Gemstone miner turned apple farmer, Ira Quinn, died Wednesday at her home. She was 95.
As a teenager, Ira was known as a beauty queen. At age 20 was scheduled to compete in the Miss America pageant of 1940 when her father died. She pulled out of the competition and surprised everyone by announcing she would run one of her father’s many business interests, the Brenin Ruby and Sapphire Mine. The mine had not been profitable, but Ira hired a mining consultancy, the Bantam Brothers, to run operations. They became full partners in the business and eventually all seven brothers were working the mine. Once the mine became profitable, Ira’s stepmother suddenly took an interest and attempted to take control and a legal battle followed. Although Ira eventually won the case that established several precedents for family law, she told friends her heart was no longer in the business. She sold her interest to her partners and used the money to become an apple farmer, gaining a reputation for the development of new apples, the most notable being the Quinn Apple, known for its deep crimson skin and unusual bright white flesh.
In the fall of 1955 she found a neighbor, John Milo, unconscious in his orchard. He was choking to death on a piece of apple. She cleared his windpipe and revived him using a little known technique at the time called “rescue breathing,” or mouth to mouth resuscitation. The story is often told among the family because a year from that date Ira and John were married on the very spot where she saved his life. The seven Bantam brothers served as the wedding party.
Ira never retired and was working in the orchard the day before she died. She is survived by her daughters, Bianca (61) and Rose (59). Milo died in 2010 at 85.