Bob Quirk is a family man with passions
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 10:00 PM
I can't say I know this week's subject extremely well, but I've admired him for decades and certainly had a grand time interviewing him this week when I ran into him while researching at the Crawfordsville District Public Library. The son of a mother with long-time area roots, he was also the son of an Irish immigrant. When I asked him if his father had an Irish brogue, he said, "Definitely not," then went on to explain that his uncle had one but only when it was convenient! Even with his Irish roots, Bob Quirk is definitely an American through-and-through and quite the history buff, especially where sports are concerned.
Certainly, fate brought Bob's parents together as his mother, Grace McKinney, was on a slow boat from China, having taught music there in a private school for three years. So, while on her way home she met Bob's dad. Hugh Griffith Quirk was an officer on this particular boat and by the time the ship landed six weeks later, the two were engaged. He must have loved Grace truly, as he became a 220 acre farmer, not knowing one thing about it. Thus, entered Bob, brother Hugh and sister Patricia.
Fate played a bit of a part in Bob meeting his wife as well. He and some friends had gone to hang-out in Attica and the friends knew a girl who was with Jeannine Peterson and so the group stopped to talk. To Bob, Jeannine "looked pretty nice," and that's how it all got started. The couple had their 63rd anniversary last month, but, "It just seems like yesterday!" The Quirks have three children, Jeff, Jerry and Jill. You might have noticed that the names of four in the family of five begin with the letter J. Bob jokingly said that he's the family outcast! Luckily, all three of the kids live nearby but three of the seven grand-children are in North Carolina. When I asked him if there were great grandchildren, Bob laughed saying, "Two and three-quarters."
Both Quirks love music and movies, but the subject of films today is not what either enjoy. Lately, they did see the Jackie Robinson movie and The Butler and liked those very much. Bob said that Jeannine is an exceptional singer. They also love to travel, Bob especially enjoying the trip to Dalkey on the Irish Sea where they were given the keys to the small home where Bob's father had been born, the owner surprisingly saying, "Enjoy as long as you want and leave the key in my mailbox!"
One of the most exciting days in Bob's childhood was when the Quirks ventured to Indianapolis to watch his father sworn in as a U.S. citizen. The WWII years meant a great deal to the Quirks as his ship-captain father and his well-traveled mother, meant they had been to many of the battle places.
Bob played basketball in high school. At 6'4", Bob was a fair natural. Bob's love for the game has never changed. When Bob finished high school at age 17, he wasn't real sure what he wanted to do. His parents suggested, "Let's go talk to the folks at Wabash." This was just after WWII and there were few students at the college, so Bob started that very day even though classes began the day before. Sadly, after one semester at the college, Bob was drafted. One of the classes Bob had taken was French. A year and a half later when he reentered Wabash he took French II. Bob wouldn't suggest ever doing that! Graduation was in June 1950 and in August that year he married his love.
Although Bob farmed the family acres for many years, he also wanted to teach. Thus, he marched into the Coal Creek Township trustee's office (on election day and the trustee had just lost) told the trustee he was a graduate of Wabash and wanted to teach. Bob was hired on the spot for a 5th grade teaching position. I was totally amazed that he had 42 students his first year. But, he said the kids were just super and he enjoyed it immensely. Bob thought the neatest thing they did in those days was the 5th graders would all go to another nearby school and play a ball game. The whole group would then eat with the other 5th graders, take a tour of the school and enjoy talking to each other. One child told him, "Why, those kids are just like us!" Another out of the mouth of babes comment to Bob was a girl told him several years after she was out of his class, "Boy, I used to be so scared of you!" If you know Bob, there's not much scary about him, but then again, we're not a 5th grader looking up at that 6'4" frame, either!
After teaching a few years, Bob began his principalship and was at Coal Creek Central when he retired, a bit more than two decades ago. He said the teachers and kids were all fabulous there, and that library aide, Jeannine Quirk was really awesome!
So, in closing, I would like to say that Bob is a nice, happy man who loves his family, history, sports and country. I enjoyed immensely talking to him, and hope you have gotten to know Bob Quirk a little better through this week's Around the County.
Karen Zach taught English at Turkey Run HS, has written columns for local newspapers for decades and is happy to be honoring interesting people in, "Around the County," which appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. She is the editor of Montgomery Memories. Karen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.