Thomas J. Quinlan
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Virginia Beach - Thomas Joseph Quinlan, "TQ" to all who knew him, was the eldest of 10 children born to Thomas J. and Marie Ellen Johnson Quinlan. He was born in Springfield (Chicopee), Massachusetts, in 1929, on April 23, the feast of St. George, whose existence TQ doubted – due to his being shrouded in too much myth and legend -- but TQ himself could give George a run for his money on that score. April 23 is the putative birthday (O.S.) of William Shakespeare, with whom TQ shared, shall we say, "a way with words." Shakespeare also died on April 23, as did TQ, although perhaps he waited into the wee hours of the 24th – just so as not to be too predictable. And April 23 is the "observed" death day of Miguel de Cervantes, creator of Don Quixote, a character with whom TQ claimed a deep kinship – in the windmill department.
Visionary that he came to be, TQ, ironically, had terrible eyesight, from an early age. In fact, he was declared legally blind, and steered toward a lowercase- c clerical career, in the Depression-era's version of vocational rehabilitation, where, as a teenager, he was put to learn what we today refer to as "keyboarding." Ahead of his time, as always, he was one of the few young men in the early 50's who, if asked, " . . . but, can you type?" could have responded, "Of course I can." It was a skill that served him well his whole life through. When TQ sat down at the typewriter (or, later, the computer), get ready . . . There was many an adult education director asked every January, "Can we have a course on TQ's Christmas letter?"
As a young adult, TQ felt the draw of what used to be called, "the religious life," and he made a run at several religious orders. Among these was the Trappists – then famous for taking a vow of perpetual silence. Needless to say, silence was never TQ's strong suit. He was soon on the bus back to Chicopee.
Another formative experience of those years was his assignment, from which he begged, to no avail, to be removed, to work daily, plucking eggs and shoveling you-know-what, in the novitiate's henhouse. Instead of building spiritual character, which was perhaps the novice master's intention, it left TQ with a serious case of ornithophobia. This was something you would never have known – except if you made the mistake one day of trying to introduce TQ to your pet parrot. Your parrot would be fine, but you might need a new front door. His fear extended to birds in all forms, which explains his life-long aversion to fried chicken.
While on these numerous forays as postulant, novice and seminarian, TQ managed to absorb a great deal about the philosophical and theological thinkers of the past, and, before too long, he pretty well knew his way around the major landmarks of Western classical tradition. He took special delight in the fact that he, the son of a beer-truck driver, and who never actually got a college degree, could quote Aquinas, Duns Scotus, or any of the rest of them, and often did so, in Latin, when in "discussion" with "so-called traditionalists who don't know a damn thing about the tradition!"
In 1958, amidst the now-long-gone vocations phenomenon of northern glut and southern shortage, the Massachusetts Yankee came south, to the "missionary" diocese of Richmond, where he was ordained, and served as a presbyter (he wore the title of "priest" loosely, and rejected the concept of priest-"hood", or anything else that smacked of special class, higher caste, or "ontological status"), pastor, and prophetic voice, for 54 years.
Though known and appreciated by a broad community for his perspicacity, and the apodicticity of his prophetic convictions, up close, he was very much loved by the many, many people he served in many, many parishes, over many, many years.
As the Irish would say: "He was very good to people."
He recognized that pastoral ministry was a ministry of presence – the "sacrament of self" was what you brought – and he brought that presence, faithfully, to people of all ages, conditions, cultures and colors, levels of education, wealth, status, sexual identity, or anything else that comes with life in this world. If he was your pastor, he was there – with you; for you. He made you work. And you loved it. And you put up with his quirkiness because you knew, deep down, that he was the real deal.
He was tolerant of human weaknesses – of which he admitted to having a few – and intolerant of only two things: arrogance – especially in those who enjoyed power and prerogative – and ignorance – especially of the supine variety.
"There's many a truth that's told in jest," the saying goes, and he was a master at laying down challenges with a good dose of humor. "I always try to get a few digs in at the end if I can," he would say, with his trademark giggle.
