Dr. James A. “Jim” Quinlan Jr. worked at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and founded a private primary care practice in Towson.
Dr. James A. “Jim” Quinlan Jr. worked at the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and founded a private primary care practice in Towson. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Dr. James A. “Jim” Quinlan Jr., a longtime internist and associate professor at the University of Maryland Medical School who collected more than 10,000 music records and played saxophone in the big band group Sentimental Journey, died Sept. 20 of heart failure at Franklin Square Hospital in Baltimore.

The longtime Towson resident was 79.

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Dr. Quinlan, a father of five daughters who always had a joke at the ready, used to describe himself a “medical detective,” introducing himself by his first name and asking as many questions about his patients’ day-to-day lives as he did about their symptoms, said his daughter, Kathy Quinlan of Frederick.

“I spend 75% to 90% of my time getting to know who they are and what their life is like,” she remembered her father saying.

James Arthur Quinlan Jr. was born Jan. 24, 1940, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to the former Dorothy Auten, a librarian, and James A. Quinlan Sr., a physical education teacher and baseball, basketball and football coach. He grew up in Ellicott City and graduated from Howard High School in 1958.

Dr. Quinlan graduated in 1962 from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he met the former Mary Hohman, his wife of more than 54 years, on a blind date during his junior year.

While she had an outgoing personality and loved gardening and the outdoors, he was more of a quiet observer who loved listening to music and practicing big band songs on his saxophone, Mrs. Quinlan said.

“We were polar opposites in many ways,” Mrs. Quinlan said. “But it was a perfect union — it just was.”

Dr. Quinlan graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in 1966, completed his internship the next year and was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving for three years in Butzbach, Germany.

In boot camp, he and other training soldiers were asked which of them would be willing to do a tour of duty overseas and serve an extra year. Dr. Quinlan was one of only two to volunteer, and both soldiers were rewarded with deployments to Germany instead of Vietnam, said another daughter, Annie Quinlan of Mount Airy.

"His motto, literally, was ‘Do the right thing,’ ” she said. “He wasn’t afraid to say yes.”

Dr. Quinlan returned to the University of Maryland Medical School as chief resident in 1970, and the family moved to Towson, where they lived in a house on Yarmouth Road in Wiltondale for 51 years.

He completed a fellowship in nuclear medicine and joined the medical school’s faculty in 1974 as an associate professor of medicine, where he received many Teacher of the Year Awards and the respect of his students and colleagues alike, his family said.

He left the University of Maryland and founded a private primary care practice in Towson in 1985, according to his partner, Dr. Paul Miller, who worked with him for the last 20 years of his career and eventually served as his doctor.

“He did not accept defeat,” Dr. Miller wrote in a eulogy he delivered at Dr. Quinlan’s funeral. “He knew there was always a way to solve a problem.”

After leaving the University of Maryland, Dr. Quinlan also ran the residency program at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson for several years, his wife said. He retired from medicine in 2005.

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Dr. Quinlan’s collection of music records began early in life, and while his saxophone took a back seat to his obligations to his patients and his family, he nurtured a lifelong love of playing and listening to music. In 1974, he began playing with local jazz musicians, and eventually they started a band, Sentimental Journey, which has played for more than 40 years.

Dr. Quinlan shared his love of music with his family, making cassette tapes and, later, mix CDs for long drives, the final three of which he finished last year. His family members put them on in the hospital, and his final breath came on the last note of “Out of Nowhere,” an ode to his love for his wife.

“If you put one another first," he told his family, “your needs will always be met,” Annie Quinlan said. “He was just overcome with gratitude at how much love he had in his life.”

In addition to his wife and daughters, Kathy and Annie, Dr. Quinlan is survived by three other daughters, Susie Quinlan Hill of Frederick and Sara Quinlan and Meg Quinlan of Kingsville, as well as six grandchildren, a niece and two great-nieces.

A memorial Mass was offered at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Kingsville on Sept. 24.

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