Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RIP Bob Quinn

Posted by on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 2:11 PM

Bob Quinn, RIP
  • PHRA
  • Bob Quinn, RIP

Bob Quinn, a University District icon and brave, cantankerous, and mostly unsung hero, has died. He attempted suicide late last week and passed away in the hospital several days later.

A native of Saskatchewan, Canada, he spent most of his life in the University District, where he was instantly recognizable for his bushy head of curly hair, spectacles, and fingerless wool gloves. He was the founding father of the People's Harm Reduction Alliance and a national pioneer of needle exchanges—he rightly saw their possibilities for (in descending order of importance) reducing suffering, restoring dignity, contributing to the public health of users and the community at large, and reducing the public tax burden incurred by taking care of people who contract chronic diseases through shared drug equipment.

His hospice work during the peak of the AIDS crisis led him down the road to help injection-drug users, out in the open—an approach that sometimes ran afoul of the local Chamber of Commerce and even government-run public-health programs. But he knew that the stigma surrounding drug use often leads to isolation, which leads to desperation, which leads to people making increasingly destructive choices. Quinn didn't wait for the law and the government to catch up. He led the way—not in a clinic, but on the sidewalk, with a folding table where he handed out clean needles, condoms, and other ways to protect people from disease.

He could be stubborn and thorny, which were necessary qualities for his chosen vocation. He could see a crisis that other people preferred to ignore and bullheadedly decided to do something about it. That's never a recipe for popularity. But we're all better off because there are stubborn, thorny people like Quinn in the world.

"He did the job that no-one was willing to do," says Shilo Murphy, the current head of PHRA, who considers Quinn a father figure. Quinn, Murphy says, helped him when he was on the streets and changed his life by giving him his first real responsibility—to show up at the needle-exchange table to help people. "He started the needle exchange when the stats weren't out there yet and nobody was saying that this is disease prevention," Murphy says. "The Chamber of Commerce went after him for it, and other people, but he stood his ground... He started it. He fought that fight. And there are thousands upon thousands of people who don't have HIV because of this person. He is a cultural hero."

Why did Quinn kill himself? Murphy only says that he left a letter, indicating he'd "run out of things to take care of" and that he had his own demons to wrestle with. "People who are powerful, people who start programs, need help too," Murphy said. "It breaks my heart that he didn't ask for help from the people who loved him."

I mentioned Quinn briefly in this story because, even though he didn't identify as an anarchist, he lived the value of mutual aid—of self-organization, of people helping people directly, and not waiting for some agency to show up and do the work hard, immediate work that needs to be done.

Bob and Shilo.
  • PHRA
  • Bob and Shilo.

I had seen Quinn around for years but had never talked to him until we ran into each other at Magus bookstore (his favorite, Murphy says). I introduced myself and told him I was working on a story about anarchism and had been an admirer from afar—he looked at me skeptically over his spectacles, beneath his bushy black eyebrows, and said he'd think about talking to me. The result was a long email correspondance about his life and the evolution of his work.

At one point, Quinn told me, he simply collected and bought syringes to carry around in a satchel to hand out to known injection-drug users. Just because nobody else was doing it.

The story he sent me—over several emails—is cleaned up with minor editing and posted below. It's good reading. I always regretted not being able to share more of it in print, so I'm sharing it here. One of my favorite passages, about his early days with his satchel:

When you are a part of a bureaucracy, you have to take the bureaucracy with you everywhere you go. When you are an individual or a small group, you just have to take yourself, the small group and what you need. It's travelling lightly in a true sense... We were all just people helping other people—people with names, faces and sometimes families that we knew. It was like pulling Gerry-not-Jerry out of traffic. I could have formed a committee to do this, but it was much quicker just doing it myself... I wasn't trying to create an organization. I was just trying to keep some of the faces in my head alive until the people who should have been doing this work—the health department, etc.—realized that the U-district had a bit of a problem.

A memorial is being planned, stay tuned for details. But the People's Harm Reduction Alliance (an independent non-profit that charges where government public-health programs fear to tread) is his legacy. If you want to honor him, please donate. Their work saves lives.

So long, Bob.

* * *

Bob Quinn, in his own words, a conversation that began with me meeting him in a bookstore, asking if he'd talk to me about the U District needle exchange, and giving him my email address.

* * *

April 16:

This whole thing kind of hits me as weird and strange and maybe even kind of odd, so it must be the right thing to do. So the short answer to your question about will-I-talk-with-you is sure. I am more than happy to do that.

But before I go on and babble about things, let me tell you that PHRA is the third organization that has run the exchange in the U-district. The first was my organization Beyond CHAOS, the Community Health and AIDS Outreach Service, then came Street Outreach Services and now PHRA which really should be pronounced "fra" and not "pra."

Okay, I will now try to send this off after which I will phone you as soon as I find a phone so I can give you the same response without the history lesson.

April 18:

Okay hi. Way back when AIDS first hit, it was a CRISIS!!! that nobody really understood. I don't know how old you are or where you were when AIDS first appeared, but it was in the news every morning and evening because it was this black hole of uncertainty. Something needed to be done and it needed to be done yesterday because A LOT of people were dying (and dying very quickly).