With a tip of the hat to Judaism (in this and in many other matters), TQ was, "not too interested" in orthodoxy – but hell-bent on orthopraxis: "I don't care where you're COMIN' from," he would say; "I want to know where you're GOIN' to . . .."
This was never more the case than with his mantra that the church had to, " . . . serve the poor, or forget it!"
His style got him in trouble at times. Five years ago, he was sent off for a psychiatric evaluation, at a reputable Catholic institution, in a conservative Catholic town (Philadelphia). When he was discharged with a clean bill of health, he waved the document in the air, and gleefully boasted that he was "perhaps the only priest in the United States with an official certificate of sanity . . .."
At his request, this certificate will be placed in his hand, in his casket, lest anyone forget.
Along with that, there will be nestled one other item that he especially cherished. A few years ago, while he still had a car, he had to go to the DMV for a vision test, required for renewal of his driver's license. For reasons known only to God – or, perhaps, someone who knew someone who knew someone who thought the world of TQ – he passed. He was never so happy to return home that day, croaking, "Thank God I won't have to do that again for ten more years!" That done, and in the interest of public safety, he had the good sense to quit driving.
Probably because he knew what they would tell him not to do, TQ avoided doctors for most of his adult life. He came late in life to appreciate the skill of numerous physicians, though, after surgery for lung cancer ("the doctor said I shouldn't smoke any more – but he didn't say it too strongly . . ."), skin cancer on his scalp (which required him to wear a bandage that looked like an ornate medieval wimple – he told people he had "joined a new order of cloistered nuns"), and several aortic stents (which he referred to as, "my two hysterectomies").
There was nothing TQ liked better than a good liturgy, and, of those, the best was "a good funeral." So, while still in good health, he went ahead and had a couple for himself. The upcoming will be his third.
Something TQ said he learned over the years from the Black community was: when it comes to funerals, take your time. "You've got to wait for the relatives from Carolina to get into town . . . so just slow down." In this case, to give his hundred-or-so first-degree relatives ample time to come into town from "up north," we will wait a leisurely week before the rites begin, which surely would please him ("White people always want to stick you in the ground right away . . . what's the rush???")
TQ was predeceased by his parents, by his sisters, Catherine Lemere, Joan White, Maureen Guilmain, and his brother Daniel Quinlan. He is survived by a sister, Veronica Shore, four brothers, , Jimmy Quinlan, Jackie Quinlan, Francis Quinlan, and Gerry Quinlan, and, as we say, "a host of nieces and nephews" unto the third generation -- he could always tell you the exact number, all their names, and what they were up to.
You are invited to celebrate TQ's life – now in a new dimension – at a Joyful Mass of the Resurrection (the phrase he told all the funeral directors to start using back in the 70's) – next Friday evening, May 4, at the Church of the Holy Family, Virginia Beach. Visitation will begin at 5:30 PM, and the liturgy at 7:00 PM. Following the liturgy, there will be a "Meal of Mercy" – as TQ's Lebanese friends would call it -- in the parish hall.
After this, according to his wishes, TQ will be cremated, and his ashes poured into a jumbo "Chock-Full-O-Nuts" coffee can, which will be placed in the columbarium of St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish, Poquoson, following an Evening Prayer service, on Wednesday, May 9, at 7 p.m. H.D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Laskin Road Chapel is handling arrangements. Online condolences may be made at
Nearly ten years ago, when he first arrived in Virginia Beach as pastor, TQ asked a Haitian bishop to identify the poorest, most out-of-the-way parish in the diocese that might be interested in twinning with Holy Family. This began their relationship with the Church of St. Jude (That's called "labeling!"), in Baptiste, a small village in the hills, at the end of the road, on the border with the Dominican Republic. Now a committee of 50+ parishioners facilitates the Haiti outreach, and the Thomas J. Quinlan school stands in the middle of Baptiste. Education was first. Next on the list is the construction of a Mother-and-Baby clinic, to bring basic healthcare services to that corner of the western hemisphere's poorest nation. In memory of TQ, you are invited to contribute to this project. Make checks payable to: Church of the Holy Family, and write "Haiti Ministry" on the memo line. Send to: Haiti Fund, Church of the Holy Family, 1279 N. Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach, VA 23454.
