My father died a little over a week ago and I was honored to give his eulogy at Immaculate Conception Church, Weymouth, MA this past Saturday, 9/21/19. Today would’ve been his 83rd birthday.
Jerome Quinn Eulogy (by James Quinn)
I look around this church and notice that we are joined by friends and family here from every decade over the past century. Folks from the 1920s right up to the twenty teens. Its difficult to stand here and tell stories about Jerome as a lot of you probably remember him as someone who told more stories than anyone. Someone who could make every effort to liven up a situation. My earliest public memory of him was from the third installment of career day, kindergarten, 1981. Week one featured a dad who was an accountant explaining the basics of accounts payable and accounts receivable, Week two was a dad who worked in a tape factory and explained the ins and out of first in first out manufacturing, week three my dad comes in wearing an oil-skin coat while holding a harpoon, and handing out knives as well as little pieces of whale teeth in order to instruct the kids on how to make scrimshaw. Obviously various aspects of this tutorial would be illegal in 2019, whales are now a protected species and children under the age of six are no longer allowed to carry knives in school. But on that fall morning he was able to show a couple dozen youngsters an ancient art form that tied our abilities to those of our ancestors as far back as the caves.
Some of you will also remember that he was able to demonstrate the dynamics of scrimshaw and other art mediums on a larger scale throughout the 1970s on the major mudd show, a children’s variety show that aired on channel 7 from 1961-1975. He was always so excited to reach such an extensive audience and communicate what he really wanted others to know about. I think of that time frame in Boston and how much a part of the community he was then. When my parents met, it was my fathers ability to sketch a perfect picture of my mother that initially sparked my mothers interest. my father was working on a multi-media project at the time- stills and 16mm, that mostly consisted of his 4’6” friend ringo spinning around in a live washer machine that was his home in the script. My mother fell in love with and interesting artist and he fell in love with a good kind soul, with her career desire to teach in public schools in poor neighborhoods
His art store at the holiday inn hotel downtown became a family operation, with nieces such as joan and nephews such as john jr as main employees- Joan even ended up marrying a handsome suit who worked in a bank across the street. His art store was the home base of many lives. This experience helped bring them into the excitement of working in the center of a major city while at the same time my dad felt he needed trusted family members to back him up. They’re lives intertwined and he needed them as much as they needed him. For those in our extended family he was the center of fun and free thought for decades. Tho to me and Kel I think it was more his love of history, philosophy and the arts that was more profound- and artistically I think his ability was better transfered to my sister because she both further and more clearly understands the theory, passion and motive behind it.
And that would be my fathers advice to you today Make movies, write or tell stories, draw paint or sketch, become a voice for an idea or belief. He would encourage everyone, especially the youth of today to continue to express yourselves in any way you feel you are having an impact and to hold on to that motivation. My father would want to be remembered as a man with a firm faith in god and a man who was always interested in learning new things. I think his favorite quote was by ben franklin who said, ‘most people die at 25 but aren’t buried for another half a century’
Art was my fathers most defining charecteristic and was the liason to many rewarding experiences and friendships. I was living in manhattan for only a few months when I ran into one of his old military buddies. He was a bit older than my dad and was born in the same county of Ireland as my fathers mother, Roscommon- The main thing he wanted me to know about how he met my father was that he just had to meet the man who painted the magical mural over their mess hall. This was a 40’ oil on wood of an outstretched human figure accompanied by the quote ‘that helping hand you need is at the end of your arm.’ He also did a lot of paintings in German orphanages during this period and felt it to be a very rewarding way of giving back to the community. Orphanages of mainland europe were still extremely crowded and in need of cityscapes, mountain ranges and many other portrayals of hope on their walls. All of these experiences lead him through life. Art was his passion and it connected him to his souroundings. He enlisted in the paratroopers at the age of 17 and remained active duty for nearly a decade, including several years in Germany, and he felt it was an honor for him to serve under both Eisenhauer and Kennedy two men from opposite sides of the isle who had every ounce of understanding of what commiting soilders to dangerous situations actually meant.
But it was always the sea that was his favorite subject, stories of digging for clams and fishing with his father, Point Judith was his favorite location as a child, followed by Oakland Beach as a close second. There in camp he quickly learned the value of lobster as he was able to trade these unnamed sea monsters in – pound for pound straight up for ice cream with the camps head chef. Up north in Providence he would always indicate the house he grew up in by saying ‘right here’ as we rolled over the specific piece of I95 that claimed his neighborhood via eminent domain. Its hard to imagine the rough and tumble reality of a neighborhood that he and his siblings grew up in during the 30s 40s and 50s. Being the middle brother of three allowed him to have a special bond with both his older and younger brothers. All three of them ended up in separate states which he explained to me as a very likely outcome if people are to lead interesting, independent lives.
But providence was also where he got into boxing and its important to note that he won several state titles at an early age as well as while with the 11th Airbourne in Europe, physical fitness was important to him and he stayed fit late into life and always stressed the importance of cardiovasular health
From his mother he incorporated a religious theme to a lot of his work. Several of his last works were for funerals where he would paint the deceased person being brought up to heaven. This was always such a source of extreme comfort to the decedents next of kin. My father was guided by a firm belief in Christ, His steady hand never left him and his ability to keep religion in his heart and on his canvas was instilled in him by his mother whom he loved as much as anything and whom I’m sure was right there to greet him following his final journey this week. We call on his mother Bridget and we also call on father Edward Cowhig, who was like a second father to my father, to welcome our brother, Jerome into heaven just as the beautiful faithful souls who helped inspire their faith before them, just as we pass on faith to future generations to come