I was working in mental-health day treatment at the time and living on Capitol Hill and saw a lot of people I knew casually vanish and die. And so I started working with some community groups like the Chicken Soup Brigade and Fremont Public Association to help do what needed doing. One thing led to another and I started working on my Masters degree at Antioch University in downtown Seattle. To get there, I took a bus—either a 10 or a 43—which dropped me off at a place where I had to walk by the needle exchange to get to the school which was in Belltown at the time. A week or two later and I was volunteering there. (The Chicken Soup and Fremont things kind of fell by the wayside once I had reached a level of death overload.) But this needle exchange thing was different and wasn't dealing strictly with with DEATH. I could do this.

And so, I got to know the people who worked at the table and the community and the users and it was some of the users from the U-district who suggested bringing some supplies (needles, alcohol wipes, etc.). I talked to the people I knew with the health dept. about whether they were going to expand to the U-district and they said no because there was no problem there. And while I never set out with a "Fuck you—I'll show you there's a problem" attitude, I did set out with many people's faces in my head. People who had died of AIDS or drug use and I wanted to do my bit to try to solve the problem.

Classic case in point: I once knew this guy named "Gerry-not-Jerry." Well, that's how I think of him. Native American. Major alcohol and drug problems. Always called me "Angel." He would always show up in the U-district and be drunk off his ass (often mere steps away from Magus Books at 42nd and the Ave). For one week of every month and then he's vanish for the rest of the month. While in the U-district and not drunk off his ass, he often had tirades about traffic zipping up and down the Ave. And it often took someone like me to walk into traffic, grab "Gerry-not-Jerry" and pull him off the street—"Get the fuck off the street!"—and put him someplace safe. Was this going to help in any way? Well, it would keep Gerry-not-Jerry from getting killed by a car.

The harm-reduction model would say that this was a step in harm reduction. Maybe, just maybe, some people would say, he'll go get help or something now. Well, we didn't think so either. But we kept him alive. And by being alive, change can happen.

Gerry-not-Jerry died a few years back when his liver or kidney gave out while he was being taken to either jail or detox. I can't remember which. He is missed by a few and remembered by more.

Okay, that's it for now. I will write more later. Bob

April 19, 10:51 am:

AIDS was happening. Crisis, crisis, crisis. I had talked to people with the health department because I volunteered at the exchange at 2nd and Pike. They were talking of expanding but "we mustn't step on anybody's toes." Well I too would rather not step on anyone's toes, but things get lost in committees or put off for another meeting or the paperwork gets held up or... I'd done my homework by getting to know the community in the U-district with my travelling exchange that I'd operated for over a year.

When you are a part of a bureaucracy, you have to take the bureaucracy with you everywhere you go. When you are an individual or a small group, you just have to take yourself, the small group and what you need. It's travelling lightly in a true sense. I relied on myself, I stored things at the house I lived in and worked for free eating any expenses I happened to incur. Supplies all came from the health department. To begin with, I went downtown to the exchange at 2nd and Pike. Then, when I started collecting more and more needles, the health department sent a van to where I lived. (First on Capitol Hill and then Wallingford. I carried around a satchel which had a little bit of everything in it.) Later, when the exchange became more fixed and formal, I used some of the businesses that I had a relationship with to store things. We were all just people helping other people—people with names, faces and sometimes families that we knew. It was like pulling Gerry-not-Jerry out of traffic. I could have formed a committee to do this, but it was much quicker just doing it myself.

When the military located Osama bin Laden, they didn't send in heavy duty tanks and armaments, bombers and god knows what else to kill him. They sent in the Seals (was it the Seals or some other group of assassins?) which went in, did what they were supposed to do and got out as fast as possible. I wasn't trying to create an organization. I was just trying to keep some of the faces in my head alive until the people who should have been doing this work—the health department, etc—realized that the U-district had a bit of a problem. Was it that much worse than in other parts of the city and county? I don't know, probably not, but it's where I had planted myself and felt at home.

When I went public with what I'd been doing, it was on the advice of one of my professors from school. (I was working on my Masters from Antioch University.) I talked to a reporter (Eric Scigliano) from the Weekly (the Stranger had not started yet). The health department denied any knowledge of what I'd been doing which I found odd. The U district chamber of commerce (which I didn't even know existed) expressed faux-concern about the problem. And I kept doing what I was doing with a little more spotlight on me.

The move to the table was done because people needing supplies needed to have a set place to focus on. Not everybody had me walking by them on the street or coming by their houses. It also gave me time to be at work and time not to be. It also gave me my first volunteers—we were all volunteers since none of us were paid—so I could do other things than needle exchange all day. It was also done because Neil Heiman or Scott Soules of the U-district chamber of commerce said a table would never work on the Ave. I thought that was silly and so, without thinking anything through, I took a table out in front of Tower Records one day (I think it was a Friday or Saturday) and it's gone on from there.

April 19, 9:13 pm:

When we last left our intrepid hero...

So I went public, the chamber of commerce were jerks with a lot of "we'd do something if we could" faux concern and I set up the table on the Ave in front of Tower Records. For people new to the city, that's where the Book Corral or something is now right across from University Bookstore. University Bookstore and Tower Records were both large rather permanent entities that had been in the neighbourhood for ages. After all, if I was going to stop a larger tragedy from taking place, I would need to be visible. And the best way to be visible was to be in a place where people could see you.

