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Women Making History: NBHC icon supports warfighters, families more than half a century

By Verda L. Parker | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | March 22, 2016


Two decades before women were being officially honored for their contribution to America's history one woman was laying a foundation of her own in service to military families that would span more than half a century.

Celebrating Women’s History Month aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany would be a near impossible feat without including an icon, who heralded countless stories of the transformations and facelifts this installation has undergone during the five decades she worked here.

Frances E. Quinn, retired health benefits advisor, Naval Branch Health Clinic-Albany, who devoted 55 years of her life to federal service, 48 of which were spent here, has witnessed hundreds of service members transition to and from MCLB Albany.

When she came to the base in 1967, according to Quinn, “the Marines had no hospital.” There were fewer buildings, period, as portions of the base were still under construction, she pointed out.

Another documented fact in the installation’s women’s history during that era is there were only two active-duty female Marines stationed aboard the installation, according to an article published in The Emblem, Feb. 10, 1967. 

Quinn, who prides herself as being a “problem solver and great listener,” with a unique sense of humor, talked a bit about her life before she retired from NBHC-Albany; some of the challenges she has been forced to accept and overcome throughout her lifetime and discussed how she started her career in federal service so many years ago.

“I provided a service that I knew was badly needed,” Quinn said. “I was a recipient of TRICARE for Life myself and I knew how important it was when I had a problem of my own to be able to talk with somebody (who) understood and would help me. I interacted with the patients like they were my family. That’s what I loved the most about my job.”

Recapping her life’s story, from a time dating as far back as the day she was born in Norfolk, Virginia, Quinn said her life was filled with enumerable challenges.

“The (most) interesting part of my story will be from the very beginning,” she recalled. “I was sold at birth for $25; I don’t know my parents, but I know my mother was from Virginia and my father was in the Navy. Cajun people from the bayou of New Orleans, Louisiana, bought me for $25; they raised me.

“All these years, I would (frequently) have someone come into my office with the same last name as the one on my birth certificate,” Quinn noted. “I’d often ask, ‘Oh, do you have a grandmother named so-and-so?’ because, that was my mother’s name on the birth certificate.”

Admitting that there were several occasions when she wanted to ask that same question to many people, who she encountered over the years, she regrets not pursuing it further.

“I thought I’d get back to it,” she reflected. “Now, I could kick myself for not asking, because I really wanted to know, ‘Who am I and where am I from?’

In spite of her early years, Quinn has had quite a unique history and a life which has taken her from the east coast to the west coast and back again. When she was 13 years old, during World War II, she lived on Santa Catalina Island, California, and she is a scholar of Point Loma High School, San Diego, California.

On her journey to MCLB Albany, she worked with Southern Bell Telephone Company, New Orleans, Louisiana; she moved back to California and worked for Pacific Bell there; moved to New Jersey and worked for Great Northern Telephone Company; she worked at “the phone company in Jacksonville, North Carolina;” she eventually transferred to Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 1955, which was her first civil service job.

Quinn, whose husband was a Marine, came from Camp Lejeune to Albany’s Turner Air Force Base; her first job in Albany, which should come as no surprise, was for “the telephone company.” She later took a position as a secretary at the Maintenance Center (Albany), here, and so her journey at MCLB Albany began.

Refusing to allow her past to dominate the path she chose to find the stability she sought for her own life, Quinn has devoted decades in service to the warfighters, family members and others, whose lives she has impacted for more than half a century.

Despite her turbulent beginning, being sold at birth and raised by alcoholic parents, the Women’s History Month spotlight shines on MCLB Albany’s own “southern bell,” Fran Quinn, who is still honored by her peers for living up to her personal motto, “Go the extra mile with a smile.”

The United States has observed Women's History Month annually throughout the month of March since 1987, according to the website: http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/womens-history-month.