... which really should be pronounced "fra" and not "pra."
November 7, 2012 6:50 PM   Subscribe

RIP Bob Quinn. If you've spent any time at the University of Washington, you'll likely recognize him as the guy who wandered, with his well-behaved off-leash dog, up and down the Ave, spending all day at various coffee shops and bookstores. Or if you were using heroin or were otherwise at high risk for HIV in North Seattle anytime between the 1980s and now, you likely recognize him because he may have saved your life.

Quinn started handing out clean needles and condoms on the Ave the 1980s as a response to the AIDS epidemic. "The exchange in many ways was just a gut reaction. It was an emergency, something had to be done and so I did it," he said. "I didn’t think of the consequences or whether it was right or wrong. It needed to be done and I did what I had to do." His informal table in front of the old Tower Records has since morphed into the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, a needle distribution program that will bring needles to you anywhere in King County, and also offers Hepatitis C testing, vein care, and an all-women staff on Tuesdays.

According to reports, he attempted suicide last week, and died at the hospital several days later.
posted by librarina (45 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Damn. Thanks for pointing this out, since I moved away from Seattle I've thought about him often.
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 PM on November 7, 2012

God, how sad. He did a lot of good.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by spinifex23 at 7:02 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by ryanshepard at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2012

I had never heard of him before this. It's so sad that someone who helped so many people couldn't be helped himself.

posted by grouse at 7:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on November 7, 2012

In my memory he's still sitting on the lawn, right here, on a sunny Indian summer day, with his dog.

posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:10 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The comment from "moosesmom" is heartbreaking.

posted by trip and a half at 7:16 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I couldn't find any pictures of him with the dog(s). Please chime in if you have any.

Apparently the most recent dog, Moose, was not his but rather one that he was taking care of during the day. Moose died suddenly in September (according to his owner in the Slog comments) and she was worried about Bob's health without a dog to care for. I was, too. When his dog (was that Harris? I don't know) died, he put up a flyer at Solstice -- presumably other places, too -- inviting people to a memorial. I didn't go, and we had never spoken, but I worried about him. Then pretty soon he had another good off-leash dog trucking up the Ave with him, so I figured he was OK.

I never even asked to pet the dogs, actually, despite being pretty hands-on with dogs in public. I don't know why I didn't approach, and now I wish I had, of course.

The comments on the Slog (the first link, "RIP Bob Quinn") are worth reading, actually. Moose's owner chimes in and says she was worried about him and they were trying hard to find a new dog quickly so that Bob would have something. I think his note that he had "run out of things to take care of" will haunt her for a long while -- and me, too.
posted by librarina at 7:18 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've never met a man who believed more strongly in the spirits of people and animals existing alongside us in this world.

That's plenty, right there.

posted by RolandOfEld at 7:20 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ah no. I passed him on the street several times a week and talked to him many times over the years when I lived in Seattle, often outside Magus or the Allegro. He struck me as both caring and gentle, which sounds exactly right, based on the linked Slog post.

posted by cupcakeninja at 7:27 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks for posting this. He is missed.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:31 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by sheprime at 7:37 PM on November 7, 2012

A good man. I am sad to hear of his passing.
posted by Pudhoho at 7:40 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by The otter lady at 7:40 PM on November 7, 2012

This is tremendously sad. During my years at the UW I'd see him pretty much every day, often at Magus Books as the article mentions and of course at Allegro next door. He did good and important work.
posted by donovan at 7:43 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by runehog at 7:43 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by bmarkey at 7:47 PM on November 7, 2012

A great man, saw a huge need and filled it.

posted by dancestoblue at 7:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


He did good and left a mark. That's more than many of us. Godspeed.
posted by arcticseal at 7:54 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by litlnemo at 7:57 PM on November 7, 2012

posted by Brody's chum at 8:16 PM on November 7, 2012

. Sounds like he will be greatly missed.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:38 PM on November 7, 2012

It seems horrible that someone would not want to live for the lack of a dog to care for.
posted by Yakuman at 8:58 PM on November 7, 2012


He was a former partner's roommate (they had worked together at the needle exchange). His bed was held up by his many philosophy and transpersonal psychology books. We would sit, drink tea, and discuss philosophy and self-organizing politics. I always wondered how he afforded to eat (dog care, it appeared), or if he ate, most of the time.