Now, i'll be the first to admit that I'm sometimes a little less than subtle in how I do things. And yes, this may have been one of those times. But it seemed to me that if I was going to be noticed by anybody who might need new needles or condoms or anything else that the exchange had to offer, we would have to be visible. It also seemed to me that if the police or any frat boys were going to hassle us, it would be best to have a certain degree of visibility to make them think twice. And so it went as we attracted new users, condom users and people who just had questions or concerns about anything and everything. We sort of became the hub of neighbourhood life for many people.

Did I ask permission to be in front of Tower Records? Well, no. But we were on the public sidewalk and we always tried to clean up after ourselves and so we all learned to coexist quite nicely, thank you. And we always tried to be friendly to people who worked of shopped there. From what I've been told but have no data to verify this, if we were outside, people who boosted for a living to pay for their habits or whatever avoided Tower and went elsewhere to ply their trade. I can only remember one occurance of a user getting busted for shoplifting while we worked outside. In that case, the security guard chastised him for risking our existence. When someone tried to start a problem for the exchange, it was usually the members of the community who would jump in to our defense first.

And then there was the chamber of commerce. They hated our guts. Or maybe they just hated my guts. Either way, we had a known enemy in them. But there wasn't much that they could do. I was registered with the state of Washington. We were a federal tax-exempt organisation. And we even stated to get funding from the city and county health departments at the end of our fourth year of existence. And this was really strange for several reasons. I didn't want the job anymore. I just wanted to quit and move onto what was next in my life. I had told people from the health department this too. But the health department wasn't stepping up to take the exchange over. No one was stepping up. So, in my mind at least, I was morally obligated to continue. And then there was the fact that I was a Canadian. I had come to Seattle many years ago but was still a Canadian. Was the health department supposed to be funding Canadian students? Probably not. But according to one person I knew on the granting committee, the committee was given no alternative but to fund us. That, the person told me, was already a given that they had to live with.

And so I stayed on as I started to get paid but still lived with way too much needle exchange paraphenalia around the house I shared with my housemates in Wallingford. This is somewhere around the fifth year of our existence. And now there was also Harris, my new dog/puppy. She would actually turn out to be my soulmate and the reason I would eventually leave the exchange, but that's neither here nor there for the story right now. I now had to keep her occupied and happy as well. It's the least a caring person can do for another life they come in contact with, right?

So Harris and I would go to the U-district everyday. More often than not, I'd be carrying supplies that had been dropped off at our house by the health department. Sometimes it took two, three, or four trips to keep our closet in Beauty and the Books and later the Espresso Roma stocked. I was tired though. Very, very tired.

When the chanber of commerce hired a senior lecturer from the school of social work to get us out of the way and off the Ave, I quickly learned that she didn't do any background work before she offered suggestions as to where to move to. It seemed quite evident that they were trying to get rid of me in the cheapest way possible. So I just blew her off.

And then the chamber had the exchange's funding cut. This was verified by two of the members of the granting committee and, while being highly unethical, may well have been illegal as well. I didn't care any more. I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

I can fill you in more if you want. Bob

* * *

He did fill me in more, but the final email gets into internecine politics of different organizations which are confusing, and minor accusations I haven't verified. The gist is that Quinn says he saw the end coming for the out-in-front operation and it was best that Shilo Murphy took over and PHRA was started in an alley, renting space from a church.

Quinn eventually left PHRA officially, but Murphy says he still stopped by every day and was always consulted for advice before any major decision was made. He was still the figurehead and the godfather.

And, in a sense, he still is.


Comments (81) RSS

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This man helped me more than he ever knew. I was a 15 year old homeless junkie and he was one of the few people to ever show me any kindness. Godspeed Bob, you are remembered in light. Thank you .
Posted by Rdeforrest on April 10, 2014 at 8:36 PM · Report this
It may well be, rather, that when, say, a company or organization is asked by the media to provide a spokesperson to comment on some damn thing, it provides a man rather than a woman great quotes
Posted by abby8754 on December 4, 2013 at 10:49 PM · Report this
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Mentifex 72
I just found out a few days ago about Robert's passing away on 4 November 2012. I first met Robert John Quinn at Green Lake on 4 August 1983, coming up on thirty years ago. The occasion was "toro nagashi" or the "floating lantern ceremony" in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. The Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) were sponsoring the yearly ceremony and they did not like me conducting an anti-warmonger-Reagan protest complete with a large sign of "America Is Ashamed of Reagan", so they sent twenty-five-year-old Robert Quinn to talk and plead with me to take my independent protest away from their ceremony in a public park. I thought that the speechifying, long-winded physicians were arrogant and so I listened politely to Robert but I did not cease and desist from my private protest. Robert kept coming back to me again and again, asking me to go away, but I held my ground. At the PSR ceremony I met a man claiming to be the Catholic priest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Drin… but it was hard for me to believe him because a real Catholic priest would never take the Lord's name in vain. Anyway, in the past thirty years from 1983 I kept seeing Robert over and over again in the University District, but I did not introduce myself until about 2011, when it turned out that Robert and I both knew (codename) "Contessa", about whom I had written a story on Usenet.. I started giving Robert my New York Times here at the Eigerwand coffee shop, as it was called back in the day when I was a UW student, but now it is called the Cafe Solstice. When I spent the first week of June 2013 here at the Solstice, I asked Contessa where Robert was, and she told me that Robert had passed away. Now on the Internet I am finding out the enormous amount of good that Robert Quinn did for hundreds and hundreds of people. Rest in peace, Robert.

Posted by Mentifex http://ai.neocities.org on June 12, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Report this
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I had a few talks with Bob some years ago. I was drawn to him but he soon disclosed that he was relationally challenged: he said that growing up he had felt like there was no place for him in his family and he was easily overwhelmed by social and couple dynamics and needed to live a very simple life. Someone had suggested he get a dog so he could have a close relationship, and they were so right. I was concerned for him when Harris died. I moved away from the U-district in September and had already long ceased being something of a regular there, but I passed through once or twice recently and saw him looking disheveled and like he was in some kind of deep trouble. I did not know how to make contact and did not want to disturb him further. Now I wish I had tried, wish I could go back and do something! It did not occur to me that he could be suicidal. Like Bob I'd volunteered during the AIDS crisis, and the way I chose to help was to learn emotional support and I wish I could give him some now, if he would accept what he so freely gave.

Bob and I even rejected the same graduate program as pretentious and irrelevant. I wish we could have become colleagues. I believe we can prevent addiction, suicide, murder-suicide, abuse, war, and oppression if we discover how to truly help people heal from early trauma and deficits in nurturing and if we can get counseling to parents who have suffered these things. How about a memorial fund in Bob's name for that purpose? I don't remember if I showed him In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Mate' of BC, Canada, or just wanted to, but I think now how appropriate it might have been for them to know each other, work together. Though I didn't know Bob long, I feel deep sorrow.

I've been thinking of these songs by Jackson Browne and Bob Dylan: "Though Adam was a friend of mine, I did not know him long / And when I stood myself beside him, I never felt I was as strong / Still it seems he stopped his singing in the middle of his song..."
"Come all without, come all within / You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn" Peace.
Posted by globalheartwarming on January 11, 2013 at 2:58 AM · Report this
Bob was our housemate in Wallingford in the 1990s. I'm saddened to hear of his passing. I don’t think he was a religious man but he did saint-like work and lived with the same austerity – clearly influenced by those who act and devote their life to a cause. His dog Harris was great and very intelligent. Harris really helped Bob. I can only imagine how saddened Bob was when Harris died. I hope his life work continues to influence others and help those suffering from addiction.
Posted by alteredstates on December 20, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this
A quirky, enigmatic character who embodied the type of empathy and compassion we don't get to see enough. The world will miss you Bob.
Posted by sonofseattle on December 19, 2012 at 8:20 PM · Report this
Bob Quinn was a great man. I have seldom been to Cafe Allegro but know that he was a fixture at Cafe Solstice.

He was a really great guy.

I felt really sad seeing him in September and October, carrying a sleeping back attached to his back pack, and didn't want to ask him about his situation, if he was homeless, or what not. He seemed like he just didn't have a lot of life in him, and his hair noticeably more unkempt.

He changed and touched the lives of so many people, while at the same time he was a very private person.

There was a mention of a manuscript of his life story, and I hope that ends up being published.

I made a donation to this needle exchange, but I am hoping there can be a more meaningful memorial, planting a small garden on the ave in his memory, or adding a park bench.
Posted by DaveOnTheAve on December 8, 2012 at 9:24 PM · Report this
Roosevelt 62
So sad to hear this. I had seen him around for years, talked to him a few times. He will be missed.
Posted by Roosevelt http://www.youtube.com/user/matthewcobrien?feature=mhum on December 5, 2012 at 6:59 AM · Report this
Well shit. This is sad sad news. Bob was a member of my community for 20 years and I was always pleased to see him though I never knew his name. Rest in peace, Bob.
Posted by k.wren on December 4, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
@57, that's definitely Harris. I remember Bob always walking with that leash around his own neck because he wouldn't dare walk with it around Harris'. Thanks for finding that pic!
Posted by happyfamilyfuntime on November 25, 2012 at 1:17 AM · Report this
I knew Bob back in the 80s and my recollection was that when I first met him, he was in the Mennonite Volunteer Corps. Does anyone else remember that? This would have been before he started the needle exchange.
--Desiree Hellegers
Posted by Desiree on November 21, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Just heard about Bob's passing from another fellow Mennonite Volunteer. We (and many others) shared a house with Bob in the late '80s. His gentle, wise, steady presence was a big memory from that time. Was just thinking about him yesterday when I saw mention of Saskatchewan - "hey! I used to know Bob Quinn from there!" My heart hurts. But I know that he continued to live out his ideals. Go out and act on your compassionate instincts today in memory of Bob.
Posted by squirrelathome on November 20, 2012 at 4:16 PM · Report this
I was wondering if people were going to share photos somewhere. I was on Flickr & think I found a photo of Harris tethered outside Suzzallo Library. To see the photo enter this exact syntax into google flickr "Umm... Paprazzi?" Beautiful photo from worldfrank. Reminds me of Bob.
Posted by tryingtolearn on November 14, 2012 at 3:12 PM · Report this
I knew Bob Quinn. He and I started talking on the Ave when I first moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. Soon, we were talking every day as I worked at, first, Cellophane Square, and then later, AKA Books.

Funny to hear him described as cantankerous and such - he was never that way with me. He was patient and kind with my dumbass 20-something self-centered self.

I used to sit with him and Harris now & again in front of Tower Records and watch him offer clear-sighted compassion & understanding to those in need. I learned so much from him. It saddens me to no end that he died feeling alone and despairing.