Let's rock the GDP of Baptiste, Haiti, everyone. TQ would love it!

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Virginian-Pilot on Apr. 29, 2012.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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43 entries
April 23, 2019
We think of you a remind ourselves of your teachings every day. We miss your wisdom, especially at this time of our turbulent Churchs history. God Bless you TQ.
Rich & Geri Meyers
May 19, 2012
TQ you are the original "sinners" priest. You saw good in everyone even those who wanted you to stop smoking. I still remember your sermons -- you were a great teacher.
Barbara Villers
May 18, 2012
I will never forget the Sunday when you drove down the middle of the church in a Volkswagon! I always had to bring a dictionary to mass on Sunday, though. You certainly increased my vocabulary! You were and still are an inspiration to so many. You are so intelligent and you had a way that made me wonder and ask questions, and to taught us so much and with a passion that only TQ could bring forth. I even remember when you were on the Phil Donahue show! You were an amazing man and a fantastic Priest who brought God's Kingdom to us all. Give my father a hug for me! You will be missed....
Cathy Schwab
May 7, 2012
TQ baptized me, I still have the pic. He also gave me my first communion. He will be missed, and there was no other priest that I've known quite like him. He was funny and spiritual, and very much human and understanding at the same time. May he RIP forever in God's unchanging Hand!!! love you TQ, our memories with you are priceless
Meneka Calabrese
May 5, 2012
Fr. Quinlan was an original and I think, sadly, the mold was broken when God made him. He will be missed.
Barbara Lizana
May 5, 2012
TQ made attending Mass interesting and intellectually stimulating. I also thoroughly enjoyed attending his classes on scripture. He was confident enough in his knowledge of church doctrine to be himself which facilitated greater exchanges.
Kate Tippett-Bowles
May 5, 2012
Attended the Mass of Resurrection for TQ last night... so many memorable was a tribute he would have enjoyed... I believe. My experiences with TQ were few but always memorable. He was a man who challenged you to live your faith. Walk the walk not just talk the talk. Enjoy Heaven TQ... you truly belong there. Those of us left behind will do our best to honor what you've taught us and try to live the Gospels.
Robin Meyers
May 4, 2012
"May your life be as exciting as your life was on earth you will be missed.(God Bless You)
M. Garvin
May 4, 2012
He used to call me his "pet" when I served as his altar boy when I was in the fourth grade through middle school and up to the end of my sophomore year in high school. He would often poke me repeatedly and playfully hard in the ribs and say in that raspy voice of his, "Stop being so serious!" I realized that there were many sides to TQ which were dichotomous even perplexing to him as they were to us his friends and family. His mind seemed to always work several hundred revolutions per second faster than most human expression and his deep intellectual and immensely philosophical writings and renderings were cryptic and laced with a strange enlightenment and interpretation of Church doctrine which some would come to scrutinize his very sanity. I personally find that TQ was just as sane (or insane, depending your own viewpoint) as anyone. He loved all people, especially those people who were unique or fractured, disadvantaged, or maligned.
Michael Walker
May 3, 2012
I won't wish TQ rest in peace because I feel the party is just getting started with him now up in HEAVEN!! He's going to wake up the Saints!! I hadn't had the pleasure of spending much time with him on earth beyond turning 12 yrs. old, but 50+ yrs. from now, I will be sure to bend his ears with all of the questions I've ever had and it will take me that long to educate myself so I will be able to keep up with his keen intellect and insights. What a fantastic light!
Rebecca Friedberg
May 2, 2012
Rest in Peace, TQ! Heaven will surely be very interesting with you there! K.Jennings
May 2, 2012
Uncle Tommie the world will not be the same without you. You will forever be in our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers. Thank you so much for all the wonderful memories. We were so fortunate to have you there in our 25th Anniversary celebration. We will miss you more than words can say...
Diane & Jim Kapinos
May 1, 2012
TQ had an amazing intellect, a cutting witt and a heart of gold. There won't be another like him. I am sorry to miss the funeral but will be there in spirit. May perpetual light shine upon him.
