Eulogy for Dr. Robert E. Quigley
Obituary for Prof. Robert E. Quigley
Eulogy for my Dad
Thank you all for coming to this funeral for my dad, Dr. Robert E. Quigley. My family and I truly appreciate it. I am giving the eulogy because according to Jenny and Patrick, I am the one who “likes to talk the most.”
This eulogy will be somewhat historical in nature because as you know, my Dad was a historian and college professor for more than 40 years. There WILL be a quiz later. Take notes!
Dad was born in 1927, the 7th of eight children to Sarah and Tom Quigley. He grew up in a candy store that my grandfather owned at 51st and Chester Streets in Southwest Philadelphia. Dad’s lifelong love of chocolate candy and ice cream began in that store.
He attended Catholic school and graduated from West Philadelphia Catholic School for Boys in 1945. Just a few days after graduation, he marched into the Army recruiting office and enlisted. He was determined to fight the Japanese and end World War 2. On his own. Well, it must have worked because the Japanese surrendered just two months later. Dad spent the rest of the war in occupied Germany.
Dad used the G.I. Bill to get an education, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Catholic University and his master’s and doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
He was a history professor at LaSalle University, Cabrini College, St. Joseph’s University and Holy Family College – where he met my mom, Barbara. He spent the last 27 years of his career at Rosemont College where he was chairman of the American Studies program. He loved his students, except when it came time to grade their papers, which I can relate to. He talked about historical figures as if he knew them. He knew all the details, all the minutiae, but also, all the scandals and gossip.
One time, my sister needed to know the last name of the British royal family for a homework assignment. Ever the historian, he got out books and traced their entire lineage for her. It took an hour. She never did get the last name. Jenny then asked Mom the same question. Mom answered, "Windsor.” Thus, Jenny was able to complete her homework assignment,
Dad retired in 1995 and spent the next few years watching British comedies on TV, like: "Yes Minister,”"Father Ted,” "Are You Being Served,” “The Vicar of Dibley" and "Ballykissangel.” He also loved opera, classical music, and bagpipes, The Clancy Brothers and Hal Roach, the comedian.
He loved spending time in Stone Harbor, NJ and Avalon, NJ where his family owned a house for many years.
One of the best things about Dad is that he was always THERE, present and dependable. He drove us kids to school, dance lessons, dance recitals, scout meetings, scout trips, dances at St. Tim’s and Father Judge, our theater performances and our graduations.
When I was a new foster mom, as a single woman, I was terrified and weepy. He was with me at my apartment, calm and steady.
He also used his retirement to travel to see us kids and to eat at diners. His favorites were the Mayfair Diner, the Red Robin Diner and the Olympia Restaurant on Frankford Avenue. Every lunch and dinner he ate there involved soup. He was a terrible tipper, though. The three of us kids were all once waiters and tried to get him to tip more than $2, but no luck. This is probably why he always carried approximately a pound of change in his pants pocket.
My sister, Jenny, loved the musical “Annie” so my Dad took her to see various performances all over the area. She tells the story of becoming dreadfully ill from a stomach virus on the way back from a production at the Hedgerow Theater. She threw up the whole drive home, and luckily he had a random stockpile of plastic bags in the car, which came in extremely handy. Come to think of it this may have been where he decided to begin collecting plastic bags??? He also – for reasons we do not understand collected: rubber bands, paper clips, plastic containers that Chinese won ton soup comes in, empty boxes from small appliances and newspapers.
Throughout his life, Dad read five newspapers a day and revered Walter Cronkite. It is not a stretch to see why I became a reporter and then a journalism professor. The news of the past year, however, would completely stress him out. My brother, Patrick, said the only blessing to my Dad’s dementia is that he had no clue Donald Trump got elected president.
Dad’s dementia was dreadful because it is a dreadful disease. But throughout it all, Dad retained his kind spirit and loving nature. He loved when we kids visited him at the Philadelphia Protestant Home with his grandkids, Nicholas, Sean and Jack.
He kept his sense of humor, too. A few years ago, I took him out to eat for his birthday – at a diner. Ever the journalist, I interviewed him.
“Dad,” I asked. “What life lessons do you have to pass on?”
He looked up from his meal, which probably included some kind of soup and answered:
“Duck! You never know what is coming at you!”