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Former NFL side judge and Cedar Rapids civic leader Bill Quinby dies at 92

17-year NFL veteran and “moral compass” of Cedar Rapids, Iowa has passed away



Bill Quinby, former Big Ten and NFL official, and civic leader in his community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has passed away at the age of 92.

Quinby was a side judge in the NFL during his entire 17-year career that spanned from 1978-1994. He wore number 58 for most of his career. During his career, Quinby served on crews lead by Gordon McCarter, Jerry Seeman, Chuck Heberling, Fred Wyant, Dick Hantak, Jerry Markbreit, Dale Hamer and Tom White. He was assigned a total of 13 playoff games in 17 seasons: three wild card games, four divisional playoffs, five conference championship games and Super Bowl XIX.

Quinby lived almost all his life in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was a star football, basketball, and baseball player in high school. He was going to play baseball at the collegiate level at Iowa, but injuries ended those hopes. After college, Quinby was a teacher and principal in the Cedar Rapids School District for 20 years. He then was a career counselor and athletic director at Coe College.

Wanting to stay close to athletics after college, Quinby took up officiating football, working his way up through the high school and college ranks and joined the Big Ten in 1965.

A long-time partnership

Quinby was on Big 10 and NFL crews lead by Jerry Markbreit. Markbreit remembered his friend in an email to Football Zebras:

Bill Quinby was a great official and a special friend to those who knew him. We were together for the Big Ten and the NFL. His strength in all the things he did inspired many. I loved him and will miss him.

Markbreit and Quinby were on the same Big 10 crew in 1971. After that season, they were assigned to the Rose Bowl between Michigan and Stanford. Quinby made a great call in that game off of a missed field goal that bizarrely ended up being a safety.

Quinby went to the NFL and racked up an impressive number of accomplishments. Being assigned to five championship games is something to be proud of. Those championship assignments included two instant classics: the 1987 AFC Championship game (“The Fumble”), and the 1990 NFC Championship game where the New York Giants upset the favored San Francisco 49ers, 15-13.

Two retirements

Quinby initially retired after the 1989 season. But, in the offseason Art McNally called Quinby and asked him to come out of retirement. Some active NFL officials had become ill, and the NFL needed experienced officials. The side judge came out of retirement and there was no rust to knock off. He worked the aforementioned 49ers-Giants championship game after un-retiring.

In the middle of the 1994 season, Quinby got knocked out of a game with rib injuries after three players plowed over him on a punt play. After a night’s stay in the hosptial, doctors and NFL supervisor of officials, Jerry Seeman, encouraged him to retire.

After leaving the field, Quinby spent five more years scouting officials at college games and observing NFL crews at Green Bay Packer games.

Civic leader

As impressive as Quinby’s athletic and officiating career was, he was a beloved civic leader in Cedar Rapids. Quinby volunteered time to several civic and charity groups and he lead efforts to build a new minor league baseball stadium.

Cedar Rapids city council member Dale Todd told the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Quietly and behind the scenes, he provided counsel and inspiration to several generations of leaders in our community and, when faced with tough choices, to make the right decision. I have often asked myself, “What would Quinby do?” He was our moral compass.

A profile by KCRG in Cedar Rapids showed him dedicating his time to the Special Olympics. He took simple pleasure in his later years just mowing the Coe College baseball field with a good cigar; that venue was named in his honor, Bill Quinby Field.

Quinby is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His son, William, and his wife of 63 years, Janis, preceded him in death.

Our condolences to all who knew him and loved him. The text of his obituary appears below.

Bill Quinby, 1932-2024

William Hay Quinby, 92, of Cedar Rapids, passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 20, 2024 at the Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House after a week of family and friends surrounding and embracing him with love and friendship.

