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Wartime romance

Vet builds marriage amidst World War II

Frank and Annamarie Quinlan (click for larger version)
November 09, 2011 - When Frank Quinlan of Springfield Township wears his Navy uniform in local veterans events, it's the one issued to him in the middle of World War II.

"It's 66 years old – I wore it last Sunday in a flag ceromony for veterans in Livonia," said Quinlan, 91.

He was stationed at Crow's Landing, an auxiliary base near Naval Air Station Alameda in California.

The base was secret, making it difficult for his wife, Annamarie, to visit the first time.

"They said there was no base there," said Annamarie, who later joined him at the base.

Frank was assigned to PB4Y-2 patrol bombers, mostly the plane called "Green Cherries."

"The planes flew over the Pacific patrolling for Japanese subs," he said. "I worked in the ground crew, gassing them up, keeping them flying."

Frank was born in Canada. Orphaned at a young age, he gew up in three orphanages before emigrating to the United States.

"I was a 'nickel immigrant' – it cost a nickel to ride the ferry," he said.

Frank and Annamarie Quinlan in 1945. (click for larger version)
He joined the Merchant Marines when he was 21, living in Chicago.

"I would see the freighters go by and thought, 'I want to do that work,'" he said. "I did that for three years and then the war came on."

He sailed the Great Lakes in the J.E. Upson and other freighters until he was drafted into the U.S. Navy in January 1945, serving until April 1946.

His younger brother, the late Louis Quinlan, remained in Canada. He flew Lancaster bombers with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war.

"He flew 47, 48 missions over France and Germany," Frank said.

Frank and Annamarie met before he was drafted. A friend of his was dating Ann's sister.

"I was ship keeper on a freighter and there was nothing to do," Frank said. "He said he knew a girl in Ferndale. I didn't even know there was a Ferndale."

That's where Annamarie grew up. When they met, she was working at Ft. Wayne Ordinance in Detroit, making Jeeps, halftracks, amphibious trucks, and other Army vehicles.

Despite a warning from her mother not to marry a sailor, they started going out. One of eight children, Annamarie's family life appealed to Frank.

"I wasn't a family man. I lived where I hung my hat, on ship and in hotels in winter," he said. "I liked the home-life atmosphere, so I settled down and got married."

They married in 1944.

After the war, they settled in Ferndale, and Frank served on the Ferndale Fire Department for 18 years.

They moved to Davisburg in 1965, where they ran building, cement, party store, and other businesses.

They raised four children, Christine, Colleen, Patrick, and Sean, and have 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Frank is active with the AmVets in Milford and American Legion Post 63 in Clarkston. He wears his Navy uniform at local flag ceremonies, parades, military funerals, and veterans and community events.

"I march to honor my country, and to show the history of our generation, defending our country," he said.

He enjoys meeting young veterans and service men and women.

"I have great faith in the youth of today," he said. "I appreciate what they do for our country."

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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