Today my father died. It wasn’t unexpected, he’d been ready for years, and we’re fortunate that his final demise was relatively quick and painless. He was an interesting guy: born in east Colorado at the edge of the prairie, he grew up with wide open spaces, even spending time as a cowboy (“stupidest job in the world” he used to say, “hard work, low pay, and no girls”).
His dad had a bank that was wiped out by the Depression. My grandfather continued to work until he paid back every single person who’s money he’d lost before he again started settling his own financial future, and this had a great impression on my dad.
Named for his dad, he shared his Dad’s preference for being called by his middle name, Nives (pronounced Neeves). It’s become a family tradition for middle names, shared by me and my first-born son. May it continue.
He had an amazing talent for building and fixing things. He used to build radios and trade them for things like cars. He was a good story-teller, and from what I heard it’s amazing he managed to survive to an age where his youthful temper mellowed and he was able to settle down and have a family. When I knew him he had remarkable patience, certainly with machinery.
He never finished college, but spent time in the war in the Navy (the picture is from his days serving as a tail-gunner in a dive-bomber, the duty he was required to have to balance his time in then-secret radar). After the war he visited his sister in Southern California, and ended up working for Northrop Aircraft for 32 years until he retired.
He migrated to facilities because he knew every sort of engineering: electrical, hydraulic, civil, you name it he knew how it worked and how to plan it, build it, maintain it, and dismantle it. He would stand up to contractors, employees, even management when he was right, and convince them to do it his way.
He avoided management as long as he could; they finally promoted him while he was on vacation, and he ended up with responsibility for the entire mile-long plant in Hawthorne. I hadn’t known him as a leader, but while he had no patience with fools, he was blind to color and background and his employees from Hungarians to Burmese were fiercely loyal. I learned from the notes from his retirement party that he was relentless in ensuring there was justification for requests for facilities services. I got a chuckle from this note: “people learned to disagree with him one way, with respect” (the “one way” was underlined by hand).
After retirement (he left early, when the job wasn’t fun anymore), he traveled the world with my mom. They were quite humble and frugal throughout their lives, and rode in local buses and stayed in the cheapest accommodations in the most interesting places, with new stocks of stories to tell such as camping in tents with lions padding around outside(!).
They greatly valued education; really the only reason to be excused from the dinner table in the middle of the meal was to go look up something in the encyclopedia or the dictionary. We knew we had to try our hardest, but they were happy with whatever the outcome of that was.
When they weren’t traveling he volunteered time doing what he’d always done for almost anyone, fixing things, particularly as a handyman for a local shelter. Tragically, a late diagnosis and botched surgery for Dupuytren’s cost him the use of his hands, and brought to a close his one real passion in life. Subsequent persistent pain and loss of hearing also contributed to his lack of enthusiasm in his last years. Yet he still welcomed a drink, a laugh, and beamed at the sight of his grandkids.
I was always impressed that he maintained his idealism throughout his life, caring about doing the right thing rather than the expedient thing. He was security-oriented, and passed up many chances to do better financially to ensure we were never without food and shelter. He had his flaws, but he was a very good man overall, and I was proud to call him “Dad”. Rest in Peace.
Harold Jarche says
Thanks for sharing your Dad’s story. I’m sorry about your loss.
All the best;
Ray Sims says
Clark, My sympathy goes out to you and the rest of your family. Thanks for sharing this tribute. It was a delight to read about a man of character that you knew as Dad. Peace be with you. Ray
Very well said Clark. I concur 100% with all you have written. For a guy who could seriously lose his temper throughout much of his life, I remember him as the most patient person I have ever known. He never, never interrupted me. He didn’t always care what I talked about, but that is a skill to not interrupt. Time wasn’t an enemy to him, and as I think about it, I can’t remember him ever being in a hurry. Gee, I envy that. The last one to finish dinner, he ate slowly and simply took his time.
