A lifetime of helping his neighbors

First slide

All Saints parishioner Richard Quintana, former vice president of SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) in McLean, had a successful career in the U.S. Air Force and the private sector while serving in charitable organizations.

As a captain and computer systems analyst, Quintana's achievements include involvement in the development of computerized mission control. He was assigned to the Pentagon and was a member of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) team that worked on a network that tied several universities together to share resources. They started a program that was called "The Worldwide Information Network" in 1969-70.

"The group of people I worked with did invent the Internet," Quintana said.

Since his retirement in 2010, Quintana has devoted his life to full-time charitable service. He has served on the diocesan Catholic Charities Board of Directors for 15 years; volunteered for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for 25 years, including serving as past president of the diocesan chapter and past president of his parish group; led the Bishop J. Louis Flaherty Assembly No. 1678 Council of the Knights of Columbus as commander for 25 years; served as chair of the All Saints Peace and Justice Commission for 10 years; and has worked as assistant to his wife, director of pastoral care at All Saints, for the past five years.

Quintana is involved in immigration issues and was instrumental in bringing Hogar Immigrant Services to his parish, where 40 percent of the members are Latino. Along with his family, he is a Medical Missionaries volunteer, traveling with his physician daughter and his sons to Banica, a missionary partnership between the Diocese of Arlington, and the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, serving poor people in rural areas of the Dominican Republic on the Haitian border.

As a Society of St. Vincent de Paul volunteer, Quintana ministers to those who are needy and suffering on a daily basis. As part of their emergency services program, he drives sick individuals to treatment at University of Virginia clinics in Charlottesville, including for chemotherapy and MRI procedures that are cost prohibitive in Northern Virginia.

"You learn that it's a venue for doing what we were told to do. Love your neighbor and serve them," he said. "It is rewarding. Sometimes you see impossible situations and you are able to set things straight." Quintana volunteered on weekends and evenings until he retired five years ago. Now it's seven days a week.

When his wife, Gillian, became involved with the All Saints' chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he would accompany her on home visits within the parish. Those needing help would leave a message, then a coordinator would assign a volunteer to follow up with a visit to determine need.

"It's full-time in the sense that you are on call," Quintana said. He recently had four cases, some of which took 30 minutes, while others a few hours.

The needs are typically rental assistance, utilities, food, transportation, medication, furniture or clothing. The church's poor box collection funds St. Vincent de Paul.

A family tradition

Actively serving others was part of Quintana's upbringing and Catholic identity.

"Jesus gave us one Commandment and that was to love one another," he said. "And He went beyond that to say to serve one another.

Quintana grew up in a Catholic environment in Longmont, Colo. It was a family tradition to help those around you.

Tradition was that families belonged to brotherhoods, or communities, and whether they had a priest or not, they would have a chapel. Families grouped together and supported each other. He said that landowners were responsible for the people that lived on their land.

His mother died when he was 7 years old. The family moved to Green River, Wyo., where his father found railroad work.

After graduating from high school in 1957, Quintana joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in California, Mississippi and England, where he met his wife Gillian.

"I met her at a summer parade in late June in Northampton," he said. "There was a fund drive for the hospital. I followed the parade up to the park where it ended. There was an oom-pah band and people started dancing. So I noticed three girls and I asked one of them to dance, and we have been dancing ever since."

It was the big band era, and there was a ballroom dance hall featuring live bands in Northampton. Foxtrot and Jive were popular.

"I asked her if she went there," he said. "She said 'yes', she'd be there on Saturday, and she was."

"If you grew up in a Spanish family, there would be dances at least once or twice a month and everybody danced," he said. "You danced with your aunts. You danced with your cousins and neighbors. It was something that I grew up with."

Gillian liked to dance, too. He was 19 years old; she was a year younger, and they were married in 1958, a year after meeting.

Gillian was not Catholic but had attended a Catholic high school run by the Sisters of Notre Dame in Northampton.

After moving to Cheyenne, Gillian joined the Catholic Church. As an enlisted airman, Quintana received radio technician training and worked at an air control base. He started attending college classes, meeting his general requirements. The family stayed in Cheyenne until 1963.

Quintana was sent to Madrid to work on military aircraft missions flying to Vietnam. He was promoted to the command post to work with the communications that supported mission control. After four years there, he gained the opportunity to attend the University of Colorado to study computerized mission control. From there, he was sent to the Pentagon.

The Quintana family, which now included seven children, moved to Dale City and joined Holy Family Church in the early 1970s.

"We were in Holy Family before they had a church," he said. "Our house was two blocks from the school that they started meeting in."

At the Pentagon, he worked in the Worldwide Military Command and Control System.

"It was just being developed when I was sent there," he said. "In 1973, there was a group of military officers and civilians that were sent to develop the architecture of that system. I was the computer expert that was sent.

"When you are involved at a very low level in that business and you are controlling missions directly and you're talking to the pilots, when you move up to where they are trying to describe how that should be done, you understand it better than anybody," he said. "During the evolution of that system, I was able to contribute quite a bit."

In 1977, he was sent to Montgomery, Ala., for two years to work at the Logistics Management Center for the Air Force. It was a think tank designed to bring new technology into logistics processes, a system that introduced barcodes to the logistics process in the Air Force.

He was now a captain, and after 20 years of military service, ready to retire. A co-worker at the Pentagon had retired and gone to work at System Development Corporation in McLean. He offered Quintana a job. The family, now six sons and three daughters, moved to Manassas and joined All Saints Church.

Parishioners ever since, the family strives to live their Gospel values. Quintana said that his prayer is a constant dialogue with God, something that he has tried to teach his children and his 22 grandchildren, to talk to God in their own words.

Much of his time is spent helping immigrants with problems they face in Northern Virginia. He said more volunteers are needed to assist immigrants who face many obstacles.

"We need more people that understand their situation," he said. "The important thing is to be able to say, no matter what, we answered God's call."

Socarras is a freelance writer from Annandale.

Find out more

Go to ccda.net

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015