RIP, Bob Quinn. Your death fills me with sorrow. I hope you and Harris and Moose are walking together and enjoying the sun in Fiddler's Green.
Posted by jammy on November 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM · Report this
I knew Bob Quinn. He and I started talking on the Ave when I first moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. Soon, we were talking every day as I worked at, first, Cellophane Square, and then later, AKA Books.

Funny to hear him described as cantankerous and such - he was never that way with me. He was patient and kind with my dumbass 20-something self-centered self.

I used to sit with him and Harris now & again in front of Tower Records and watch him offer clear-sighted compassion & understanding to those in need. I learned so much from him. It saddens me to no end that he died feeling alone and despairing.

RIP, Bob Quinn. Your death fills me with sorrow. I hope you and Harris and Moose are walking together and enjoying the sun in Fiddler's Green.
Posted by jammy on November 13, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
I moved to Seattle / Capital Hill 25 years ago to join the Mennonite Voluntary Service unit here. I shared a household with 3 other people in MVS, and Bob, our Assoc. VSer, for 2 years. Bob was very much his own person, a person of strong convictions, who was not afraid to be himself! He was a rebel, who wasn't afraid to buck authority, and he always did it with his sense of humor.

He befriended a stray cat, Shante, at the time. From the sounds of previous stories here, that was the beginning of his owning a pet who bonded with him. He'd lie on the floor of our TV room eating his vegetarian meal with Shante right by his side. Shante would often ride around the house on his shoulder somewhere under Bob's mane of hair.

Rest in peace, Bob, gentle spirit. You have left your mark here.
Posted by turgon on November 9, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
Re: Memorial for Bob

My heart goes out to all of you who knew Bob and saw him in the district on a daily-basis. That alley always has been cold and lonely in the early mornings, but even more so now with out that familiar face to greet us...

There are tentative plans to have a memorial and celebration of Bob's life at Cafe Allegro in the coming week, but to my current knowledge there is no official date set. As soon as I have all the information, I will be sure to post a comment here.



Posted by J.Barista on November 8, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
I used to see Bob at Suzzallo so often that I thought he worked there. I never knew about the equally important work he did do, because he was not one to tell you everything about himself. He knew I loved Harris, though, and he shared his dog stories about his other canine friends. When I saw that Harris was no longer accompanying him on his daily rounds, I was reluctant to ask about her, since he had looked so sad earlier when he talked about her increasing age-related disabilities, Now I so wish I had asked. I am in total support of some kind of memorial in the alley where he walked the dogs, talked to the residents, and did the needle exchange. Maybe Doug and the staff at Solstice or the folks at the Allegro could put out a collection jar or something?
Posted by EFR on November 8, 2012 at 8:14 PM · Report this
As a student, I saw him nearly every day with his two little leash-less shelties, walking magically around the UW near 15th. Often times, sitting on a bench as well. I didn't know exactly why, but I knew he was important. He was a magical person. I am sad to see that he has left our world.
Posted by meowwoem on November 8, 2012 at 6:45 PM · Report this
Thank you so much for doing this story. Bob was a friend, and an old roommate. He was fiercely independent as well as fiercly smart while being quirky and stubborn. His love for his beloved canine companion Harris was immense and he cared for her with the biggest heart.
That huge heart and incredible brain were a gift to the world through his needle exchange program and his wandering individual ministerings to those he connected with in the U District on his daily rounds of the area. Next time you eat a cookie or some noodles think of him.
Posted by 6friend on November 8, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
seattleeco 49
I have a feeling Bob might rather have us donate to PHRA than to a memorial for him, but it would be kind of cool to get some small plaque or something that could be in Allegro or that alley to memorialize him...
Posted by seattleeco on November 8, 2012 at 2:59 PM · Report this
I didn't know him personally but I definitely knew who he was. I saw him around the city regularly since I moved here 20 years ago. He had a very definite presence: funky yet elegant, decent but not someone you'd mess with--or so he came across to me; he stood out. I saw him often enough that we actually said hello to each other for a little while and then just stopped one day. We never actually spoke. I read about him and the Needle Exchange (to which I later referred clients once I became a Social Worker). I was very moved by the story about how he set it up.

It's so sad to lose such a good and powerful person.
Posted by know-it-all on November 8, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
I knew Bob when he lived at Fern and Scott's house. He cared for my dog Lev and was responsible for Lev being honored as dog of the week at University Bookstore. Bob sat with Lev when I was out of town. I remember leaving him food, and that he hardly ate anything. Bob lived on air and with his love for Harris.