I never can recall him ever telling a lie either. Lots of stretched tales, of course, and some that just needed correcting, but never a lie. He preferred to camp over stay in a fancy hotel. He preferred to help someone than have someone help him. He worked for hours if ever there was someone who needed help with a car, an appliance, or anything to fix. I wish I could do that.
A couple other tidbits I remember….. every single day of our lives, he had a happy hour. That was sort of like a religion, I guess. (We didn’t fall far from that tree!) But, and this is important, I NEVER saw him drunk or even really intoxicated. One drink, or two, and that was it(ish).
At 89, and in very weak health, he was ready to go, he said it, we knew it, and now he has no pain in his hands. I miss him, but it was no fun to see him in pain these last few years.
As you said Clark, I was proud he was my father.
He was far from perfect, but he was sure darn good enough for me.
Stephen Downes says
Condolences on your loss. The tribute from his son justifies the work of a lifetime, and I’m sure he would be proud to have his legacy and his values voiced so eloquently and carried forward so faithfully.
George Siemens says
Hi Clark – sorry to hear about your dad. Beautiful post – in a recent conversation with a colleague, I asked where the “bigger virtues, values and truths” of society had gone – honesty, integrity, love, joy, etc. Your post brings those ideals to the forefront in your dad…
Juliet Wybrants Moore says
Dear Cark and Clif,
I am so sad to hear of the loss of Uncle Nives. I will miss the opportunity to see him again but am glad he is no longer in pain. Along with his brother’s (Bill and Kathy’s), his home with Esther has always been the warmest place in my life (and heart). Though only there a few times, those are the only two places where I ever felt I had come home. I Thank you for writing such a wonderful tribute; I will love your dad and mom forever.
Steve Nemeth says
Last time I talked with him – about ten day’s ago. As usual, Esther “dumped” him at my place to have a good time. Somehow we always had things to talk about, and were looking forward to see each other. It was always pleasant, since we were similar drinkers, and had similar interests in life.
We worked together at Northrop, until I retired, but we stayed in close contact. He became part of my family.
What you Clark said about him is understated.
Sorry to lose him, but we are born and we die as He said.
Vic & Betty Paieda says
We will miss Nives, he and Esther have been in our lives for so many years through PUC. Our son Michael looked at your picture, Clark, and said you haven’t changed since you guys were in Jr. Lifeguards together. We were fortunate to hear many of Nives’ stories when we were together in a “Write Your Life Story” group up at PUC, and he was indeed quite a man.
Penny Hull says
I just got the nicest card from your Mother on the death of my boyfriend…He was only 58…Your tribute to your DAD was wonderful…He had lived a long, full life and as with my boyfriend, it is nice that he was able to slip away peacefully…away from the pain and suffering!
My condolences to your Mom and your family. I knew them from church…although I did not know them well…I was not surprised by your story!! They always seemed like such a caring and thoughtful couple!!
Please give my love to your MOM…she is one lady I would like to get to know better.
Kyra Akins says
Esther, Clark, Clif,
I cannot remember a time in my life where your parent’s weren’t a part of the fabric. The memories of him will be with me forever. The world has lost some of it’s color, for he was truly an amazing person. The warmth and love that was extended to me… will never be forgotten.
Cousin Michael says
Clark and Clif,
I am saddened to hear of the death of your father and my uncle Nives. He and Esther were so good to, and patient with me during the year I spent in LA going to college. He often was “my driver” (I didn’t have a car) when I needed to get somewhere. The two of them were always available.
I remember your dad being very tolerant. One day while I was visiting, the subject of modern music came up. I was 18 and loved rock-n-roll and he didn’t. He said that the Beatles music was all noise. I convinced him to listen to “She Loves You” with me. Because he thought that it was just 150 seconds of “Yea, yea, yea!,” I had to translate it as we listened. He listened patiently and then surprised me by admitting that he had misjudged it and might even find that he liked it with time.
