Joan Mary Henn, who made international news in 1946 when she and her three brothers arrived in a multiple birth at St. Agnes Hospital, died Tuesday at her Albuquerque, N.M., home from uterine cancer. She was 53.
An early childhood special education teacher for the Albuquerque public schools, she had been head women's basketball coach at the University of Arkansas in the 1970s and 1980s.
She was the daughter of Charles J. Henn Jr., a Baltimore bookbinder and Army sergeant who married the London-born Dorothy Geast, a member of the British army. The couple wed on Jan. 1, 1945, in England during the last months of World War II.
Medical tests predicted the births - an event that was eagerly awaited in Baltimore for nearly a month before the event.
In the early evening of Dec. 22, 1946, Dr. Thomas S. Bowyer delivered the quads at St. Agnes. Three boys arrived first. A girl, named Joan Mary, was the last.
"Here's at least one girl for the Henn family," her mother was quoted as saying at the time of the births. She then asked for a cup of tea.
Donations came in from milk companies. Sam Pistorio, a builder, constructed a Cape Cod house on Park Drive for the Henns at cost. Hollywood newsreel companies filmed the quads.
As the Henn siblings grew up and moved on, they kept track of one another's accomplishments in a composition notebook they mailed to one another.
"She was a modest lady who carried a lot of achievements," said her brother Bruce Henn, who flew from his home in Annapolis to New Mexico about a month ago to nurse his sister through her final illness.
A graduate of Catonsville High School, she majored in physical education at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she graduated in 1968. For the next five years she taught physical education at Towson High School.
She received a master's degree in adaptive physical education at the University of Michigan in 1975, the same year she was named assistant women's basketball coach at the University of Indiana. From 1978 to 1981 she was head women's basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.
For the past 14 years she worked with children with special needs in the Albuquerque school system. Most recently, she was a resource teacher for other educators in that field. "Her whole life was dedicated to helping children," said another brother, John J. Henn of Catonsville, who was born the year before the quads arrived.
Remembered as a woman who spent many hours outdoors, she had a strong will to succeed.
"She was determined never to give up. She fought for what she believed in," said Ardell Fitzgerald, a friend in Albuquerque. "She loved hiking in the Sandia Mountains. Nature was nurturing to her."
This past summer she made a final trip to Alaska to see the mountains and glaciers, and there, Ms. Fitzgerald said, "for one week she forgot she had cancer."
Her mother, Dorothy G. Henn, died Dec. 22, 1986, on the 40th anniversary of her quads' birth.
Her father, Charles J. Henn Jr., who retired from bookbinding in the 1980s, resides in Virginia Beach, Va.
Plans for a memorial service in Albuquerque are pending.
She is also survived by brothers Thomas J. Henn of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Donald J. Henn of Virginia Beach.