No. 3 News Story: Riding for Squiggy
Motorcycles from across the country rumbled into Riverside Cemetery in Spencer over the Fourth of July to honor the 10th anniversary of the passing of friend and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Greg "Squiggy" Quillin. This outpouring of love touched so many, including his wife, Toni, and Quillin's mother, Helene, who flew in from Arizona after learning of the planned tribute.
"There was something that drew you to him," Jeff "Smitty" Smithberger said of his friend, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Greg "Squiggy" Quillin.
Ten years after Quillin's death, that draw remains strong, as evidenced by the many friends who traveled across the country to celebrate Quillin's life in his hometown of Spencer on Sunday afternoon.
They rumbled into Riverside Cemetery on their motorcycles, sporting bright Hawaiian shirts like the ones Quillin used to wear.
"It's one thing to pack a funeral home," Rob "Maddog" Moore told the crowd. "But 10 years later, to have this many people around this graveside to memorialize a friend, that shows the impact he had on so many lives."
Those present shared memories and raised toasts to their fallen friend, who was killed in a traffic accident mere months before he was set to retire from the Marines.
Brett Matthews, Quillin's Officer-in-Charge at the time of his death, shared how he had put Quillin in charge of a shop, against the advice of his superiors.
"I was told several times by folks senior to me, 'If you put him in charge, it may not help your career,'" Matthews recalled. "I wasn't concerned about that because he was the best person for the job."
It took just one inspection for the colonel to agree, resulting in an apology to both men.
Such stories touched Quillin's mother, Helene, who had flown in from Arizona after learning about the ceremony from a friend.
"I've always been proud of him, and even more so after hearing the stories I've heard today," she said.
Following a prayer at the cemetery, the stories continued well into the evening.
"Indy Bill" Longest met Quillin when his motorcycle broke down during an event in Tennessee.
"I needed spark plugs and was going to walk into town," Longest recalled. "Squig gave me a set of spark plugs for free. I said, 'I'll pay you for these.' He said, 'No, just pass it on,' and I've kept that motto ever since."
Longest is one of 72 international members belonging to Shade Tree Racing and Choppers, the group started by Quillin in 1993. The entity is known for their 29-foot-3-inch chopper that was a Guiness world record from 2003 to 2007, and current record for longest front end.
"But Shade Trees wouldn't be Shade Trees without Squiggy," Longest said.
For Smithberger, "We had service in common first; bikes came later."
The two served together as mechanics, dating back to late 1982.
"He wasn't anybody else but himself," Smithberger said. "He was not a made-up person and people were drawn to that."
Quillin rode his motorcycle through rain in order to be Smithberger's best man in his wedding, a gesture that left a positive impression.
"Tomorrow is our 24th anniversary," Smithberger said Sunday evening. "Because it's for Squig, she doesn't have a problem with me coming home late."
Smithberger considers Quillin a "man's man" and Helene "always thought of him as soft-hearted, but he was crusty on the outside."
Matthews saw that in the way Quillin dealt with those serving under him.
One lance corporal in particular had been writing bad checks and when Quillin found out, he confronted him. Though he was harsh at first, once he learned the individual did not understand how checking accounts worked, he took him to the bank and also taught him how to budget.
"Instead of yelling at him, he decided to mentor him and be more of a father figure to teach him how to do things right," Matthews said.
He later added that Quillin was the first person people called when they needed help because "he would do anything for you."
Quillin's influence goes beyond those who personally knew him.
"Since the first time I met the guys who knew him, he's got such an influence on them that you can't help but get to know him," "Texas Scott" Wages said. "It's incredible. I think that's what separates great people from other people. When someone who never even met you thinks the world of you, that says a lot."
Smithberger and Matthews believe that influence was a product of being raised in Spencer.
"Greg's influence, the way he was raised here in Spencer by his mom and dad and the values of this town played a roll in each of our lives," Matthews said.
Those factors made the decision to reunite in Spencer that much more appropriate, he said, and Helene Quillin agreed.
"I give them my heartfelt thanks that they did this because I think it's a wonderful thing."