I tried to maintain our friendship, but Bob was staying at places and caring for people and couldn't stay with us or walk Lev. I wish I had tried harder. I have been missing him and feel his loss sorely.
Judy and Lev
Posted by judithstoloff on November 8, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
I knew Bob through working in Suzzallo Library for 8 years. He dog-sat for several of us on the library staff and was a frequent library user. My pups Augie & later Clancy got to hang out with Harris & Moose a few times while I worked & he would bring them to campus on my breaks so we could play. I have been stunned by his death and the fact that he took his own life. As many others have stated, I wish he would have reached out for some help. We all need a little help now and then. His passing has left a great big hole in many hearts. Peace be with you Bob. Call for Augie Dawg and he will come to you. Give Harris and Moose a big kiss from Susan & Clancy. I hope our paths cross again in another time and place.
Posted by suesanimalfarm on November 8, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
Thank you so much, Bob, for all that you did, and continue to do after death. Your suffering has ended now. Be at peace.
Posted by bastwren on November 8, 2012 at 8:57 AM · Report this
lythea 44
I lived on the ave from 2006-2011, and somehow got fond enough of him just seeing him around that I was sad just seeing the photo and the headline here. Now that I've read about who he was I'm really mourning him. I happened to be in the neighborhood again on 10/30, and I guess I'm glad I saw him one last time. That was the first time I ever saw him without his dog, though, and he did look sad, or I was sad for him. I wish I would have said hi or something.
Posted by lythea on November 7, 2012 at 11:45 PM · Report this
I have known bob since I was born. he had for many years been my mothers friend. When I was 2 or 3 he moved on to a room in my house that we could not have afforded without our many house-mates. Over the years I grew to see him as a controlled and gruffly elegant man. He would baby sit me on days I got home before my parents. We would walk Harris down on the ave together stopping by the allegro and bulldog news. I remember bob picking up "moosemom's" dog from her house down the street and I would see the intamit connection bob could make with animals. Once we were on the ave and we realized my cat had followed us all the way from Ravenna ravine and how bob left Harris to take care of me while he went and caught her. Now looking back I realize that i did not appreciate how much good bob had achieved in his relatively short life.
Posted by Knish on November 7, 2012 at 9:10 PM · Report this
I lived with Bob, in the Mennonite Voluntary Service house, back in '93. Boy, he made some nasty sandwiches! Open faced, cheese & vinegar, as I recall. They stank!

He had to move out in '94 or so, but for years we still referred to that downstairs bedroom as Bob's Room.

Posted by Rex R on November 7, 2012 at 7:20 PM · Report this
Thank you Kathy Fennessy for the kind words - Bob Quinn was surely a local hero, and a gentle soul who I always admired. So sad to hear of his passing. I worked on the Ave for 25 years and still frequent it regularly - it just won't be the same without regular sightings of Bob.
Posted by Hugh Jones on November 7, 2012 at 5:50 PM · Report this
Thanks Brendan and thanks to all the kind comments without a snide remark.
Posted by Kid Anon on November 7, 2012 at 3:13 PM · Report this
So very sad...I am glad that when I met Bob outside of Gould Hall at UW; I asked him his name . I of course had immediately fallen mad about Bob's faithful & beautiful companion, Moose. Sadly, Moose-pup died this late Summer.

I had no idea about the work he did yet, I am so grateful I could greet him by name and give Moose rubs, as I asked Bob how his day was going.

Posted by ximenaB on November 7, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Report this
I witnessed the emotion and pain that the employees of Allegro experienced when the news of Bob's death first came around. I didn't know why everyone was so sad until I pieced it together myself. I used to see him every early morning at Allegro right when it opens at 6:30 am and watch him with fascination and a slight fright due to his fierce presence. I wish I stood up to talk to him or pet his dog, but I'm glad this article was written and his own emails were included in this article. He is a symbol of independence and for that I revere him. RIP.
Posted by akvileb on November 7, 2012 at 10:15 AM · Report this
I'd really like to know when and where the memorial will be as well. He was a hero of mine (I work in the addiction field myself) and this news just broke my heart. There will be a huge hole in the U. District without him. Goddammit. I'm just devastated by this news this morning. :(
Posted by Meg on November 7, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this
I hope to find out when and where the memorial will be as I would very much like to pay my respects. Bob was my friend. I am so sad he died. I hope he is at peace.
Posted by happyfamilyfuntime on November 7, 2012 at 9:18 AM · Report this
Wake up people, this guy was clearly homeless for awhile and nobody do anything about it.
Posted by wes f. on November 7, 2012 at 8:07 AM · Report this
Mr. Quinn is the sort of person for whom we should name our streets and parks. So very sad.
Posted by edd on November 7, 2012 at 12:44 AM · Report this
Seeing Bob walking the Ave with his dogs was a fixture of my undergrad days, but I never spoke to him in person until two weeks ago. I started volunteering at PHRA and chatted with Bob on my first day. I didn't know at the time that the quiet, funny, gentle man I was speaking with had done such brave and remarkable things. RIP, Bob. I wish I had known you better. Your legacy lives on at PRHA, and I'm learning a lot from Shilo and all the other volunteers.
Posted by prhavolunteer on November 7, 2012 at 12:34 AM · Report this
pdonahue 32
Bob Quinn was also active with groups opposing the Contra War in Nicaragua in the 80's too. I took over his job as vollunteer coordinator in the Pledge of Resistance as he transitioned to Act up\Needle exchange work. Solidarity, Bob. We couldn't have done it with out you.
Posted by pdonahue on November 6, 2012 at 6:22 PM · Report this
I saw him every day as he walked the alley behind Schultzy's in front of my office. I had talked with him about how great his dogs were and what a gift he had with them.I got to see Moose's metamorphosis from active puppy to superdog. I was totally impressed with their floating in unison past my window.
I also noticed that he was looking unwell the recent two weeks. And was carrying what appeared to be a sleeping bag. Wish I had said something - was afraid of intruding on his privacy. I had no idea of his legacy, just his quiet dignity. I hardly knew him and yet am very sad to see him go.
Posted by FionaEnzo on November 6, 2012 at 6:04 PM · Report this
I saw him every day as he walked the alley behind Schultzy's in front of my office. I had talked with him about how great his dogs were and what a gift he had with them. I was totally impressed with their floating in unison past my window.
I also noticed that he was looking unwell the recent two weeks. And was carrying what appeared to be a sleeping bag. Wish I had said something - was afraid of intruding on his privacy. I had no idea of his legacy, just his quiet dignity -- and my envy of his canine processions. I hardly knew him and yet am very sad to see him go.
Posted by FionaEnzo on November 6, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
@moosesmom - I am so sorry for your loss. I saw him regularly at the U Bookstore, and I'm heartbroken about his death. Thank you for sharing Moose with him. I wish our world was kinder to people.
Posted by Patti on November 6, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
bbilly 28
@moosesmom - Condolences. I never met you, but Bob spoke very highly of you. He absolutely loved walking Moose and I just wanted to reach out to you to say hi. Bob would certainly want us to all lean on each other for support. I've survived a few suicides of people I care about and have some training, but I highly recommend anyone who feels any guilt get support themselves. A link: http://www.allianceofhope.org/ and my email address is in my slog profile.
Posted by bbilly on November 6, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
He was a great guy. What a terrible shame.
Posted by tkc on November 6, 2012 at 5:27 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 26
@16 That was beautiful. I worked at Cellophane Square from 1988-92, and he would help out every time we did inventory. Kudos to manager Hugh Jones for sliding a little work his way. I'd imagine he took other gigs of that nature to help make ends meet. I didn't know him well, but he was always kind and attentive.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy http://kathleencfennessy.blogspot.com/ on November 6, 2012 at 5:00 PM · Report this
My husband and I were Moose's owners. Moose died without warning just before midnight on September 13. It was a devastating blow to all of us and telling Bob that he had died the following day is one of the hardest things I have had to do. We had planned to have Bob take care of our new dog when we got one, and we have been looking but have not found one yet.

