Willie Belle Quinn
April 9, 1946 - April 19, 2021
On April 19, 2021, the Lord peacefully called our beloved, Ms. Willie B. Quinn home for eternal rest after a long battle with dementia. She was a resident of Baptist Health Nursing Home in Scotia for the past four years, and a longtime resident of Albany for over 50 years. She was born on April 9, 1946 in Childersburg, Alabama to the late Pearlene Kirkland and the late George Quinn. She was the youngest girl of nine children, accepted Christ at a very early age and was baptized at Shady Grove Baptist Church in Childersburg.
Willie B., affectionately known to family as Bee Bee or Aunt Bee, was a proud graduate of Phyllis Wheatley High School in Childersburg and a member of the Class of 1964. After graduation, she relocated to Albany, New York. After arriving in Albany, she established a career in healthcare with Albany Medical Center in 1965 where she worked for several years, and later transitioned to Child’s Hospital where she worked as an Operating Room Technician for almost 20 years. She established great relationships with patients, doctors and staff, and even continued private aftercare with one of her dear patients, Ms. Kelly, while working at Child’s.
In 1991, Willie decided to continue her divine purpose in helping others and made a notable career switch to education. She joined the City School District of Albany as a Paraprofessional and compassionately served elementary special education students at schools throughout the City including School 27, Hackett Middle School and Arbor Hill, graciously working to meet the special needs of each individual student with exceptional quality and dignity. She was known by her students for her firmness and ability to discipline with great compassion and care while still making them each feel special, loved and academically gifted despite their unique learning differences. She received many awards and personal thank-you notes from students, teachers and principals throughout the years for her kindness and for the love she brought to the classroom.
She loved serving the students and enjoyed celebrating holidays with them, dressing in her many festive sweaters to commemorate the various holidays. After 16 years of dedicated service, she retired from the School District in 2008. This past week, a former student wrote in their tribute to Willie, “You were the best teacher and friend to me. I remember you teaching me math at Arbor Hill School. I remember you coming into Stewarts on Southern Blvd. to play your numbers and talking to you. You are the best and thanks for taking the time out and teaching me what I didn’t know.” Another student wrote, “She was the best teacher in School 27.” This is a testament of how she consistently was throughout her life: helpful, kind and caring.
Willie was a remarkable friend to many with a heart of pure gold, and would give the shirt off her back. She selflessly gave of herself to family, friends and anyone in need. She always said, “a friend in need, is a friend indeed”. She was someone you could rely on in the most difficult times.
She was a very quiet and meek woman yet a powerhouse with a no-nonsense attitude and great wisdom. She was a woman of great honor, dignity and strength. She was incredibly trustworthy, intentional and impactful to every person she encountered.
Willie had a great love for being at home, cooking and baking, and was excellent at both. She loved to create many delicious recipes and gather with family no matter the occasion. She also had a talent for making preservatives and jams, pickled vegetables and just simply adding love to the home in many other domestic ways including her prized collection of elephant figurines. The symbolic elephants were parallel with her good moral character which exuded strength and power. Elephants, like her, are gentle giants, who show great care toward their herd, offspring and elders which symbolizes responsibility, determination and loyalty.
Willie also had a talent for tailoring, altering and repairing clothing garments on her sewing machine and would often make clothing repairs and custom tailoring for family and friends. There was no need to take your clothes to the cleaner for repair because people knew she could swiftly stitch clothes to perfection with no problem.
Fondly, Willie loved to play her daily numbers and many years ago enjoyed gathering with close friends to play a friendly competition of card games such as Spades and Bid Whist, always surrounded by her delicious homemade meals. She was an avid viewer of Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, CNN and other news programs. She liked to stay abreast of local and global news, and always said, “it’s important to know what’s going on in the world” so you could routinely catch her watching the news at any time of the day. Her daughter and grandchildren enjoyed watching the trivia shows with her.
In the Third Ave community in which she lived for 30 years, she was known for her flavorful icees that she provided to the countless neighborhood kids. Recently, many adults shared their childhood memories of coming to her door for their favorite 25 cent frozen treat. After living on Third Ave for three decades, in 2004, she was fortunate to purchase her first home in Albany’s southend where she continued to live prior to moving with her daughter to Niskayuna in 2015, and later to Baptist Health in Scotia in 2017.
