Bill Quinn: He Got By With A Little Help From His Friends
Even as a child, Rehoboth Beach resident Bill Quinn had a fascination for retail. It was his first job after graduating from Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and it remains a unifying theme in his life. While in school, Bill was already working for Sears, and at 17 was the youngest division management trainee they had ever taken on.
Onward and upward, however, and at 18 he became the assistant manager of two high-end lighting stores in Baltimore. It’s said that diamonds trump table lamps (I’m not sure who said that…), so it wasn’t long before he was the main-office manager for Shaw’s Jewelers. By this time, he had honed his skills and wanted to manage his own store. That opportunity finally presented itself when he moved from the jewelry trade to the assistant manager position at Hanover Shoes—under the condition that he would eventually control his own store. The company made good on its promise, except for one small caveat: They required that Bill fire the existing store manager.
Let’s back-up a bit. Quinn was always comfortable with his sexuality; coming out at around 20. In fact, by the time he got the job with Hanover, he already had an exclusive relationship with a young man—precisely the same young man who was the store manager he was told to fire. Though there was certainly potential for all sorts of emotional fireworks and shrill recriminations, as a writer I must confess to disappointment that none of that happened. Bill’s partner wasn’t really into retail management anyway, and what could have made for a nice, suspense-filled paragraph ended up playing out uneventfully. They remained boyfriends. All’s well that ends well.
Quinn settled-in comfortably. Eventually, the need for an assistant manager presented itself, and one of the applicants was an erstwhile child of the ‘60s; sporting black boots, jeans, a T-shirt, and hair cascading down his back. But Bill saw promise behind the counter-culture accouterments, and said (against the advice of his superiors), “Do you want this job?” The guy replied in the affirmative. “Then you have to cut your hair. And you need a suit. Do you have a suit?” He replied, “No.” “Then get one,” said Bill. “And you need a pair of nice shoes.” “I don’t have them either.” Bill bought him a pair of wingtips. Quinn’s intuition was well-placed: The young applicant is now a regional manager for the Hanover Shoe Company (now Bostonian). Sometimes you just gotta have faith. More on that later.
Bill met his present partner Brett at the Renegade about 12 years ago. Three years ago they bought a house together, but the happy event was marred by the trauma of Bill’s diagnosis of lymphoma. Though the problem was eventually discovered to be a benign tumor, the process of removing the intruder left him hospitalized. Brett stood vigil 24/7, but at one point, even the nurses suggested he prepare to say goodbye. In desperation, Brett sent out word to everybody he knew—mostly parishioners at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth—to pray for his partner’s survival and recovery. Though he weighed only 114 pounds, he pulled through. He and Brett now celebrate what they call his annual “Life Day.”
His first official act as he regained his strength was to meet some of the members of Epworth whose prayers he felt had carried him through that critical time. He loved the camaraderie and giving spirit that pervades that organization, and it wasn’t long before he was involved in their “Christmas Joy” initiative. He is presently the chairperson of the “Pantry @ Epworth,” the updated version of their well-known food bank.
Bill’s other passion is “Team Ted,” a fundraising effort named for his late friend Ted Pokorny, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Though Ted was, in a back-handed sort of way, spared the painful demise associated with ALS—he died of a heart attack—Quinn still works hard for the cause, raising over $50,000 for research. This writer’s thoughts also go out to neighbor and friend Terry Jones, whose beloved partner of many years, Joe McNally, recently succumbed to that terrible affliction.
Some of you might remember CAMP Rehoboth’s “What’s the Buzz,” where supporters shaved their heads to raise funds for ALS research. Bill went bald, along with such local personalities as Bonnie Quesenberry and car maven Bryan Hecksher. In fact, if Bill looks a little apprehensive in the accompanying photo, it’s because they had just poofed-up his coif—in order to shave it all off.
For two years, Quinn has been helping customers at Pier One Imports, and he and Brett also operate “Dust Doctors,” a house cleaning service. Their customer base grows by word-of-mouth, but I have to warn you, their fee is calculated on the clutter of tchotchkes and bric-à-brac scattered throughout your house. This is Rehoboth Beach, after all, so I suspect they do quite well. Just sayin’….
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek