January 10, 2010

When Richard Quinn died shortly before Christmas in Phoenix, Ariz., his son Rick thought of one movie that described his father’s 80 years: “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

The eulogy Rick delivered at Mr. Quinn’s funeral returned to that movie title again and again as he described the many hats his father wore.

Father of four, grandfather to 12 and great-grandfather to 10, Mr. Quinn made family the center of his life.

He and his wife, Matilda “Tillie” Quinn (nee Dosen), celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June.

The pair were high school sweethearts and were voted the best dancers in school. It was a hobby that “Uncle Dick and Aunt Tillie” would continue until Mr. Quinn’s death.

“We would be at home just watching TV, and my mom would have music on in the kitchen,” said Joan Roth, the couple’s youngest daughter. “And if a song he could jitterbug to came on, my dad would grab my mom and dance.”

His wife and the couple’s children still are finding love notes that Mr. Quinn wrote for his wife hidden around their home and garage.

“She was his princess, his queen and his partner,” Roth said.

Mr. Quinn was born in Chicago’s Veterans Park neighborhood on the city’s Southeast Side and served as a paratrooper with the Army’s 11th Airborne unit during World War II.

When he returned to Chicago, he began work in structural iron and was a member of Structural Ironworkers Union Local 1 and also worked as an ironworker for the Chicago Park District until retiring in 1985.

The family moved to Phoenix, Ariz., that year, Roth said. Mr. Quinn had loved the atmosphere since attending a college in the area briefly before his military service began.

“He thought that Arizona was pretty much heaven on earth,” she said. “The more he could be out in his pool or in the garage working on projects, the happier he was.”

Mr. Quinn worked as a security guard in high schools in Arizona until retiring for good in 1995. He spent most of his time working on crafts in the family garage and playing with his grandchildren. As he got older and couldn’t do as much with his hands, Mr. Quinn would do crossword puzzles in the garage and wave to neighbors, Roth said.

He began showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 but did not become seriously debilitated. Roth said her father recognized each member of his family and still told stories to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He died of kidney failure Dec. 17.

In addition to his wife, Roth and Rick Quinn, Mr. Quinn is survived by another son, Tony, and daughter, Kathy; 12 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.