966.

From a young age, Earl had in mind working for himself. "His philosophy was one of self-dependency and self-sufficiency," his family said in an obituary.

Early on, he demonstrated a knack for entrepreneurship and this naturally led to his starting his own business.

For his community work, he received citations from Philadelphia City Council and the state Senate.

Earl loved all sports, but his favorite was professional boxing. In his younger years, he planted himself at ringside for some of the major fights in the city. He was also a big fan of music and had an extensive collection of jazz albums. He and his wife enjoyed traveling and, in addition to sites in the United States, also visited Jamaica and Mexico.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Beverly and Evette from a previous relationship; five sisters, Shirley Smith, Maxine Ongoza, Juanita Howard, Earlene Jones and Eleanor Bynum, and a grandson. He was predeceased by a son, Earl III, and two brothers, Nathaniel "Bummy" Sullivan and Thomas Kendrick.

Services: 11 a.m. Friday at the Church of the Redeemer, 24th and Dickinson streets. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Fernwood Cemtery. *