ANDREW CHARLES QUINN
August 22, 1944 to July 17, 2014
A tireless advocate for farmers
Andrew Charles “Ac” Quinn, an accomplished man who cherished his family and advocated tirelessly for the interests of farmers, died Thursday, July 17, 2014 at Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield, MN. He was 69.
A lifelong farmer, Andrew prized his “century farm”, which was homesteaded in rural Litchfield in 1866 by his Irish immigrant ancestors. Much of his personal life and passion were dedicated to advancing agribusiness.
Andrew held several leadership positions in local, state and national organizations, through which he led grassroots lobbying efforts at the state and federal levels. He advocated on behalf of farmers while serving the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and testified multiple times before state and federal congressional committees in support of agricultural legislation. Along with running for public office, he spoke to hundreds of audiences over the years and won countless awards.
Family made his heart sing
But it was his family that made his heart sing, his darling wife of 46 years, Janet, his son, Andrew, and daughters, Shannon and Taryn. A man’s man with great hair and beautiful brown eyes, he had a powerful presence. Athlete, sportsman and Little League coach, he thrived on time spent with family and friends.
Ac, or “Ace” as he was sometimes called, smiled freely and radiated happiness. He helped people who needed a second chance and anonymously mailed cash to those in desperate circumstances. Such gifts should be without strings,” he would tell his kids. Quick to welcome guests with a drink, he found deep satisfaction in opening the family dinner table and lake vacations to friends of his children. He also taught the virtue of a good handshake, was a sharp dresser and had an appreciation for good wine.
Surrounded by family at the end, Andrew reserved his last words for his wife, whispering: “Jan, are you here? Are you here, Jan?” to which she answered, “Yes, I am here.”
It was all he needed to know.
Born August 22, 1944, Andrew was the second of three children born to Andrew and Jean (Hein) in Litchfield, MN. He had an older brother, R. Joseph, and a younger sister, Carolyn, but exercised the privilege of affectionately addressing his mother as “Jeanie”. After graduating from Litchfield High School, he earned a full football scholarship to North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. It was a risk, gambling on an unestablished football program; but he believed in the coaches and their vision. Ac played center for the Bison Football team, helping to lead them to their first national championship in 1965. He graduated in 1968 with a degree in business economics and agricultural economics.
Invited to try out for the Buffalo Bills
Following college, Ac had several career opportunities, including an invitation to try out for the Buffalo Bills. Although tempted, he knew his real goal was to return home to the family farm. Farming was in his blood. He loved it all, living a life outdoors in an occupation where he viewed himself as a steward of the land. A grain farmer, he built his business from 475 acres to about 1800 acres of corn and soybeans on land both owned and leased. He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with his dad, and later with his son, times he cherished.
Andrew was just 16 when a beautiful girl, Janet Ruprecht, stole his heart at a sock hop. They were married on August 19, 1967 at Assumption Catholic Church in Eden Valley. Theirs was a committed and enduring connection, a partnership that survived domestic arguments, financial hardship, and their struggles to have more a large family.
After Shannon was born, they were told by doctors there would be no more children. This led them to adopted two-week-old Andrew “Andy”, who is viewed by the family as their greatest gift to this day. Then, a “miracle” baby, another daughter, Taryn, was born a few years later. (Tragically Andy, who was carrying on the family-farm legacy, died of a rare form of cancer two years ago at the age of 34.)
Ac rejoiced in his parental role, stressing his Irish heritage as if it were his children’s inalienable right, telling his first born at one point: “You know, with a name like Shannon Patrice Quinn, you never have to admit that you are anything other than full-blooded Irish. Now your mother is German, but you don’t ever have to admit that.”
He was always “there”
The best thing was that he was always “there,” said younger daughter Taryn, who described her father as her hero. “Though he was extremely active and achieved on so many fronts, his priorities were clear.” He managed his work so he could see his kids off to school, came to all their sporting events and activities, she said. “He was our confidant, mentor, coach, and teacher.” He even managed to convince each child that he/she was his favorite.