I didn’t come back to LA for my sophomore year, but some time later, Nives wrote me to say that he had taken his sons to a “rock-n-roll” concert. It seems to me that it was the Monkees at the Hollywood Bowl, but you or Clif may be able to set the record straight on that one.
I think it was huge for him to agree with his young nephew on the subject of r-n-r. He was a big man in a small frame.
I had planned to take mom and dad to LA this summer so he could spend some time with his brother. I am sorry that will not happen again. When I had my folks down there the last time, the two of them seemed to inject new life into each other. Your and our loss is great. Your mother and your families will be in my families prayers.
and the Yreka Quinns
Gary Witzenburg says
Dear Esther, Clark and Clif,
Jill and I are so sorry to hear of the passing of your dad and our uncle, the very remarkable J. Nives Quinn, Jr. While my visits have been few in recent years, I always looked forward to them, and treasured them afterward, for the warmth of hospitality, the lovingly prepared food and drink and the lively conversation. Nives and I not always, but often, disagreed on subjects from car-care to politics, but we always conversed civilly and interestingly. Even when I believed he was very wrong, I always learned something from his point of view. He will certainly be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Your loving nephew and cousin, Gary
Bill Seitz says
Esther, Clark, and Cliff:
I am sorry to hear about the death of Uncle Nives. Clark and Clif, I was moved by what each of you wrote, both great tributes to your father. I just sat here thinking for a long while after reading your thoughts. Hanging out with the San Pedro Quinns was a big part of my (and my sisters’) childhood. I remember playing “Hit the Beach” when you guys visited, and I remember actually going to the beach when we visited you. I remember Esther driving us over the harbor bridge in her Volkswagen, and after we had reached the other side, Beverly (who was young and too short to see out the window) asking if we had gotten to the bridge yet. Nives seemed to always have his head under the hood of one of the cars (the Checker, the Volkswagen, etc.) You both have reason to be proud that Nives was your father. He was a principled guy and a man of integrity, and as you noted in your comments, he was very giving of his time and talents. He will be missed.
Ted and Thora Guinn says
Dear Esther, Clark and Clif
I’m sad to hear that my friend of over 50 years is gone. I met him when I started working at the Northrup plant in 1953 and eventually we shared an apartment before we both got (and stayed) married. He was a wonderful drinking buddy and we had some great times together. Good-by, Nives. Ted
He was Ted’s best man when Ted and I were married. Soon afterwards he found Esther which was a wonderful event. It’s a joy to think of the fun that we all had together. Thora
Paul Nussbaum says
The above is a wonderful tribute to your Dad. Your Mom did call me the day that he passed. I was fortunate to visit your Mom and Dad in their new home. I am sorry for your loss. I like to believe that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones and they will be in good health!
Best wishes, Paul
Sharon Wybrants says
Dear Esther, Clark and Cliff,
I was so sorry to learn of Nives’ passing. I am very grateful for the small bits of time I have had with your family over the years. Spending time with you has always made me feel like part of a clan, like I belong somewhere, and proud to be a member of this family. Nives was one of the most real people I have ever known. I know his life on earth was blessed by having you, Esther, as his wife, and by living surrounded by his loving family. I know he had disappointments in life, but, overall, I think he was a very lucky guy. I wouldn’t have wanted to have him be in pain, but, from a totally selfish perspective, I wish he hadn’t had to go. With his stories about the family, he helped make sense out of life for me. I loved and admired him for the honesty, integrity, and generosity you all have mentioned. And, for his sense of humor.
Barbara & Bill Karg says
Dear Esther, Clark & Clif
We enjoyed many hours with Nives at PUC and in your home. We knew of his legendary “fixit” skills. His eye twinkling “bad boy” stories were especially delightful. He left cops and boorish people in the dust of that ’39 Buick Century convertible (“best car I ever had”). He was a real kick to be around.
