His inspiration was his mother’s father, General William Quinn, or ‘Dandy,’ a deeply proud Irishman who was one of the top intelligence officers in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The disabled grandchild and the hard-bitten general hit it off big when Quinn was growing up. He developed his love of genealogy and Irish heritage from him and the general ensured that his grandson would never shirk a challenge, never fail to do his best and always stand up for what he believed.
Sally Quinn writes movingly in an earlier book A Different Life about what it is like for a parent to raise a special needs child, to see the loneliness when Quinn was always left out, lacking the social networking skills to fully integrate with classmates.
Yet neither she nor her boy gave up.
A Different Life sets the stage for A Life’s Work. The bond between Ben Bradlee and his son Quinn fill these pages. Bradlee is an outdoors man who likes nothing better than to leave the hurly burly of Washington for his beloved West Virginia retreat. Quinn is with him every step of the way.
Out on the land the two bond. Much of the narrative in the book describes the art of clearing brush, cutting down diseased trees, using chainsaws to improve the land.
The extraordinary aspect of the book about father and son bonding is that it is the father, who by the end of it, is learning from the son.
There cannot be too many people who can have that impact on the legendary Ben Bradlee, still hale and hearty at 89. Yet his son reaches him, explains vulnerability, takes him and his wife Sally on their own inner journey to understanding their son.
They and the world are much better for it.