John F. 'Jack' Quinn, 89, former Naval Academy sailing coach

Jack Quinn, veteran and former sailing coach at Naval Academy, dies at 89.

John F. "Jack" Quinn, a Marine Corps machine gunner who later led the Naval Academy offshore sailing team, died of heart complications on Sept. 21 at a hospital in Easton. The longtime Gibson Island resident was 89.

Born in Philadelphia in 1926 and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, John Francis Quinn began his adult life running into the line of fire. At the age of 17 and in the midst of World War II, Mr. Quinn told his mother that he was going to join the Marines.

"She said OK because he had a heart murmur and didn't think he could serve," said his wife, Shirley Adams Quinn, 86, "but he came home enlisted in the Marine Corps."

By the time he was 18, Mr. Quinn was a machine gunner landing on the South Pacific island of Peleliu. The next year, he fought on the Japanese island of Okinawa, where he was wounded in his leg in crossfire during the last hour of the last day in the battle on Okinawa, said his son, J. Colin Quinn, 59, of St. Michaels. Mr. Quinn thought he would be going home to heal, his son said, but the Marine Corps instead sent him to China to serve the remainder of his two-year term doing peacekeeping duties.

Meanwhile, Mr. Quinn's mother had received a "killed-in-action" letter in 1945, so when her son reappeared at her house after the war, "she fainted at the door," said Colin Quinn.

Upon discharge as a private first class from the Marines, Mr. Quinn was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds suffered on Okinawa. He also received two Battle Stars and the President's Unit Citation.

Back at home, Mr. Quinn obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and then began work at the Columbia–based chemical company, W.R. Grace & Co., while taking chemistry classes at night at the Johns Hopkins University. He spent much of his 23-year career at Grace traveling to South America, eventually becoming vice president of the Grace Interamerican Division.

Mr. Quinn's passion for sailing began in 1951 in Baltimore shortly after he and his wife moved here. He heard about an old Star boat banked off the Patapsco River called the "Tuna 180." The couple bought the sailboat which would be the first of 28 boats they owned for racing and cruising. They sailed together wherever Mr. Quinn's job took them, including Greenwich, Conn.; San Francisco, Calif. and finally, in nearby Gibson Island, where they lived for 30 years before moving to Easton in 1999.

After retirement from W.R. Grace, Mr. Quinn became president of the Annapolis branch of Ulmer Kolius Sails, a New York-based sail-making company.

He worked there for 10 years, and then in his late 50s, landed what his wife calls his"dream job as director of varsity offshore sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy. As a sailing coach, he led the Navy team to first place in the 1992 Newport to Bermuda Race.

"He was instrumental in a lot of our lives," said Drew Kellogg, a Naval Academy midshipmen taught by Mr. Quinn. "He was like an old wise grandfather who had good stories and great sense of humor."

Mr. Quinn's sailing passions spanned the Western and Eastern shores of Maryland, where he was the president and honorary life member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and president of the Chesapeake division of the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet.

"He was bright, quick witted, and driven," said his son, reflecting that his sailing passion wasn't something his father picked up growing up in Philadelphia. "He was a natural," he said.

Mr. Quinn passed along his penchant for sailing to his daughter Tara Adams Quinn Fisher, who worked with him at Ulmer Kolius Sails in Annapolis, and would go on to open her own sailing company. Mrs. Fisher died in 2014 at age of 54 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Mr. Quinn also enjoyed tennis, golf and hunting. Both his son and daughter took on his hunting hobby to an extreme never quite appreciated by their mother. The children built a duck blind at the end of Gibson Island where the two — and sometimes their dad — would hunt ducks before and after school.

A celebration of life will be held at the Tred Avon Yacht Club, at 100 W. Strand Road in Oxford on Thursdayat 11 AM.

Besides his wife of more than 64 years and his son, Mr. Quinn is survived by his sister, Molly Seward of St. David's, Pa., granddaughters Teal Quinn and Lindsey Quinn, great-granddaughter Linden Slayden, and son-in-law Sean Fisher.

crentz@baltsun.com

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