Democratic stalwart John Quirk dies

Democratic stalwart John Anderson Quirk died at his home in Hastings, Nebraska on April 11, 2021.

John was born on June 11, 1951 in Hastings, Neb. and was the son of John P. and Helen (Anderson) Quirk.

He attended Hastings Public Schools and graduated from Hastings High School in 1969. He then attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. where graduated magna cum laude with a degree in economics in 1973.

After college, John returned to Hastings to serve as president of Quirk Land & Cattle Co., a position he held until his death.  Quirk Land & Cattle Co. has operations in Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, and Arkansas. He was also a founding member and served as the executive secretary of the Amerifax Cattle Association, which served to promote the Amerifax breed (a cross between Angus and Beef Frisien).

He was an active member and officer of the board of directors of the Hastings Community Foundation and the Adams County Historical Society for more than 20 years, and was a founding member of the Ardyce Bohlke Torch Club. He also served on the Nebraska Rural Development Commission from 1991 to 2003 and was involved in numerous other statewide public service boards.

John was passionate about improving educational opportunities for others. He served on the school board for District 15 Elementary School from 1991 to 2007, and took great pride in integrating computers in the curriculum throughout the 1990s to keep the six-room school on the cutting edge of emerging technology. He also served on the Adams Central Schools Foundation from 2001 until his death.

John’s interest in politics was sparked in 1960 when he saw Bobby Kennedy speak in Hastings at a fundraiser for congressional candidate Jerry Whelan.

His involvement in the Nebraska Democratic Party began in earnest in high school and continued throughout his life.  He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, 1976, and 1996, and an alternate in 1992.  He was one of Adams County’s delegates to every Nebraska State Democratic Convention from 1974 to 2014, and he served on the State Central Committee from 1981 to 1984 and again from 1992 to 2016.  At the county level, John was the Treasurer of the Adams County Democrats from 1974 to 2018, and he received the NDP’s Morrison Exon Award in 2017 in recognition of his more than 40 years of service as the county party treasurer.

Politics is what brought John and Deb Hardin together. In 1976, John was volunteering for the presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter and Deb was working on a local city council campaign. She contacted him for advice in running the campaign. Both of their candidates won in the fall–hers by 7 votes. John and Deb were engaged on 7/7/77, and were married in December of that year.  Politics remained a bond between John and Deb for more than three decades.  They were recognized together by the Nebraska Democratic Party with the Ed Johannsen Award for service in CD3 in 1989, and Deb served as State Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party from 1995 to 1998.

Beyond his professional pursuits and community service, John enjoyed working in the yard around his childhood home near Heartwell Park, where he returned to live the final year of his life.

John is survived by his wife, Deb Hardin Quirk of Hastings; son Andrew Robert (Rob) Quirk of Brooklyn, New York; his sister and brother-in-law, Mary Quirk and James Anderson of Minneapolis, Minnesota; sister-in-law Su (Hardin) Ryden and her husband Jerome Ryden of Aurora, Colorado; brother-in-law Mike Hardin and his wife Margaret Hardin of Aurora, Colorado; and many nieces and nephews.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. on July 10 at First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hastings.

Memorials can be directed to the Hastings Community Foundation or the Adams County Historical Society.

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