Dr. Corbett Quinn remembered
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 29, 2006 1:49 PM
It's been a week since mourners laid Duplin County luminary Dr. Corbett Quinn to rest, but it will take much longer for his memory and for his impact on the community to begin to fade.
"He was a giant of a man in Duplin County," Dr. Hervy Kornegay at the Mount Olive Family Center said. "We just lost a giant of a man."
Quinn, who died on Dec. 16 at Duplin General Hospital, was a Duplin County native. Born in Potters Hill, he was a man, who by all accounts, loved his community and took pride in doing all he could to help improve it.
"He was an excellent person, an excellent doctor and he served the town well," Magnolia Mayor Gwendolyn Vann said. "He was a leader in this town and was very, very influential. He did the town justice.
"He not only was a giant in stature, but a giant in personality. We're all going to miss him. We're going to miss that giant smile and how he could be firm, yet so nice. He left some big shoes to fill, and he's someone this community will miss because they respected him and loved him."
Quinn's public service began when he joined the U.S. Army near the end of World War II. Trained as Japanese language translator, he spent only two years on active duty.
"The war ended as he cruised the Pacific," Ruth Montgomery Quinn, his wife of 53 years, said.
After leaving active duty in 1946, Quinn attended college and medical school. They then married in 1953 and came to Magnolia in 1955, where he opened his family medical practice.
It was there, during the days of segregation, that he began making his mark on the community.
His was a desegregated office.
"He had one door. He put a fishbowl in the middle of the waiting room and you could go anywhere to sit," Vann said. "The people came to him because he was fair and he would do whatever he could to help you. He was the doctor in this town and people respected him and admired him -- not only people from Magnolia, but also people from surrounding communities."
But for Mrs. Quinn and her husband, operating a desegregated office was not hard decision.
"I was from Pennsylvania so I didn't see why we were segregated anyway," she said. "He just loved the community and he worked with everybody. It didn't matter.
"He was a lot like his mother in that he was easy to get along with. There weren't many times that he got angry."
And even though Quinn retired in 1994, Magnolia is still benefiting from his practice after he donated the building to the town last year.
Now it serves as the new town hall and the old waiting room functions as the new conference room.
But Quinn's accomplishments went beyond his private medical practice, which he ran for 39 years, delivering babies for 23 of them.
He also was on staff at Duplin General Hospital, worked as the county's medical examiner and medical director and helped start the county's emergency medical services program.
In addition, he served 32 years -- several in Goldsboro -- in the North Carolina National Guard, retiring in 1989 as a full colonel and the first N.C. State Surgeon of the National Guard.
In between, Quinn found time to serve as a commissioner on Magnolia's town board and as its mayor. His 21 years in the town government spanned nearly four decades and in the early years, Mrs. Quinn (who also served as commissioner and mayor) said, much of the town's work was done out of their office.
In fact, Quinn served as mayor up until a month before his death. With one year left in his term, he resigned on Nov. 21.
"He gave of himself," Mrs. Quinn said. "I think the whole community is better because he was here."
Duplin County Economic Development Commission Director Woody Brinson agreed.
"The community adopted him and he adopted the community," he said. "Dr. Quinn was very involved. We went back 40 years. He was actually my doctor when I was a teenager. He and I were pretty close.
"When I was in my 20s he became a mentor to me. He was the reason I got into county government. I'd go to his office and we'd sit and talk for 20 or 30 minutes. His wife would have to come to the door and say, 'Corbett, you've got other patients.'
"He always wanted a better Magnolia and a better Duplin County. He was a visionary. He was just always wanting to serve his fellow man, not just as a doctor, but as a citizen."
One of the last projects he worked on was the sewer system improvements and the new wastewater treatment plant in Magnolia. When he died, Brinson said, he was still holding out hope he might see those projects completed.
"Even the last couple of months, when he knew he had terminal cancer, knowing he didn't a lot of days left on this earth, he would talk to me about expanding the (Magnolia) sewer system. He was still working for the community," Brinson said.
Seeing it completed, Vann continued, was one of his last dreams.
"About two weeks ago he said he hoped he would live to see it come online. It was supposed to go online sometime this month, but now it'll be the sixth of January," she said.
Quinn is survived by his wife; daughter, Risa Quinn Feldbusch of Fayetteville; three brothers, Graham P. and Daniel Lloyd Quinn, both of Potters Hill, and A. Fitch Quinn of Pink Hill; four grandchildren, John Cody Feldbusch, Amanda Rhea Quinn, Tyler Justin Quinn and April Russell; great-granddaughter, Katie Russell.
He was preceded in death by his son, Corbett L. (Buster) Quinn Jr.
"He was my life," Mrs. Quinn said. "He was a good man. God has a good right hand person up there."
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