Gerald Lawrence Quinlan, whose name was vivaciously and swiftly corrected to “Jerry” upon every introduction, was born May 17th, 1936, in Casper, Wyoming, to John and Elizabeth (Bess) Quinlan. He was the baby of a family of seven. Although he spent much of his childhood living with his older siblings in Cheyenne, California, Washington, and Denver, his mother made certain to bring him back to Wyoming, where he always belonged, to attend Natrona County High School, just as every Quinlan before him and after. There, he would earn a state championship, be named Mr. Mustang, and be recognized as Wyoming State Champion Outstanding Wrestler- an award that would later be named the “Quinlan Award.”
Upon turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1954, serving four years in Great Falls, Montana. He was honorably discharged in 1958, only to again return to his home, Wyoming, where he would attend Casper College and return to his first love, wrestling. His eldest daughters and apples of his eye, Ann and Cathy, would be born in 1958 and 1959. He was a truly devoted father. As a result of his talents and accolades while in Casper, he earned an athletic scholarship to San Jose State College and completed a bachelor’s degree in social studies. Casper College would later honor him with the Casper College Alumni Association’s 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award.
“Quinnie” began his sweeping teaching and coaching career in 1961 at East Junior High. Two years later, he was back at NCHS, where he would not only teach history but begin to make it. He was the seventh man named head wrestling coach at NC and the only one to have ever been named twice. He would also serve as football coach, track coach, Activities Director, and Department Chair of the Social Studies department. Among his accomplishments as a wrestling coach are: an overall record of 126-15-2; five regional championships; two state runner-up titles; four state championships; having coached 22 individual state champions; coaching Team Wyoming as they faced Canada, Japan, and Eastern European teams; being named Wyoming Coaches Association Wrestling Coach of the Year three times; and holding the state record for consecutive undefeated duals in the years 1965, 1968, and 1969 (35). He was inducted into the Wyoming Coaches Hall of Fame in 1984, and, as the greatest honor of all, the Natrona County wrestling room holds the name of the “Quinlan, Estes, Miller Wrestling Room.”
In the fall of 1985, he met his soulmate and “Hon,” Cheryl Olsen, while they both taught at NC. His first of many grand romantic gestures was to personally ensure she and her kids had a Christmas tree for the holiday season. See, he knew better than anyone that he was quickly falling in love with Ryan and Annicka as well. Over the years, he would teach Ryan the vast beauty of both Wyoming, and life, while taking him camping around the state; he would teach Annicka patience and independence while showing her how to ride a bike. Their “Pop’s” love was bold and unwavering.
Cheryl and Jerry would be married and find their dream home nestled right on the Platte River in 1988. He built a deck, a gazebo, beds and bookshelves for his children, his infamous Irish bar, and even created a 3D, architecturally accurate model of the remodel they would eventually add on. He took pride in building things with his hands, and with very minimal instruction or advice. The home on Begonia quickly became yet another legacy of Jerry’s. They loved hosting family gatherings, their children’s parties and sleepovers, and the best St. Patrick’s Day party in town.
After 31 years in the Natrona County School District, he would finally retire his teacher’s tie and coach’s jacket to become “Mr. Mom” to his newborn baby girl, Callie, in 1992. Their immeasurable bond’s formative years began as he defied the use of a stroller- he carried her in a backpack, or in his arms, to the grocery store, up the Lincoln Memorial steps, through airports, across Yellowstone Park, and to every NC sporting event. Through the years he would establish a legacy of “super chaperone,” attending every school trip in his F-150, with the windows down and their dog as passenger. His favorite days were those when he got to pick up his daughter and four grandchildren, all from one elementary school, and let them each choose a candy bar on the way home. Jerry reveled in how young his children, grandchildren, and wife kept him, although he was always the one at the head of the dinner table with endless jokes. He remained their stubborn, immovable anchor with a twinkle in his eye for each of them.
Once all the kids were out of the house, Cheryl and Jerry continued to embark on adventure after adventure, from their timeshare in Mexico, to Disney, to European River Cruises, to traveling to all of their grandchildrens’ most important moments. Jerry still attended every NC football game, wrestling match, and track meet with his best friends Ron and Scott, and had incredible pride in knowing there would always be a seat reserved for him. He took the greatest joy in the small things: dessert, a good book, flamingo string lights, and a manhattan on the rocks.
Jerry was the toughest, most courageous man any of us knew up to his last breath which he took on January 3rd, 2024 at 6:11am with Cheryl and Callie by his side.
He is preceded in death by his parents, John and Elizabeth (Bess) Quinlan; siblings, Kathleen Richards, Dorothy Allison, Bill Quinlan, Jeanne Bertholdi, Della Watson, and Betty Ouderkirk; daughter, Catherine Quinlan; grandson, Christopher Hudson; his lifelong best friends and coaching partners, John Miller and Ron Estes Sr.; his brother-in-law, John Kuenning; and his parents in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He is survived by his wife and soulmate, Cheryl Quinlan; children, Callie Quinlan, Annicka Stevens (John), Ryan Olsen (Amber), and Ann Hudson; son-in-law, Pat Scissons; his grandchildren, Elizabeth Corry (James), Stephen Hudson, Rachel Bouzis (Chad), Annie Bouzis, Andrew Hudson, Taylor Stevens, Carter Stevens, Kianna Weisz, Kinsley Olsen, and Paige Olsen; his lifelong best friend and coaching partner, Scott Novotny; his sisters-in-law, Karen Kuenning and Pam Shubin; his brothers-in-law, David Merkel (Virginia), Joseph Merkel, and John Merkel (Christine), and many dearly cherished nieces, nephews, and great-grandchildren.
While wrestling was undoubtedly his first love, and Wyoming was always the only place he would call home, Cheryl was his true love to the end of his days, and that house on the river, with the kids, was the home he would never be able to live without.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 3:00pm on Saturday, March 16th, 2024 in the NCHS Dalton gym with an Irish wake to follow at the Quinlan House. One more St. Patrick’s day craic for you, Dad.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Jerry Quinlan Wrestling Memorial at the UniWyo Credit Union.