By Meghan Tompkins
Lorraine Quinn and Irene McGuire have been friends for more than 50 years.
“We met in the ’50s,” according to Lorraine.
“No, it was the ’60s,” according to Irene.
“We don’t know. It has been a long time,” they say in unison, “been there, done that!”
I was met at the elevator door of Falcon Heights Apartments with the sprightly smile and the welcoming voice of Lorraine. As soon as we opened her apartment door I was welcomed by a wall of photographs that included the happy faces of friends and family.
“IRENE! Meghan’s here,” yelled Lorraine.
We sat down at the kitchen table to a large spread of food.
“Who all did you think was coming?” Irene asked Lorraine.
Their comfort with each other was evident in how they communicated. They’re sassy, spunky and willing to share their wisdom with me. This is the story of Lorraine and Irene, the women who wear many hats—daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and best friends.
Lorraine hails from St. Paul, where she got her first job working at the neighborhood theater. She remembers how much she hated making caramel corn every Tuesday. Those theater days came back later in life after she married the love of her life, Don, who was a projectionist in the theater.
Irene grew up in a farm town in Wisconsin. She was on the first school bus her town had. She’s thankful she went to the town-hall dance her senior year of high school because that is where she met her husband Tom.
Both Irene and Lorraine come from strong family backgrounds. Their love for their husbands and children is evident in the way their eyes light up when they talk about them.
“My kids are my greatest accomplishment,” Irene said. “They’re pretty nice.”
They love spending time with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
When they aren’t with family, they are with each other.
Their story starts with their husbands. Don Quinn lived in New Richmond, Wis., where his dad owned a pool hall. Tom McGuire was a regular at the pool hall and often called Don, “Rack boy.” They lost touch but reconnected when both were looking for jobs in St. Paul. They both got the jobs. Don stayed for the summer, and Tom worked there for his whole life.
A while down the road, Irene and Tom were going out to dinner with another couple. The other couple asked if they could bring some friends along, and of course Irene and Tom said yes. In walked Lorraine and Don.
“Rack boy!” yelled Tom.
Irene and Lorraine have been friends ever since.
Lorraine and Irene do everything together. So much so that people interchange their names regularly. They stay active by playing cards, going out to eat, going to building events, attending the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Ordway, where Lorraine’s son works.
When asked what the secret is to a happy and long-lasting friendship, their answers are simple.
“We’ve never had a fight,” Lorraine said.
“Well, we’re easy to get along with,” Irene said.
Just because they haven’t had a fight, doesn’t mean they haven’t had disagreements. A little while back Lorraine decided to sign Irene up for an event in their building and Irene was not happy about it. When the next event came up, Lorraine didn’t sign Irene up and Irene asked asked why Lorraine didn’t do that. Because of this, Irene gets signed up for everything.
Both are involved in the Falcon Heights Nurse Block program. The program helps them keep up with their exercise. They both stress how important it is to stay active.
Their energy and charisma even got them a spot as “Flower Ladies” in their exercise instructor’s wedding this past year. They received national attention and even had Lorraine’s son calling her from Texas saying he saw her on the news.
Lorraine had a more intimate relationship with the block nurse program when her husband was sick. They looked through the house to make adjustments to make Don’s life easier and arranged for someone to visit with Don so Lorraine could run errands.
“When I needed them, they were wonderful,” Lorraine said. “You have no idea.”
At the end of our time together I asked if there was any advice they could give to younger generations. They stressed the importance of keeping friends, because families are busy and they have every right to be. They also say keeping busy is vital. If they don’t have anything to do, Lorraine usually manufacturers something for them.
Last, I asked if there is anything they know now that they didn’t when they were 20.
“When we were 20,” they laughed, “We didn’t know anything!”
They know how fortunate they are to have each other and never take advantage of their friendship. It is indisputable that Lorraine and Irene are best friends who’ve become family.
Meghan Tompkins is a volunteer with the Como Falcon Heights Block Nurse Program.