Warmest regards, Bill & Barbara Karg
Susan Lagudis & Carlos DeMenezes says
Dearest Esther, Clark and Clif:
I’m sorry that I’m crying as I write this, because Nives (who I called Mr. Quinn most of my life, until one day Esther said to please stop calling them Mr. & Mrs.!), who was a part of my life even before it began, was always a breath (more like a gust!) of fun, adventures vicariously lived by us kids, warmth and good humor.
I never tired of the stories my parents loved to tell about him when he was the “wild one” of their group; my mother’s favorite, perhaps, was the one about a drink he prepared for her, which was one layer of sweet liquor after the other, and him coaxing her to drink it with a straw, like a milkshake “Come on Susie, just one little sip.” (and one little sip was all it took!) Then the stories of how overjoyed they were when he met and married Esther, and brought her into their lives, and eventually ours.
Someone in their comment above spoke of how they treasured their visits to your home for “…the warmth of hospitality, the lovingly prepared food and drink, and the lively conversation.” They couldn’t have summed it up better. And was the conversation ever lively! From Nives’ adventures, to Esther and Nives’ world travels, which I always so envied, to, of course, our favorite topic: politics. I was so pleased the last time we spent time together at Nicola’s to see that he was the same man as always: one who stuck by his convictions, standing up for the good of everyone in our society and in the world, especially the “little guy”; never confrontational, always with great humor and kindness.
Carlos met Nives for the first time at one of my father’s birthay dinners, and was, of course, immediately charmed by him. The enchantment never wore off. I think it’s fair to say that was true for all of us who have had the pleasure of knowing him.
I love you very much, Esther, and altho’ I know that this was “the best way”, I am so sorry for your loss, and I will truly miss him.
Clark and Clif, you are in my thoughts; you are right to be proud of your father, he was truly one of a kind.
WIth much love, Susan Lagudis
TERRY WILLSON says
DEAR ESTHER, CLARK, AND CLIFF,
YOURS WAS A HOME AWAY FROM HOME FOR ME. UNCLE NIVES AND AUNT ESTHER WERE THE BEST, TO ME AND MINE THROUGH MANY YEARS. I WILL MISS THE MAN, MY UNCLE. LOVE, TERRY AND VEL
Mike Dean says
Dear Clark. We haven’t met. I know your delightful Dad and magnificent Mom from church. Thank you for the tender and informative eulogy. Though Nives was in already eighty when we met, and we only chatted a few times, he poignantly told of his frustration with his hands, but also the intense interest and joy life still held for him. The stories of his rowdy youth scared me enough that I wished I could have worked with him, as long as I didn’t have to make him angry! Deepest sympathy to your family in adjusting to losing Nives. I’ll miss him, too.
Eli Quinn - Grandson says
We are happy, sad, and relieved all at the same time.
Opa told lots of great stories about his cowboy days. I don’t know what to say, but I’ll miss him.
Shannon Willson says
It is incredibly special to read how much Nives was loved and respected – and my feelings are no exception to those sentiments already expressed. I also send my condolences to Clark, Clif and Esther – including all family and friends who loved Nives.
My personal addition would be that over the years Nives and Esther have helped me out of more than one jam – and then never mentioned those incidents again – to me or anyone else – and never asked for anything in return. I have never met two people who were/are less judgmental and more accepting of others.
Observations: I always looked forward to visiting – and he loved company. I never saw Nives in jeans. (He was quite dapper) He liked his beer warm. Greetings always included a hearty hug. I will never forget the now infamous “whipped cream incident” in Huntington Beach (Ask Clark). Nives spent long hours working on my VW camper bus. He told good stories – even when I had heard them multiple times! I liked Happy Hour.
I will miss you, Nives Quinn, more than I can really say.
birgit snodgrass says
dear esther, clif and clark:
my sincere condolences go out to you and your families. i did not know Nives very well–only his last few years of his life through esther–but reading your kind words describing your dad makes me wish i could have known him better. he sounds like a man of his word and character. he was ready to go on and he is at peace now. esther, i will always remember–and draw strength from–the loving way you handled him when i was there. i so admired you and the care and love between you.
