Abandoned by his mother, the baby boy — he was about 2 — ended up at an Indiana orphanage during the Great Depression.
His luck changed when a WWI veteran and his wife filled out the “boy or girl” portion of an adoption application with the words: “any child we can love.”
That veteran, William Earl Quigley, made his adopted son his namesake and gave him whatever else he could working as a handyman and farmhand in a rural area outside Indianapolis.
The origin story stayed with him always — from when he served in the Army during the Korean War era as a newlywed to the time he retired with a pension from AT&T — and formed the bedrock motivation of his life: “You work hard to give your kids a better chance than you had.”
On Saturday, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Quigley, 92, died knowing he did just that.
His daughter Chris is a retired school superintendent. His daughter Linda was a social worker. His son Dan, who passed away two years ago, owned a used-record store. And his son Mike is a U.S. congressman.
“He didn’t like most politicians, so the irony that his son grew up to be one was not lost upon him,” said Mike Quigley, who represents Illinois’ 5th Congressional District.
Despite that fact, Mr. Quigley insisted on standing the entire time as his son was sworn in to the House of Representatives in 2009.
Mr. Quigley regularly wrote letters to politicians calling out “idiocy and hypocrisy” and dinner conversation could easily be mistaken for political debate at the Quigley house.
Whatever adopted dog the family had at the time — there were many and they were all called “Missy” because it was easy to remember — was certainly well fed.
“He’d spoil those dogs rotten, and sing to them even, because they went through similar things as him. He knew what it was like to be an orphan,” Mike Quigley said, recalling his dad’s habit of mixing table scraps with gravy and offering it to the dogs.
Mr. Quigley had a unique appreciation for food surpluses.
“When you’re hungry, you’ll eat anything,” he recalled his father saying. “We’d be like, ‘Yeah, right!’ And he’d never elaborate, he’d just say ‘Trust me.'”
Mr. Quigley, who went by Bill, was starting his second year at Purdue University when he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He married Joan Louise Deputy in the chapel of a military training facility in Georgia; the couple celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary last June.
Mr. Quigley spent his post-military career working for AT&T as a supervising engineer. A promotion brought him to the Chicago area in 1967. He settled in Carol Stream. Upon retirement, he moved to Ottawa, Illinois, where he volunteered at a homeless shelter and served on the Ottawa Planning Commission.
His hobbies included chess and reading. He also built radios, stereos — and his family’s first color TV.
He was also fanatical about the Indianapolis 500; he sported his checkered socks and stopwatches to the race on as many as 60 occasions.
“To me he represented a more realistic aspect of the American Dream. He did it all to put a roof over our heads and food on the table,” Mike Quigley said.
“He came from less than nothing and he raised four kids. My accomplishments are a shadow compared to what he was able to do,” he said.
In addition to his wife and children, Quigley is also survived by six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Services are pending.