Bill is survived by his children Kathy Quinby Victoria, MN, David Quinby (Karen) Wayzata, MN, and Karen Delaney (Mike) Robins, Iowa. Grandchildren, Becky Quinby (Gracie Hyland), JD Quinby (Abbey), Scott Quinby (Elena), Sarah and Leeza Johnson, Morgan, Emma (Ben), Claire, and Jack Delaney. Great-grandchildren Millie, Alma and Fitz Hyland and several nieces and nephews. He is proceeded in death by his wife of 63 years, Janis, his eldest son, William Scott, parents and sister and brother-in-law, Jon and Carolyn Renner.

Bill was born on February 27, 1932, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of William and Pauline (Hay) Quinby. He graduated from Franklin High School in 1949, where he lettered in football, baseball and basketball. Bill attended the University of Iowa, earning a bachelor’s degree in physical education and later a master’s in education administration. He entered Iowa planning to play football and baseball, but after a career ending injury, he became the manager of the football team under Coach Evashevski, but continued to play and letter on the baseball team. Once working back in Cedar Rapids, he met a special, beautiful young woman, Janis Bailey, at a teacher meeting. He was lucky enough to marry her on August 6, 1955 in Clarion, Iowa.

Bill had a diverse career. He was an educator and administrator in the Cedar Rapids school district for many years, then moved into HR working at Nissan Corp. and CMF&Z, had a stop in real estate at Skogman Homes and finished his career at Coe College as Director of Career Counseling, adding Athletic Director for the final few years. Throughout all this he was a football referee, starting with high school and small college games, then 14 years in the Big 10 and finishing with the NFL for 22 years. He met wonderful people, traveled around the world, with the highlight of his career refereeing in the 1985 Super Bowl.

Bill was very proud of being a lifelong Cedar Rapidian and had wonderful stories of growing up near Daniel’s Park, being one of “Barney’s Boys,” playing little league, playing in high school championship football and baseball games, umpiring youth sports and teaching many in Cedar Rapids how to swim and lifeguarding at Elmcrest Country Club for 14 summers. As an adult, he shared his love for Cedar Rapids serving on several committees/boards, helping fundraise and donating to the Community Health Free Clinic, the Kernels Stadium and Prospect Meadows, as well as campaigning for local option sales tax to renovate the public pools. He enjoyed spending time and volunteering with his special friends through the ARC, Washington High School and the Special Olympics. In retirement, he could often be found at Daniels Park mowing the Kohawk field on the riding mower with a cigar in his mouth. He was very humbled receiving many awards throughout his lifetime, but Bill was especially honored to receive the key to the city and the proclamation of Bill Quinby Day, December 15, 2015 and the renaming of Daniels Park ballfield to Quinby Field in 2016.

Bill was very proud of his family, especially all his grandchildren and great grandchildren, enjoying frequent phone calls or visits from them when in Cedar Rapids! He lived an amazing, full life, told fantastic stories of life in CR and often said, “I’m a lucky guy.” Bill surrounded himself with wonderful people and as a result, had a lifetime of amazing friends from all facets of his life. Our dad was a wonderful man and together with our mom, taught us the importance of hard work, responsibility, giving back to our community and the love of family and friends.

The family would like to thank the staff of Emery Place, Mercy Palliative Care, Hospice of Mercy, especially Amy and Chaplain Kyle, and the Dennis & Donna Oldorf Hospice House for their loving care. There were several special people in Bill’s life who frequently visited, took him for rides and made weekly check-in phone calls. The list of people is long, and we are afraid we would miss a name, but we want you to know how grateful we are that you were a special part of our dad’s life.

Per Bill’s wishes, there will be no funeral service and his body has been donated to the University of Iowa Medical School – always a Hawkeye! A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date to give the family an opportunity to say thank you to his many friends for a lifetime of wonderful memories.

In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to The Community Free Medical Clinic, 947 14th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52302, Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House, 315 18th Ave., Hiawatha, IA 52233, or The ARC of East Central Iowa, 680 2nd St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401. If you really want to honor Bill, go out and invest in your community and volunteer – it truly brought him great joy throughout his life.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"