Rev. Tom Mattingly
May 1, 2012
Karon and Ulysses in Germany 1976
Much love to Tommy's family: TQ changed our lives. At the Basilica of St. Mary's, he buried our brother in law after his tragic murder, confirmed us (an interracial couple who were Pentecostal and Baptist), baptized our babies, perfomed our daughter's first communion, performed his own unique style of marriage counseling, renewed our 20 year vows @ St. Kateri Tekawitha, annointed our daughter after a serious accident. He inspired and continues to inspire us to live for justice, peace, and dignity for all. We are sad that you won't be here to baptize our first grandchild: Dahlia Nicole Hardy-Rodriguez. With great love, The Hardys (Ulysses, Karon, Shameka, Derek/Danae and Dahlia Hardy-Rodriguez)
Karon & Ulysses Hardy
May 1, 2012
TQ was the best priest I've ever met. He made me a much better Catholic, and I've never donated more to the poor since hearing him speak. My son received his First Holy Eucharist from him, and TQ gave each of the children that day a wonderful illustrated Bible, which my son devoured, cover to cover. The world will miss TQ, but he is with God and Jesus and all the Saints he taught us about, living his reward. I feel privileged to have known him.
Anna DeHaven
May 1, 2012
Tommie you were not only my brother in law, you were my brother. We had alot of great memories throughout the years , those will be in my heart for ever. And even tough you were in rough shape you made the trip to Ma to marry Darlene & I last May. It was such a great honor for you to do that for us. We love you and will miss you dearly.
Raymond Guilmain
May 1, 2012
We miss you more than anyone will ever know. You were amazing and will always remain in our heart.
Geri & Rich Meyers
May 1, 2012
Fr. Quinlan taught me that if I ever am called to the priesthood I can answer in his unusual behavior while respecting God as I am different as well. Though I never knew Fr. Quinlan personaly and learned this about his character from stories about him I pray he may rest in peace.
Fellow Catholic
April 30, 2012
Just thinking of TQ was enough to make you smile - even when a friend called to say he had died. What I liked so much about him was his honesty. Honesty begets humility, and TQ was able to speak to anyone, on level and equal terms, because he had none of the "social superiority" of clericalism, which he recognized as one of the worst dangers facing the Church of today.
TQ was a man motivated by love: first of all, love of Jesus, and from that, love of every person he ever met (though sometimes his love might take a while to be recognized!). He was a thorn in the side of the "Higher"-archy, seeing his mission being "to discomfort the comfortable, and to comfort the discomforted," and his example could well serve as a model for his fellow clergy, as well as for the rest of us. TQ put his love to practical use. Every weekday morning he would be at his desk around 6:00 am, with Mass and a practical homily at 9:00. At 11:00 he would leave his office to visit local hospitals and homes for the aged. He was a workaholic with the most noble motive of all: that of bringing Jesus' love to all he met.
Malcolm Martindale
April 30, 2012
Jim, Yvonne, Donna, Diane, Linda & Jimbo, my sincerest condolences to you all.
Debra (Gula) Lapointe
April 30, 2012
When I heard Wednesday of TOs death I had a rush of memories as my eyes teared. TQ had a way of growing on me as what I witnessed, what I heard and what I comprehended. From this beloved theologian I truely feel how people could have felt 2000 years from the loss of their beloved teacher.
Richard Rhodes
April 30, 2012
I was a teenager when he was at Good Shepherd in Alexandria. It was a vibrant parish, active in the community,and he was a unique servant of God who I will never forget! The Catholic Church would do well to listen to what he taught!
April 30, 2012
Years ago, he came into Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk like a lion, and was beloved when he left. He always remembered who was related to whom (a plus in the South), and did not forget the senior citizens in the parish.