Tracy Avent says
I attended metaphysical training along with Esther Quinn, years ago. I did not know Nives well but as a member of PUC I somewhat knew him through her. She spoke often of their adventures together and always implied their partnership. As was the case with my own parents, they had their diverse interests and freely pursued those, but shared many common experiences as well.
I have not forgotten the lessons, those from snippets of the give-and-take, the willingness to let each other do as they will, and never be without quiet support in the background. Esther and Nives lived it as did my parents. These are among the patterns I want to repeat in my own relationship, and provide as examples for the generations that come afterward. After all, we know that the best way to teach about relationships is to live them and let them be seen by the younger ones, and let those lessons be learned in whatever ways they can be.
Now it is for Esther, as it was for my mom, to no longer concern herself so much for the needs of the others, as for her own self. This, very different from the way life has been spelled out since the teenage years for a young woman of that time and this culture. Now, go forth, have adventures, live well and love strongly, as Nives would have had you do.
And for the sons, take his example and make it your own. The legacy of a Good Man is to leave Good Men and Good Women in his wake. You will now become the examples and by that means, do him Honor.
Cindy Rojas says
Dear Esther, Clark, Clif and family,
Very sorry to hear about the passing of your loved one. I hold a tender place in my heart for Nives. Nives and Esther have always been so kind to me and my family when I first moved to San Pedro. I remember the old shoes lent me to hang off the wedding car. The way Nives would sit on the floor and entertain my daughter with the puppets in his basket. Inspiring me with stories of far away travels. That funny laugh. Its all good. It always was.
What a life! We should all craft so carefully our journey.
Cindy Rojas and family
joyce coutoumanos says
I have long considered Esther and Nives to be more highly evolved persons than almost
anyone else I have known. Warm, gracious, kind, fun–visiting their home was always
a joy. What a wonderful family you are.
love to you all from Joyce Coutoumanos
Jim Otto says
My dearest Esther, Clark and Clif:
It is hard to think of the world without Nives. He was truly one of a kind. He was like my father, brother and best friend all in one. He loved: his family; discussing politics; telling a good joke; fixing anything and everything; a hug from a pretty girl and yes telling his stories. He will be missed mightily by me, as I know he will by you and the many, many others whose lifeâ€™s he touched. I am so thankful that I had the good fortune to have known him and to have shared so many moments with him over the last fifty years.
When Sir Winston Churchill said: “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you giveâ€ he surely must have had Nives in mind. Nives gave and gave and what a life he had! He knew he had been blessed to have had such a wonderful wife in Esther and two sons he could be so proud of in Clark and Clif. I know he would not want us to mourn his passing, but rather to celebrate his life. As sad as it is for all of us that he has left behind his time had come and he was ready.
My wife Nancy, sons Chris and Brian and I loved â€œUncleâ€ Nives and will miss him.
Jim Otto and family.
Tracy Witzenburg says
Dear Esther, Clif, Clark, and family,
I was extremely sorry to hear about Nives. I would have responded earlier, but I just got home from Mexico. I am sorry that I did not get a chance to know Nives more, but the few times that we were together, I had a wonderful time talking to him about his experiences and mutual interests. He was a great man and he had a great life. He will be missed.
Bob & Marge Reinhold says
Dear Esther, Clark & Clif,
We are so sorry to hear of Nives’ passing, but thankful he is no longer in pain and at peace. It’s hard to believe it’s almost 50 years since we first met you all. We were all so young then and had so much fun partying together and keeping track of you boys and our son Mike – remember when you three burned down your playhouse and almost your house? (And now Mike is a fireman!) We’re sure Nives took all that in stride and much more. His life was one of the more interesting ones of the people we have known and all his good qualities will live on in his sons and his grandchildren. Life will now be so different for you, Esther ,and with the help of your family and many friends we hope it will be peaceful.
