Bill Quinn, a Chestnut Hill resident, died June 4 of leukemia at age 70.
Quinn’s brother Joe said he “dedicated his life to other people.” He did this through his work as a Vietnam veteran, a nurse and a sacristan for an LGBT Catholic group.
Joe noted Quinn’s many hobbies and said he was a “wonderful florist,” a responsibility he took on as sacristan for the Philadelphia chapter of Dignity.
Additionally, Quinn had skills with crafts, making Christmas decorations and ornaments; Joe said he still has some ornaments Quinn made him, some of which are 30 years old. He also noted that Quinn recently started decorating bird houses.
“He would make it look like a trellis was running up the side of it or decorate the roofs so they looked like they were shingled — very intricate work,” Joe said.
Joe said his brother had a “sarcastic” and “dry” sense of humor. He said one of Quinn’s students at Incarnation School in Olney remembered him as “the best and funniest teacher I ever had.” Quinn’s sense of humor continued at the end of his life when people visited him in hospice care, Joe said.
“People would go upstairs and after two minutes, the room was just bursting with laughter. You would think they were having a party upstairs. He would amuse people and sort of make fun of the situation.”
Joe said Quinn’s sense of humor was also what “got him into trouble” as a kid.
“It was sort of a contest between him and my mother because he was so stubborn and willful. She used to go after him,” Joe said with a laugh. “He was the bad boy in the family. He was but he wasn’t. He became very devout and religious. He was just a contradiction.”
There was also a contradictory element to Quinn’s work as a dialysis nurse at Hahnemann and Lankenau hospitals.
“People would say he was all business,” Joe said. “He took his work very seriously but at the same time, he really got to know people and form relationships with them.”
Quinn’s husband, Bob Wendelgass, added that Quinn was a “generous, caring” person.
“Bill was always one of the people who, when somebody else was sick, he would go visit them in the hospital or send them flowers,” Wendelgass said. “He kept Hallmark in business for years with all of the cards he bought.”
Wendelgass recalled a moment when Quinn was upset because he was unable to visit a friend in the hospital due to his own declining health.
“[It was] kind of amazing to me in some ways that he was so focused on trying to take care of and be helpful to another person,” Wendelgass said.
Wendelgass works as the executive director of Clean Water Action and said Quinn supported his work. After seeing his husband put in long hours, Quinn would “watch out” for Wendelgass to make sure he wasn’t working too hard.
“These days with the new administration, the work I do is challenging and stressful,” Wendelgass said. “It was helpful to have someone at home who appreciated the work, would listen when I vented and would understand when I came home at night [and needed to] take a while to decompress from work.”
The couple met in 1985 but could not legally get married until the country recognized same-sex marriage in 2015.
“The change that we have seen in the world [together] was pretty amazing,” Wendelgass said.
In addition to Joe and Wendelgass, Quinn is survived by brothers John and Michael; his sisters-in-law, Bernadette and Kathleen; his brother-in-law, Rodger Broadley; and many cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and colleagues. He is predeceased by his brother Thomas.
Supporters can send contributions to Dignity Philadelphia, P.O. Box 53348, Philadelphia, Pa. 19105; the Church of St. Luke & The Epiphany, 330 S. 13th St.; or through Visa gift cards to the Fox Chase-Temple Bone Marrow Transplant Program, 9600 Central Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19111.