Charles McQuinn was remembered Monday as a man whose life — much of which he dedicated to the lakes area — ended much too soon.
McQuinn, 41, Brainerd, died in a single-vehicle crash Friday afternoon in Aitkin County, the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department reported Monday. McQuinn was a real estate developer in the lakes area who devoted much of his time to community involvement with a goal of making the area better for the future.
McQuinn was driving westbound on Aitkin County Road 2 when his vehicle left the roadway, hit a road approach and flipped. Emergency personnel responded to the crash at 2:23 p.m.
McQuinn was pronounced dead at the scene.
“This is a terrible tragedy for our family, his many friends and the community he loved so much,” said McQuinn’s sister, Anne E. McQuinn. “He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him.”
While the cause of the crash remained under investigation Monday, the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department said speed appeared to be a factor. McQuinn’s fiancee, Misty C. Jensen, 39, Brainerd, also was in the vehicle during the crash. She was treated at Mille Lacs Health System in Onamia and released. Both McQuinn and Jensen were wearing seat belts.
On Monday, Jensen said McQuinn put his heart and soul into his community and his family.
“He loved his three daughters. He was an excellent father and an excellent man,” Jensen said.
McQuinn, a Twin Cities native, was a graduate of The Blake School. He attended Montana State University and the University of St. Thomas, where he received degrees in business and Spanish.
After graduation he joined Ag-Chem Equipment Company Inc., a family-owned business, where he played a major role in product development. It was always a dream to move to the Brainerd lakes area, his family said.
McQuinn put an emphasis on community involvement and was currently serving on the boards of Ski Gull and the Gull Lake Yacht Club. He was a co-founder of the recently opened Discovery Woods Montessori School.
Longtime friend and fellow board member D.J. Dondelinger said McQuinn wanted to give back to the lakes area and wanted to provide opportunities for area children who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to take part. McQuinn was involved in planning process for the Brainerd Family YMCA’s expansion in 2000.
“He was just a great guy,” Dondelinger said. “He did a lot of things for Brainerd. He’s going to be missed by me and a lot of people.”
McQuinn opened Lake Region Storage along Highway 371 in Baxter, one of several storage facilities he had in the state. He also formed Terra Vista, a real estate development company.
“It’s going to leave a real hole in the community,” said Rob Gifford, McQuinn’s property manager. “We all really loved the man. He’s going to be missed.”
Gifford said McQuinn was energetic, caring and compassionate. Most recently McQuinn, a Gull Chain of Lakes Association Board member, turned his energies to researching efforts to combat invasive lakes species zebra muscles. Gifford said he was communicating with a university researcher regarding a zebra muscle killer.
His attachment to the lakes area began when his family, based now in Naples, Fla., vacationed here when he was a child. Gifford said he fell in love with the area. While he could have lived anywhere, he chose the Brainerd lakes as his home.
“He was an outstanding man,” Gifford said.
Laurie Fitterer, Ski Gull Board president, said Ski Gull is still in the community because of the McQuinn family and largely Charles McQuinn’s efforts.
“Charles has been a driver of that vision,” Fitterer said, noting he was involved in operations as well as fundraising. “It was a true passion of his and a legacy, too, that hill is impacting so many children’s lives because of him.”
McQuinn had the financial background where he could have lived anywhere or been involved in his own pursuits. Instead he chose to be involved, Fitterer said, adding he devoted himself to improving the lives of children.
Fitterer said she learned a lot from McQuinn regarding business and as a great friend.
“From every angle he will really be missed,” she said. “He’s a great guy. His life was cut way too short. It’s just a tragedy.
“I’m just really going to miss him.”
Mike Burton, Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation director, said: “I know that Charles had a tremendous passion for the area and making things better and making things stronger for the future — Ski Gull and the yacht club and other recreational opportunities.
“He was interested in helping on many fronts in the community and very passionate about the area and it’s quality of life.”
McQuinn is survived by his fiancee, Jensen; his daughters Lillian Louise, Silvia Starr and Merriam Matilda; Jensen’s children Garrett, Kiel, Madison and Noah; his parents Alvin E. and Mary Agnes McQuinn; sisters Anne E. McQuinn, Susan (Doug) Arndt and Mary (Jim) Jetland; two uncles and their extended families; and 10 nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be 5-7:30 p.m. Thursday at Washburn-McReavy Strobeck-Johnson Funeral Chapel, 1400 Main St. in Hopkins. Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at St. Thomas Chapel on Cleveland Avenue at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation-Charles McQuinn Memorial Fund; the University of St. Thomas; or the Life Healing Center in Santa Fe, N.M.
A private interment will be observed in Nisswa at a later date. A memorial celebration and fundraiser honoring McQuinn will be held the summer of 2012 in Brainerd.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.