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In Memory . . . Judith Lorraine Quarles (1942-2009)

Posted By Jessica Cambio, Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Reverend Judith Lorraine Quarles died following a prolonged illness on April 9, 2009 at home surrounded by family and comforted by the love of her many friends.  Her courage throughout her yearlong battle with brain cancer was an inspiration to all who knew her.  She was 67 years old.

Rev. Quarles was born on March 26, 1942 in Buffalo, NY, the second of three girls, to George A. Potter and Marjorie Dohn Potter.  Raised in Kenmore, New York, Rev. Quarles’ lifelong love of nature was forged throughout her childhood during summers spent in the mountains of Allegany State Park, hiking with her father, exploring the bear caves, swimming and diving in Fancher Pool, and learning family songs and games around the campfire.

After receiving a BA degree in Literature from Harpur College (now SUNY Binghamton) in 1964, Rev. Quarles entered the work force as an employment counselor, then a programmer analyst.  In 1970, she married Edgar Quarles and soon after began raising their daughters, Karen and Emily.  In the 1980’s while serving as Church School Director at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, Rev. Quarles began attending Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, receiving her Master’s of Divinity in 1986.  She was ordained at the Buffalo church in 1987.  During this period, Edgar became ill with cancer and died in 1985.  Edgar’s death further motivated her in pursuit of the ministry.

After ordination, Rev. Quarles served the Unitarian Congregation of South Peel in Mississauga, Ontario, from 1988 until 1990.  From 1990 until 1992, Rev. Quarles worked to establish a new congregation in Lockport, New York.  She also served as summer minister for First Unitarian in Toronto, Ontario for several years.  In 1995, Rev. Quarles was called to be the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta, a congregation she served with wisdom, compassion, and dignity until her retirement in 2008.  Upon her retirement, the Oneonta congregation named her minister emerita.

Rev. Quarles was a passionate advocate for social action in the local community and beyond.  She was instrumental in launching the initiative that led to the Oneonta Free Clinic, and was immensely proud of the role the church had in making it happen.  She volunteered for Oneonta’s Mediation Services and the Assessment Appeals Board and was active in Oneonta’s interfaith community.  Perhaps the accomplishment of which she was most proud in the realm of social action was growing the church’s relationship with a school in Mali, an initiative that has provided the school with much needed financial support and led, in January 2008, to a memorable trip to Mali by Rev. Quarles and six other church members.

Rev. Quarles is survived by her loving companion, Tom O’Brien of Oneonta, New York; her daughter, Karen Quarles of New York City; her daughter, Emily Quarles Mowrer and husband, Clayton Mowrer, of Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania; and her sister, Linda Potter Acredolo of Woodland, California.  Her sister, Nancy Potter Wheatley, died previously.

A service to celebrate Rev. Quarles’ life was held on Saturday, April 18, 2009, at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Oneonta, New York.  Please send messages of condolence to Rev. Quarles’ family by visiting the website, or to Mr. Tom O’Brien, 37 Fair St., Oneonta, NY 13820.

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