Bob was a part of our family for almost a decade. He was a wry, decent, kind, and gentle man. His work at the needle exchange was brave and so important. It is terribly hard to lose both Moose and Bob in such quick succession.

Harris's death was hard for Bob, but he also felt she never really left him. I think it made a huge difference to him to continue to walk Sadie until she passed and Moose. It absolutely breaks my heart to read that he left a note that said he had "nothing more to care for" as I have been so very worried about precisely this potential turn of events and we were trying to get a dog quickly.

I believe Bob is with Harris, Moose, Daisy, and Sadie and I hope that he is in a better place now. But we who are left here without him are bereft. Rest in gentle peace, Bob. We miss you.
Posted by moosesmom on November 6, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
I work at Cafe Allegro, across the alley from the needle exchange. I'd see Bob every day. He'd sit in the cafe until, and sometimes after, we closed down. He'd brush his teeth, bring leftover pastries to the youth shelter for me, and be on his way. He asked about music that I would play. He told me about his favorites. His favorite Sonic Youth album was Bad Moon Rising, and he'd brighten up when I'd play Loveless (My Bloody Valentine) or Nirvana. He told me so many stories. It's not the same here or anywhere now. Miss you, Bob. I hope you're walking Moose and Harris and Sadie up and down the big Ave in the sky.
Posted by marthacdowney on November 6, 2012 at 4:46 PM · Report this
CC-Rob 23
Sad to hear. RIP
Posted by CC-Rob on November 6, 2012 at 4:31 PM · Report this
I'm so glad to see these responses about Bob. Sometimes, I wondered if people knew what a hero he was... and I too worried about the loss of his dogs. I think one after another was too much for him. He had Harris for years and we used to laugh a lot whenever we crossed paths, but when Harris died ...my discussions with him changed somehow, and then Daisy, and Moose. Damn, I wish I had learned how he was really doing. I always saw him as strong. He helped so many other people. I figured he knew how to find help if he needed it. But he was proud and decent. He did not express his own needs enough. Ah well. I will remember his nonchalant responses to the world's problems. Rest in Peace, Bob.
Posted by free4all on November 6, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
RIP Bob - I remember working with him as a fellow volunteer at the needle exchange table downtown - it must be more than 20 years now. He was a very sweet guy and very spiritual. I really admired him for taking the needle exchange program to the U district as a one man show. It is one thing to volunteer a few hours a week, quite another to dedicate your life to the cause.
Posted by sydinsouthseattle on November 6, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 20
This is so very sad. I saw this man nearly every time I went to Cafe Allegro. He was obviously well-loved by the staff and the regulars there. I only spoke to him once -- I asked an offhanded question about a band playing on the stereo. I had no idea about his history, but you could tell he had a great heart.

Condolences to all whose lives he touched.
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 6, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
I'm so glad to see this response. Sometimes, I wondered if people knew what a hero Bob really was... and I worry the lose of his dogs was too much for him. He had Harris for years and when she died... then Daisy, and then Moose. I wish that I was more direct to learn how he was doing. Like anyone knows about him, he was proud and decent, and probably did not express his own needs enough. Rest in Peace, old friend.
Posted by free4all on November 6, 2012 at 4:17 PM · Report this
seattleeco 18
I hope he's with Harris now. RIP, dear soul.
Posted by seattleeco on November 6, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Remember him as a pioneer, among others, setting up a folding table between 2nd & 3rd on Pike: a needle exchange that was way before its time. I was on the board of the NW AIDS Foundation at the time and marveled at his progressiveness and chutzpah. He did what larger organizations couldn't or wouldn't.