Mary Lawler Lewis
April 30, 2012
I met Father TQ when i returned to the Tidewater from being in Germany for 5 years. i found his pastoral teaching and care refreshing and completely different from my experience. my son and i continued our membership at St. Mary's throughout his remaining high school and college years. after graduation from college, my son married; his wife converted to the faith; and two of their daughters were baptised by TQ. he will be missed
barbara moody-reynolds
April 30, 2012
I first met TQ as pastor at St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, Newport News, VA in the late sixties as a young teen-age African American female who was taken my his revolutionary ideas that removed so much "stolic and passivity" at SVDP that when he dressed up to serve the Word of God in unbelievable costumes; I became one his best fans! He stayed involved in my life from my teen years throughout my adult years. He married me at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Norfolk, VA on Father's Day 1982 and in my mind and heart, I revered him as my second "dad" not just my pastor. I could call on him anytime during my adult life to complain, cry, vent and quietly listen to his passionate counsul. I thank God for putting him in my life and will mourn his passing as not just my former pastor, but my mentor, my trusted confidante and spiritual advisor even when he would use his most "choice" words that can not be expressed at this time. My heart is breaking as I write these words, but I know he is in heaven wearing his earned wings! God Bless You, TQ
Tondalaya Thomas
April 30, 2012
Memories of TQ are too many to count...I feel blessed to have known him. I regret that no more will get the chance to know him.
S. Fisher
April 30, 2012
TQ is the priest who got me involved with misistry in st. kateri. i wish he had lived to see her canonized.
carol park
April 30, 2012
TQ (Uncle Tommie) I'll miss you ! I am so glad I was able to tell you "Thank you" for all wonderful memories you created for me as a child and now, never enough thank you's Love Lynda Jimmy & boys
Lynda Roy
April 30, 2012
This earthy angel will still contribute from above. Thanks be to God. I knew "TQ" through Kathy O'brian who helped him until the end of his earthly life, and, also now through his writings. Elaine Seidler
April 30, 2012
We were at Christmas Mass when TQ preached his "famous homily" at St. Nicholas.

Bob & Melanie McCarthy, VA Beach
April 29, 2012
My kind of guy, not a phony. You will be missed. I'm sure heaven is hopping.
Mark Leischner
April 29, 2012
TQ baptized me when I attended St Mary's in Norfolk,Va...He always made going to mass interesting... TQ you will be missed !!!!
Trina Mercer
April 29, 2012
"TQ" performed our marriage on Aug 31, 1963.

He was a very good friend to my parents and I remember his visits to their home in Norfolk while he was Pastor at Sacred Heart.

he will be greatly missed.

John M & Ila Ann Cannon
April 29, 2012
What a wonderful tribute to a man who clearly deserved the respect and affection of all whose lives he touched. I, too, wish that I had known him. Thanks to the person who wrote this. It was lovely.
April 29, 2012
TQ knew what he would be missing when he celebrated his own funeral twice in his life time!
While living in the present world as a commentator, he was pointing out the Kindom of God whose destiny is Eternal Life with all who love. Anticipate our seeing you again, Tom
Fellow Presbyter, Diocese of Richmond

Raymond A. Barton (retired)
April 29, 2012
TQ was an incredible human being. I feel so fortunate to have known him.He was the smartest and best priest I have ever met. He touched everyone who had the good fortune to know him.The author of his obituary knew him well and gave us all a gift with his words.
Michele Zimmerman
April 29, 2012
I didn't know TQ, but I have a close friend who did. I honor his life and his memory. May his legacy continue in those who knew him. May God send us more priests like TQ.
Cliff Knighten
April 29, 2012
He was an inspiration to me and many who really got to know him. His lectures on Clericalism were better than the book.
We are, blessed to have lived in his time with us.
Jim Yoder
April 29, 2012
As he told me ,after receiving annointment of the sick ( the old last rights) ,I had 4 th stage cancer, and I wanted to talk about possibilities of another operation which might save my life...." that doest matter now" ! How true . Our lost and God 's delight!
Michael Hillier
April 29, 2012
I was still questioning whether or not I really wanted to convert. A conversation with TQ following a dear friend's funeral was all it took. He was a blessing and inspiration in my life
Linda Wilder Dyer
April 29, 2012
I wish I had known him. Chock full of joy!
John Clifford
April 29, 2012
I just loved TQ, he was a renegade and we share a bond in that respect. I loved Mary and he always gave me grief praying to her, I would tell him she's an intermediary, her son Jesus listens to her requests.
Barbara Villers
April 29, 2012
What a fantastic man of God!!! We will miss him greatly.
Greg & Jan Franceski
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