Annemarie & Edward Rawlinson says
Dear Esther, Clark and Cliff,
Many years ago we were expecting a visit of a japanese friend and didn’t have room to house her. A neighbor suggested to contact the Quinns, known for their hospitality. As it turned out, Esther was travelling and we decided against putting up our friend Mako with Nives while she was out of town… anyway, that was how we got acquainted.
Several years later, we reconnected: I had heard that Esther had had a second hip replacement, and because I also had an artificial hip, I was curious how she was doing.
When Nives could no longer putter around with his tools and learned I create art out of found objects, he gave a a lot of metal parts he had collected.
Esther and Nives housed an artist during the Macedonian art exchange program organized by Angels Gate Cultural Center. Mikica, the artist, raved about the VIP treatment she received: loving notes on the fridge when she came home late, chocolates on the pillow case… I also housed an artist, but I am afraid I couldn’t compete! I still have a picture of all the artists and the host families at a beach party at Portuguese Bend, Nives and Esther among them.
I had the privilege of being with Nives and Esther on the day before his death. I was relieved that Nives was able to leave swiftly – I know he was ready.
We’ll always remember him with fondness.
Annemarie and Edward Rawlinson
I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful posts. I can’t tell you how special it is to read other’s perceptions of my father.
As I mentioned at the celebration of my father’s life, I heard four repeated themes: the warmth of their home (which also goes to my mother), his ability as a raconteur, his ability to listen and have an intellectual discussion without rancor, and his integrity. Quite an example he set.
Again, my heartfelt appreciation to those who contributed (or those who will). May your journeys be as special.
Mike Willson says
A bit late to post, but just read your tribute and have tears in my eyes. Nives was special and I will miss him. As a youngster living in HB, one of my favorite journeys was across the bridge to your house on the hill. I always sensed the respect my father had for yours and after getting to know Nives it was easy to see where that respect came from. Nives was a colorful storyteller and he was the kind of guy that you really wanted to hear what he had to say. Its unfair for such a giving person to suffer so much at the end. I will always be grateful for all the help that both Nives and Esther have given to the Willson clan. Sorry for your loss from the bottom of my heart. Mike Willson
Bob and Kim Marsh says
Kim and I would like to send our sincere sympathy on the death of your father.
As a high school friend, I look back on our past with a smile and a tear. We were so lucky to grow up with such stellar parents in our life. I always felt so comfortable in your home with your parents. I only hope we are half the people that they were and are in our own lifetime.
Please extend our condolences to your mom and Clif.
Your buddy always,
P.S. I see shades of your father in the photo of you posted (couldn’t resist).
Jay Sak says
Dear Esther, Clark & Clif,
As teenagers I spent a lot of time with your family and was always were welcomed in your home. Your father was a man who I regularly approached when I needed advice, I had no problem asking for his thoughts and he was always willing to give me as much time and energy to work through my issues. I have many fond memories of our time together at your house.
Jessica and I send our condolences to you, Esther and Clif.
Always your friend,
From Bill Brandt to my mother, Esther:
I have always held Nives in high regard, a mensch in the Yiddish sense, of which the world has too few, and I thought about you two, an exceptional couple, ethical and moral, who were ever in the corner of the disenfranchised and the oppressed. I remember well your enthusiastic activities on behalf of the World Federalists. I see that you have also been members of UU. My companion of twenty-eight years attends a Unitarian church here, so I know a bit about their programs. Together, your lifelong contributions for the benefit of mankind are to be admired and commended. I hope you find some solace in your achievements.
Esther, I have long wanted to thank you for arranging my mother’s burial when I was at sea. At the time, when you visited Portland, Marj and I were having our difficulties and we didn’t get to see one another. I did see Nives; I remember in our talk he was very solicitous, completely nonjudgmental, and was hopeful that we would patch things up. It was the last time I saw him.
Paul Signorelli says
Lovely piece, Clark. You have, as usual, done a wonderful job of evoking the spirit of your subject here. I have the pleasurable illusion of feeling as if I spent a little time with him through your eyes.