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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
In memoriam: Blanche Quinn did it her way

Blanche Quinn will be remembered as a Niagara-on-the-Lake legend.

You could write a book about her life — if there wasn’t already one.

Among her numerous achievements, she was a World War Two veteran, served a term as a NOTL town councillor, was manager of the Niagara District airport and was the first female zone director of the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs' Association.

She also volunteered for numerous organizations and schools, was a member of the Legion Branch 124, a St. Mark’s Church warden, and president of International Association of Administrative Professionals.

Blanche died of natural causes Friday at Pleasant Manor in Virgil at the age of 97.

Her family says she was known for her quick wit, dry sense of humour, and, perhaps most famously, for her frequent letters to the editor to the local newspaper.

Her son Pat Quinn, known as Quinny, said there’s no shortage of funny memories of Blanche.

“Pick one,” he jests, when asked to choose a couple of favourites.

The topper, he says, was when she would tell the story of the time she fell out of an airplane.

“It was taxiing down the runway, on the ramp, and her door wasn’t closed and she was trying to put her seatbelt on and the door opened and she fell out of the frickin plane,” Quinny says.

“It was at the Niagara District airport,” his wife Paula adds, and she only fell half out before the pilot scooped her back into the plane.

Another interesting accomplishment is that Blanche did her flight training until she could fly solo — though she only flew once solo, Quinny says.

Blanche spent her retirement years living with Paula and Quinny and her grandchildren Sam, Bailey and Hunter.

Quinny says Blanche was particularly fond of all her grandchildren.

“She would take as many grandchildren as she could up north for two weeks,” he recalls. “They’d go fishing and swimming.” 

She also put on Christmas every year for the family.

“The whole family would gather at the house,” he said. “It was always a big party at Christmas — a big turkey, big dinners around the table. A lot of, well, confusion,” he jokes.

Paula said just about everyone who knew Blanche was fond of her and her sense of humour.

“She was just so darn funny. Her letters to the editor were hilarious, and that’s how she got so popular I think, because people would wait for her to write a letter to the editor,” Paula says.

“And she had a lot of tragedy in her life, so in spite of all of that, her sense of humour was next to none.”

Blanche moved to NOTL in 1945. Her husband Lincoln died in a car accident in 1957, leaving her alone with four children when she was in her 30s. She never remarried.

Blanche’s granddaughter Sam Quinn echoed the same sentiments about Blanche's humour.

“I mean how she lived to 97 — that’s pretty good genes,” Sam says. “She always joked that it was from a ‘diet free of men and alcohol.’”

Sam remembers a story of when Blanche bought her an expensive sweater for Christmas.

“I think it was like 80 bucks,” she said. “I just remember my grandma making a big deal out of it, being like ‘What? How much?’ … she’s like ‘what’s it made out of, virgin sheep?'”

Sam says she “couldn’t have asked for a better Grandma.”

“I’m lucky that she was my grandma. That’s for sure,” she says. “Along with my parents, she helped raise me into the woman I am today. I like to think I get my quick wit from her.”

Blanche was proud of her accomplishments, say Paula and Quinny.

“She was very, very proud of being with the Canadian Forces during World War Two,” Paula said. “She was also very proud about being on town council. I mean I don’t think council was ever the same after she was on there.”

During her time in the war Blanche was a secretary to a general, stationed in Toronto.

A book about Blanche, titled “I Did It My Way … That’s Why Nothing Works!” is available to read at the NOTL museum, and highlights many stories of her life in town, as well as a couple of her letters to the editor.

A sarcastic newspaper clipping of one of Blanche’s letters regarding the Whirlpool Jet Boats reads as follows:

“Wow — heat up the car and de-nude the chickens, we’ll run that rascally jet boat out of town. The rhetoric sounds like the gun fight at the OK corral. Evidently, the company is responsible for soil erosion, global warming and post-traumatic stress.”

Blanche’s obituary says she “wants either Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep to play the role of her on the big screen,”

“Now that’s OSCAR material.”

The town and legion flags were both at half mast Saturday in honour of Blanche. Her family says a celebration of life will be held at a later date.

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