Former NFL referee and beloved friend of the city of Cedar Rapids Bill Quinby passed away over the weekend. He was 92 years old. The amount of amazing things that Quinby accomplished in his life could fill this page and many more. He was a teacher and coach for years in the Cedar Rapids School District. He went from a coach to a referee and turned it into a professional career that led him all the way to the Super Bowl. He was also a community leader who helped get the new Veterans Memorial Stadium constructed and lent his hand to countless other charities. And along the way, he did amazing things for people like me, just because he could.

I never had the privilege of meeting Bill Quinby. The same cannot be said for my wife, Holly. After we were married in 1999, she went to work at the Oakland Road Hy-Vee floral shop in Cedar Rapids. One of her regular customers was Bill Quinby. Bill would stop by at least once a week to buy roses for his wife Janis. Somewhere along the way, Bill and my wife got to talking. She discovered this regular customer used to be an NFL referee!

YouTube via Coe College/Canva
YouTube via Coe College/Canva

Somewhere in their conversations, Bill asked my wife if her husband was a fan of an NFL team. Holly told Bill of my love for the Green Bay Packers. Bill asked if we had ever been to a game at historic Lambeau Field. We had not. Then Bill Quinby did something that he no doubt did for countless other people during his life.

After returning home from work one evening, Holly told me she had something amazing to show me. Her regular customer, the former NFL referee, had given Holly and me tickets to see Green Bay host Chicago at Lambeau Field. The tickets were in the front row of the North endzone. He even included a media parking pass. The game was the day before our first wedding anniversary. What an amazing gesture from a man who built a lifetime of doing wonderful things for other people. Holly thanked him and asked what we owed him for the tickets. He just said, "Enjoy your anniversary."

Not every story has a fairy tale ending. It turned out Holly couldn't take the weekend of the game off due to store inventory. She insisted I go. We couldn't give away such an amazing gift. So I spent the weekend of my first wedding anniversary in a hotel room in Green Bay with Bob James. Oh, and the Packers lost to the Bears 27-24.

Despite the loss, Holly and I were fortunate enough to return to Green Bay many more times and got to witness plenty of Packer wins. But I'll always remember my first trip to Lambeau. All thanks to the generosity of a man I never got the chance to meet.

Thank you, Bill Quinby. Thank you.

Ryan Brainard
Ryan Brainard

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