MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
For many people currently in the workforce, their ultimate goal is retirement, but not for one longtime employee who has been here since the base was open land filled with Quonset huts.
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, during the great depression on July 24, 1931, Frances Quinn, health benefits advisor, Naval Branch Health Clinic, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, has been employed with the federal government for more than 50 years and does not see retirement in her future anytime soon.
“For years I thought there were only two bases in the Marine Corps - this one and Camp Lejeune, N.C. We moved back and forth from one to the other, but in December 1961, I ever moved away again,” she said.
Quinn admits she had a difficult life in her early years, which was later spent traveling all over the country with her adopted mother and father who was in the U.S. Coast Guard. Her family finally settled in New Orleans, La., where she began her first career as a telephone operator for Southern Bell in 1948.
“There is nothing glamorous to talk about except I spent my early adult years with several telephone companies, including Southern Bell in downtown Albany from 1955 - 1958, and eventually went to work for the federal government in April 1959,” she said. “I met a Marine one week and married him the next. We stayed together for 32 years and had three daughters, one of which was Miss Albany 1969.”
Quinn said her first job with the federal government came about because a friend she had worked with the last time her family was stationed at Camp Lejeune suggested she apply. When her family returned again, she did just that.
“I was interested because of the better pay and benefits that my other jobs did not offer. A week later after applying and taking my test, they called me to come to work in Building 1 at Camp Lejeune as a telephone service center operator,” she said.
Quinn said there wasn’t any base housing available because the base was just beginning to develop Capehart housing.
“It was great because I lived across the street from a cardiologist and next door to a pediatrician on one side and an internal medicine doctor on the other. All of them worked for Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and they were all in a car pool together,” she explained. “One of them said, why don’t you get a job at the hospital so you can car pool with us. I told them I didn’t know anything about working in a hospital and they said we’ll teach you.”
In April 1959, Quinn said she went over to the hospital and took another test, and was hired as a front desk clerk responsible for checking patients in and out, where she stayed until her family moved back to Albany, for the last time.
“We lived here on base from 1961 through 1963. We loved life here on the base because we had our own little village - the kids and adults had a lot of things to do such as riding their bikes, swimming, golf, arts and crafts and other activities,” she said.
Quinn said she went to work at Turner Air Force Base here in Albany for three years as a front desk clerk at the hospital there.
“I noticed the girl down the hall who was the health benefits advisor and the ones who came behind her would never stay very long. One day I asked where everyone kept going and was told they were transferring to the Marine Base,” she said. “I figured it couldn’t be that hard to fill out a form, so I asked if I could apply for the job after the last girl left. That was in April 1970 and since then, I have been working as a health benefits advisor.”
Quinn jokingly said little did she know that it was more detailed than filling out a form. She said she was given an 18-year-old Navy corpsman and five huge manuals to help learn the job, but said she eventually figured out to navigate her way through the system and learned to love the job and the people she work with every day.
“The most rewarding thing about this job is the services I provide. I know as a recipient of TriCare, this type of medical care can be complicated for a new person. I work with the TriCare for Life recipients and my primary role is to explain the benefits to individuals over the age of 65, who are also eligible for Medicare and must take Part B,” she said. “A typical day here would be patient calling or coming in with bills that have not been paid.”
Quinn explained that she receives calls from all over the country from people who need help settling an outstanding bill.
“As an assistant Debt Collection Assistance Officer, I have to go back several years, especially if a person’s bill has been turned over to a bill collector, to try and figure out what happened and why. I work to get the bill paid and most of the time, it is going to be something the member has to pay out of pocket and in some cases, I can request a waiver,” she said.
Those who work with her on a daily basis love her. Quinn was referred to as sunshine, grandma, friend, confidante, an invaluable asset, a person with a wealth of knowledge, the glue that holds the office together and a “go to” person who doggedly follows through until a resolution is reached for patient issues.
“It is amazing to work alongside someone with the extensive organizational knowledge that has been gained in 51 years of continued service,” said Lt. Cmdr. Charles Goodson, officer-in-charge, NBHC. “She is an integral part of the medical team, addressing patients billing problems and assisting in referrals for network care. It is a delight to have her on the Team!”
Fran, as she prefers to be called, can be seen most evenings walking her two small dogs around Covella Pond in a baby stroller.
“They are old like me and stay cooped up in the house all day. It’s good for me to walk so I can stay healthy and it gets them out of the house too,” she said.
One employee who has worked with Quinn for more than 25 years said she often tells her that she cannot retire until 2015, when she reaches 30 years. On the days she is not at work, those days seem much longer because it is just too quiet.
“Fran is a pleasure to work with every day. She has the best “can do” attitude each and every day. I frequently tell people that everyone needs their “daily dose of Fran” to help you get through the day, said Sylvia Stalvey, referral management, NBHC. “When you stop by to speak with her, you will always leave with a laugh. It does not matter what your mood was when you walked in to see her, you will leave with a smile.
Stalvey said many of the past 18 officers in charge she worked under have stated, “Fran can retire, but not on my watch. When she does retire, her position will be filled, but she can never be replaced.”
Quinn, the recipient of numerous awards and certificates during her 51 years of service, said continuing to work at her age keeps her mind alert and helps keep her active.
“After you have worked this long, it makes me fearful of withering away if I were to just sit home and do nothing. I anticipate being dragged out of here feet first,” she said with a hearty laugh. “They keep telling me when I die, they are not going to bury me, but bronze me and place my statue in front of the clinic.”