Conductor 'loved railroad' Wife, friend say Quillen liked MARC passenger run

February 24, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

James Quillen had been working only four months as an assistant MARC passenger conductor when he lost his life in the fatal crash in Silver Spring that killed two other crewmen and eight passengers on Feb. 16.

He was remembered yesterday by his widow and a longtime family friend, Jeanie Shugars, of Brooklyn, who was fondly called "Ma" by Mr. Quillen.

Mr. Quillen, 53, lived for 25 years in Brooklyn on Inner Circle, a quiet gently winding street at the top of a hill overlooking the lower Patapsco River and the CSX freight yards where trains can heard slowly making their way along the Curtis Bay Branch.

Mr. Quillen and his wife, Betty, married 15 years ago and moved to Frederick two years ago.

"He never ever mentioned any problems with his work. He liked the passenger run because he liked being around people," said Mrs. Quillen, 46, yesterday in a telephone interview from Galax, Va., where her husband grew up and went to school, and where he'll be buried today after a funeral in the Liberty Hill Cemetery.

"He was a devoted family man and so religious that he always carried his Bible with him and had it last Friday," Mrs. Quillen said.

"He always wanted to help people, and I know in my heart that if he could have gotten anyone off the train he would have. He did his job to the end. It's a comfort to me to know that he did that."

"We're all hurt over it," she said. "There is great sadness in this neighborhood.

"He had just started working that route in October and seemed to be happy with it," she said. "It was a regular run and was different from his old job. He loved the railroad."

Mrs. Shugars said she last saw Mr. Quillen a few weeks ago when he came by for a brief visit while he was between trains at Camden Station.

"His last goodbye was, 'Don't worry, Ma, I'll be back to see you as soon as I get another layover,' " recalled Mrs. Shugars in a choked voice.

"I was so sorry to see Jim and Betty move away to Frederick. We were like family," she said.

The day after the accident, Mrs. Shugars went to Frederick to sit with Mrs. Quillen, their son, Robert, 12, and other family members while they waited for railroad officials to bring the news they dreaded.

Mrs. Shugars described Mr. Quillen as "a quiet, conscientious and religious man" who liked building and flying model airplanes with his son and neighborhood children.

He liked taking pictures of friends and neighbors and giving them as gifts, and collecting Buddy Holly, Elvis Presly and Big Bopper records from the '50s.

Mr. Quillen, an Air Force veteran, also is survived by a son, John Quillen of Pasadena, a daughter, Virginia Quillen of Brooklyn, from a previous marriage, and a stepdaughter, Lisa Colbert of Hawaii.

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