After retirement, she briefly joined the Senior Center of Albany where she would spend time during the day participating in activities and fellowship with other local retirees; and later attended the Senior Center of Schenectady.
Willie was also a former member of Union Missionary Baptist Church in Albany where she humbly served as an Usher, a doorkeeper of the Lord.
She dedicated her life to Christ, and equally dedicated her life to being a wonderful mother to her only child, Shari (Quinn) Wilson; and was a devoted and loving grandmother to her three precious grandchildren, Sharia, Ruffus (Pop) and Malik Yates. She was a large part of their lives with great teachings of human decency, hardwork and excellence. She helped shape whom they each are today. When Shari and the kids relocated to Georgia from 2003-2011, Willie joyfully made trips to spend time with her grandchildren and routinely mailed care packages overstuffed with all kinds of treats, snacks and her infamous homemade Zucchini bread. Throughout their lives, she took time to celebrate all special occasions, never missed giving or mailing a generous card for the simplest holidays including birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, graduations. She was always present and always bearing gifts just because. She also loved and adored her two great-grandchildren, Anthony and DeShari’ay, both 10; and unfortunately she didn’t have the opportunity to meet her new great-grandson, King.
Willie leaves to cherish her memory and legacy to her only child, Shari Wilson of Berkeley, Calif.; her dear grandchildren, Sharia Tashee Yates of Los Angeles; Ruffus “Pop” Yates, IV of Albany; and Malik Zaire Yates of San Francisco; her precious great-grandchildren, DeShari’ay Marie Yates of Charlotte, North Carolina; Anthony Leewon Caraway, Jr. and King Lee Sanders, both of Los Angeles; her two sisters who were also her best friends, Anne Marie Quinn-Brace of Montgomery, Ala. and Katie L. Quinn-Lawson of Albany, New York; brother, Melvin Hamilton of Childersburg, Ala.; son-in-law, John Wilson of Berkeley, Calif.; and two newly expected great-granddaughters, Kendall Sivana Yates and London April Sanders, both anticipated to arrive this June, one day apart. She is also survived by a host of nieces, nephews and extended family, a special son, Rufus Yates, Jr. of Montgomery, Ala.; and close friend of many years, Rufus Turman, of Albany.
She was predeceased by her parents, Pearlene Kirkland of Childersburg, Ala. and George Quinn of Catskill, New York; her sisters, twins Barbara Johnson Shepard and Margaret McMillian; sister, Mattie Mae Swain; brothers, Charles Hamilton and Jessie Frank Hall, all of Childersburg, Ala.; and brother-in-law, the Hon. Nebraska O. Brace of Albany.
The family takes solace in the fact that the Lord never fails, and we are thankful He saw fit to call her home to her royal place in Heaven. We would like to give a special thank you to Baptist Health Nursing Home in Scotia where Willie was a resident for the past four years. A special thank you to her grandson Ruffus Yates, whom she affectionately called Poppy, for immensely looking after his grandmother and pre-COVID regularly visiting his grandma with her favorite treat in tow, the Almond Joy candy bar; her great-niece LaQuanda Lawson who was always on standby to step in when needed in Shari’s absence, and both Ruffus and LaQuanda for immediately being by Willie’s bedside after she took her final breath.
Thank you to everyone who has expressed their condolences, called, sent cards or a text, and posted condolences online. Your warm thoughts are deeply appreciated and will be acknowledged by the family in the near future. An additional thank you to Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Missionary Church for keeping Willie on their prayer list and calling out her name for the past year during their weekly prayer call.
Committal, Graceland Cemetery, 680 Delaware Avenue, Abany. After the cemetery, the family will host a repass, a light dinner will be served in Willie’s honor at Melvin Roads Post, 200 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer, New York.
Services for Ms. Willie B. Quinn will be held on Monday, April 26, 2021. A public viewing is from 10-11 am followed by a public funeral service from 11am-12 pm at Elijah Missionary Baptist Church, 74 Second Ave, Albany, New York with Rev. Dr. Elgin Joseph Taylor Sr., Senior Pastor of Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church officiating. All are welcome to attend in accordance with social distance guidelines. Masks are required.
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