Bravo, Mr. Quinn, a true hero.
Posted by AlanG on November 6, 2012 at 4:11 PM · Report this
bbilly 16
Bob was an incredible, intelligent man and gentle soul. His dog, Harris, died a couple years ago around this time of year and another dog that he often walked, Moose died a couple months back. I spoke with him almost daily and would hear the latest reports of "another Harris sighting." She would often visit him in his dreams. He struggled with depression for quite some time and ... I just ran out of things to say. He was very aware of resources to help him, but I think Bob is ultimately a man destined to wander and exist whether physically or spiritually. I've never met a man who believed more strongly in the spirits of people and animals existing alongside us in this world. I have no doubt that I will have my own Harris and Bob sightings and despite the sadness I feel, I'm confident he has found peace.
Posted by bbilly on November 6, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
Bob was a great listener, the kind you don't find very often. He had an amazing way of connecting with people of all walks of life. Once he showed me a manuscript of his life story and his work starting the exchange...I hope it's floating around somewhere and that someone can make it more widely available.

I'm sad that with all the people he knew, he wasn't able to find the help he needed.
Posted by austenheroin on November 6, 2012 at 3:53 PM · Report this
Bob helped me through some rough patches in my personal development. We had nice conversations at Cafe Solstice and we always greeted each other when we passed. He had a training in Jungian Psychotherapy (not mentioned here in his bio). I always saw him to be kind and a good listener. I wonder how he died...Rest in Peace, Bob
Posted by Sunil on November 6, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
He was a regular at the University Book Store where I worked for three years--I never talked to him, but loved seeing him and his dogs come in. I'm glad I got to know more about what an incredible guy he was and how he made such a difference in our community--thank you so much for sharing that.
Posted by annalisa on November 6, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
I had an espresso cart on the Ave in the early to mid 90s (in front of the old Dawghouse), and later, a little sandwich joint around the corner. Bob was a daily presence in the neighborhood and a frequent customer.

More than once, he shifted my perspective on things. Having a business in the U-District had the tendency to harden even the most liberal of folks, myself included. I remember the first time we ever had a conversation about harm reduction, and how my views on it changed over a series of conversations.

He was the change he wanted to see happen, and someone who really lived out loud and deliberately. I am better for having met him.
Posted by karion on November 6, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Gurldoggie 11
Oh, that's really shitty. He was a really special guy and a local hero. I didn't know him well but I knew him for years, and always thought he was as strong as an ox psychologically. What a sad end for such a good man.
Posted by Gurldoggie http://gurldogg.blogspot.com on November 6, 2012 at 3:19 PM · Report this
I think the pup died a couple years ago.
Posted by jt on November 6, 2012 at 3:09 PM · Report this
This is such sad news. I knew Bob through his most recent dog, Moose, who died suddenly on October 25th.

I knew Bob was a very kind and interesting guy but I didn't know about his important work at all. Thanks for writing about him.
Posted by pancakes on November 6, 2012 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Used to pet and admire his dog. Honestly didn't know the kind of person he was, makes me wish I had struck stronger conversations with him. Does anyone know whats going to happen to the pup? Does it have a home?
Posted by Bloated Jesus is Bloated on November 6, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
RIP, good sir.

a fondly remembered icon of my first (and subsequent) years in seattle.

truly one of the most recognizably earnest people i've ever encountered.

Posted by okane_g on November 6, 2012 at 2:56 PM · Report this
TVDinner 6
I had a friendly acquaintance with Bob and Harris for several years. We ran into each other almost daily at either Magus or the Allegro, or the streets outside. His passing fills me with unutterable sadness.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on November 6, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
He stood out to me in my first visits to the U district back in the early nineties (maybe mid-nineties, I can't quite place how old I was when I noticed him) out on the Ave. handing out clean needles and condoms. I was 11 or 12 or 13 and he epitomized something about the adult world.

I'd seen him around Allegro in recent months and I have to say he wasn't looking so great - I had a sense that he was going through a hard time. I didn't know him, so I didn't say anything - he seemed to have enough friends in the neighborhood. Now I wish I'd just gone up and told him that he was the first example I knew of that kind of service work. Ah well.
Posted by Jude Fawley on November 6, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Thanks for this Brendan.

Bob was a very old and dear friend. We were part of the original core of volunteers at the downtown exchange, I was on his thesis committee at Antioch and for a couple of years drove the health department van to his house to drop off clean supplies and pick up the dirties.

Bob and I had a rocky relationship and it wouldn't surprise me at all if his comments re "internecine politics" and "minor accusations" didn't include me. Despite that, I admired and respected him greatly and loved him dearly.
Posted by gnossos on November 6, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
He really was lovely and decent, at least in my interactions with him, which were all brief. I always loved to see him on the Ave. And his dog, that dog was perfect. Sad to hear, hope he's found peace.
Posted by jt on November 6, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
This is really sad. Bob was a profoundly decent guy, a really great guy.

That little Toy Collie which used to accompany him everywhere mirrored his personality, stoic and profoundly decent.
Posted by sgt_doom on November 6, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 1
RIP brave hero. You will be missed.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on November 6, 2012 at 2:23 PM · Report this

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