He did have a bizarre drug-identification skill; he could taste most drugs, even injectables, and ID them, including a fair estimate of their strength, by his tongue!
posted by Dreidl at 9:07 PM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by tristeza at 9:09 PM on November 7, 2012

Yakuman, a friend of mine expressed something similar to me once, though they're in a much better headspace.

I'm always humbled by people like this, and rightly so. The way I stay sane is hoping that for every hateful person scrambling to take the biggest shit on the unfortunate, there's someone like Quinn.
posted by maxwelton at 9:09 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by chance at 10:15 PM on November 7, 2012

So sad. I remember passing his table when I lived there, but never spoke with him. I wish he had found more peace.
posted by Forktine at 10:27 PM on November 7, 2012

A mighty Quinn.

posted by smirkette at 11:05 PM on November 7, 2012

I was friendly with Bob when I lived in Seattle and worked at a record store in the U District in the early 90s. This was when his exchange was called Beyond Chaos and was limited to a table of the Ave and a big bag he used to carry around with him. Often when we were on the bus together chatting he'd be approached by someone and would casually, imperceptibly do an exchange - if you didn't know exactly what was going on, you'd miss it.

Bob was one of the kindest, gentlest, and bravest people I've ever met. He did something quietly extraordinary merely because it was the right thing to do. Like Jessamyn, I've thought of him often since I left Seattle.
posted by googly at 11:05 PM on November 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Bob- whom I always fondly referred to as Dr. Robert Quinn- was known well by many in Seattle, especially those who worked or frequented the University Area. I met him shortly after first moving to Seattle six years ago and considered him a great ally throughout all of my various adventures. His visits to my work place were always one of the high points of the day and I often ran into him as he wandered about the Ave.

Though I have met many inspiring and/or fascinating electric types through my travels, Bob stands out in my mind as one of the most remarkable characters I have ever yet. He had his share of quirks, which led to some parties I know parting ways with him- including a few individuals who offered him housing, but there was a greatness about him that shone like a light in a city that sometimes seems far more pale than it should be.

Finding out about his passing hit me hard. However, I remember our conversations over the past two years- and how badly he wanted to reunite with his beloved companion Harris the dog. Knowing his wit and wry humor all too well, I can't help but smile as I imagine him finally running along side Harris once more, unfettered by time or circumstance in some great hereafter. I suspect that Harris got tied of trying to be reborn and finally convinced Bob that it would be much easier for him to cut though the veil.

I will miss the man. I spent many days last summer exploring his version of Jungian depth analysis, laughing, feeding sparrows, and musing over days past and yet to be.

Farewell, Mr. Quin. You were loved and you shall be missed.
posted by vantam at 12:23 AM on November 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

shit. good man.

posted by Glibpaxman at 1:39 AM on November 8, 2012

This is sad and tragic news. He was a landmark in more ways than one.
posted by y2karl at 1:41 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by Kit W at 3:44 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by koucha at 4:36 AM on November 8, 2012

Heartbroken to learn of his death, so incredibly sad. A beautiful man with a beautiful heart. Thank you for everything, Bob, and safe passage from here.

posted by Sublimity at 4:48 AM on November 8, 2012

Growing up in Seattle, one can take many amazing people and personalities for granted. I recognize him from the Ave - didn't realize all the great work he did.

posted by PistachioRoux at 5:18 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by Halloween Jack at 5:42 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by Madamina at 7:20 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by batmonkey at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2012

posted by ga$money at 8:54 AM on November 8, 2012

I worked for almost a decade in the U-District, had many, many conversations with Bob. It's been several years since I last walked the Ave, but it will never be the same without the familiar colorful characters inhabiting the sidewalks.

This news made me remember Ron Martinez, the longtime Ave street musician who committed suicide in 1996. I can't believe it's been that long. And Edward the Tuba Man, murdered a couple of years back.

I'm incredibly sad over all of their passing.
posted by Jazz Hands at 6:51 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

RIP Bob Quinn, a.k.a. "Smiles" - I remember our conversations vividly. Your death fills me with sorrow.

You did so much good in the world, my friend.
posted by jammy at 3:13 PM on November 9, 2012

posted by Oh OK HA HA at 12:30 PM on November 10, 2012

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