Orleans historian Bill Quinn dead at 87

Bidding adieu to a good friend of the Best Read Guide
Bill Quinn's photography including an extensive body of aerial photography is legendary. Photo courtesy of Mr. Quinn's collection.

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of William P. Quinn of Orleans. Bill, as we knew him, was a local historian, maritime history expert and good friend of the Best Read Guide Cape Cod.

Bill died on Sunday at the age of 87 following a massive stroke. With him ends a long life of adventure, knowledge and a love of local maritime history.  For the more than two decades the Best Read Guide has been in print, Bill Quinn's Shipwrecks of Cape Cod have graced its pages each month during the summer. 

Dramatic photos of grounded vessels either taken by Bill or from his extensive collection were enhanced by his brief, matter-of-fact descriptions, laden with seafaring lingo.

Bill was an incredible photographer and possessed a love of history that was easy to catch. We will miss his annual visit to the Best Read Guide office with a bundle of new photos for the new season and a joke (or more likely, groaner) or two.

Bill's obituary is below, courtesy of Nickerson Funeral Home in Orleans.

William P. Quinn (June 29, 1926-April 13, 2014)

Orleans – William P. "Bill" Quinn, 87, passed away April 13, 2014 following a severe stroke. Bill grew up and lived in Orleans all of his life with the exception of service in the South Pacific with the US Navy during World War II and his college years at Tufts. Bill was a founding member of the Orleans Historical Society and the French Cable Station Museum. After finding the Coast Guard motor lifeboat CG36500 deteriorating in the fields near Marconi Station, he took charge in gaining possession of the vessel for the Orleans Historical Society and restoring her as a floating museum. He was a major contributor to the cover photos for the Orleans Town Report and one of the first "Citizen of the Year" recipients.

All his life he knew the value of saving or experiencing history. As a boy he heard that the railroad was not going to offer passenger service to the lower Cape any longer. He walked to the North Eastham Station so he could ride the last train back to Orleans. In the sixties when Orleans was losing its last windmill he tried to get the Town to purchase it and the land. Even though he was not successful then; it was a few years later when he found the Johnathan Young Windmill and brought it back to Orleans. This became the town's life size replica of its Town seal. Bill had a lifelong commitment to his Town, Family, and his Country.

It was joked that his middle initial stood for Pictures. He began a career as a photographer in the fifties working on portraits and the television news business. Channels 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, and 12, and ABC, CBS, and NBC Networks in New York have all received film from him on a regular basis, with Bill scooping everyone with news from the Cape and Islands and southern New England. He loved to remind everyone that he was here to take pictures of the arrival of the Mayflower (it was the Mayflower II). Bill never missed the opportunity to deliver a joke, despite its potential good or bad reception.

His lifelong interest in history and the sea translated into authorship of an extensive number of books, including Shipwrecks Around Cape Cod, Shipwrecks Around New England, Shipwrecks Around Maine, Shipwrecks Along the Atlantic Coast, Shipwrecks in New York Waters (with Paul C. Morris), Cape Cod Maritime Disasters, The Salt Works of Historic Cape Cod, Shipwrecks Around Boston, and Orleans: A Small Cape Cod Town with an Extraordinary History.

He is survived by his wife Gerri Mallen. Bill was a proud Dad of his two sons Bill Jr. (Marilyn) and Leslie (Ruth) and proud Grampy to his only granddaughter, Micki. Bill Jr. has worked for the Orleans Fire Department for 41 years and is currently the Fire Chief. Leslie has worked at Yellowstone National Park for 34 years and is Interpretive Specialist there. He is also survived by one brother Warrren (Maryann) and his many step children, nieces, nephews, step grandchildren, and step great grandchildren. He is predeceased by his first wife Mary Rita (Gleason), and three brothers, Howard, Ellis, and Leslie.

A memorial service will be held at St. Joan of Arc Church, 61 Canal Road, Orleans on Wednesday, April 16th at 11:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to a local charitable organization such as the Orleans Historical Society – in this latter case, you could choose to earmark your donation to any of three interests of Bill's: the CG36500 preservations, the Johnathan Young Windmill, or the French Cable Station Museum.

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