A characteristic story concerns a family vacation to The Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo in Alberta, Canada, and a visit to the leading cowboy hat manufacturer, makers of hats for Lonesome Dove, one of Andrew’s favorite TV series. In ordering a cowboy hat, he announced with his usual pride, “I am a farmer and my hat needs to indicate I am the boss.” He ended up with a custom-made beaver hat in black.
Believing travel expanded one’s horizons, he and Janet went on a dream trip to Ireland and sent each of their children to Europe following their senior year in high school. He had his devilish side, too, calling his wife “Patty,” a name she hated, just to rile her.
Andrew’s life was not without periods of perilous stress, however, particularly in the 1980s, when family farms were disappearing all over the country. Only too well aware that the land he loved had already once been lost during the Great Depression, and that his father, also Andrew Charles Quinn, had bought it back, he managed to keep the farm—the place he had worked tooth and nail to pay his father for and make viable for generations to come. The agricultural legacy of his namesake—several generations of Andrew Charles Quinns going back to County Offaly Ireland—was sacred to him.
Challenging times sparked his advocacy
It was the challenging times that sparked his political and advocacy efforts. Early on, Ac realized he could make a difference. He was active in church councils, school and local organizations. Before globalization was a familiar term, he worked to share agricultural practices around the world, including hosting a visit of Polish and Russian farmers (during the cold war, no less), and making trips to Mexico and Brazil in the interest of building stronger export opportunities.
At one point, Andrew ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives. Although his heartfelt bid resulted in a disappointing loss in an extremely close election, it caused nary a blip in his enthusiasm for issues critical to farmers, and he went on to accomplish even more than he may have been able to as a legislator.
Public speaking once a challenge for him, it became a vital part of his imposing persona. Ac was an active leader in the County, State, and National Corn Growers Association. And his efforts to advance agriculture culminated in the realization of a vision deeply important to him, the Bushmills Ethanol Inc. plant in Atwater, MN, producers of 65 million gallons of ethanol a year. This was one of his proudest professional accomplishments because it was farmer owned and provided an outlet for local farmers’ crops.
He was so dedicated to ethanol and clean air that the life-long Democrat crossed party lines to vote for a Republican, George W. Bush, primarily due to Bush’s vigorous support of ethanol. Bush not only greeted Andrew during a campaign stop in Minnesota, he invited the Quinns to his inauguration. Ac served on the National Board of American Coalition for Ethanol from 1987 to his death.
He loved razzing buddies
He also never lost his devotion to sports. He played racquetball, broomball and was an avid softball player as an adult. He also hunted (primarily deer, duck and pheasant) and liked to go on fishing trips with his buddies. And he loved time spent telling stories with and razzing his friends.
But it was the materialization of his dreams with his wife that gave him purpose. They cried with pride at their children’s graduations from high school and college, danced at their weddings and held their beloved grandchildren with fierce pride.
A devoted Catholic, Andrew was a member of St. Philip’s Catholic Church, served on several committees, and his family was a regular presence at Sunday Mass.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 10:30 AM at the Church of St. Philip in Litchfield, MN. Visitation will be at the church Tuesday, July 22nd from 5:00 PM until 8:00 PM, with a parish prayer service at 8:00 PM. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service on Wednesday with the K of C praying the rosary at 10:00 AM. Interment will be in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery.
Andrew is survived by his wife, Janet Quinn of Litchfield; daughters, Shannon Quinn (and Dan Froiland) of Marine on St. Croix, MN, and Taryn (and James) Woods of Litchfield; grandchildren, Ellivia Woods, Grayson Woods, Brecken Woods, daughter-in-law, Reagan Quinn of Litchfield and granddaughter Sloan Quinn. He is also survived by his brother R. Joseph Quinn, wife Carole, and niece and nephew Courtney and John, and sister Carolyn Quinn VeVea, and nieces Erin, Marjorie, Jane and Elizabeth.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Andrew and Jean Quinn and his son, Andy Quinn.