Marie Lina Quantrell, one of the original editors at Newsday,...

Marie Lina Quantrell, one of the original editors at Newsday, a singer and a painter, died at age 93. Credit: Handout

Marie Lina Quantrell, 93, of Southampton, a retired Newsday editor whose lifelong love of swimming led her to become a lifeguard and performer with the Jones Beach water ballet troupe, died last month at a local recovery center from complications after surgery.

Her daughter, Leslie Hanning Fromm of Sag Harbor, said Quantrell was one of the first female lifeguards at Jones Beach. She also was a devoted gardener and painter, and she sang soprano with the local Sweet Adelines.

"Shall I sit down while you tell me where you are?" Fromm recalled her mother asking, because Fromm, a dancer, performed all over the country. "She was an 'in-the-moment' type person."

Quantrell died on Oct. 1.

Newsday in 1942 hired Quantrell, an Adelphi University student, after -- while accompanying a job-seeking friend -- she filled out an application, according to "Newsday: A Candid History of the Respectable Tabloid" by former staffer Robert F. Keeler.

She worked at the paper for 30 years, including a stint as the employee magazine editor.

She also was a popular picture editor, said former Newsday photographer Joe Dombrowski of Bradenton, Florida. "Marie was great to work with. She loved pictures and she knew what to do with them and she gave everyone a fair shake," he said. "She was a godsend to photographers and we loved her."

After she'd been at Newsday for just a year, the morning assigning editor gave her the top story: Police reports said a gorilla had escaped in Oceanside, Keeler wrote.

The editor dictated some of the story and this was the early edition headline: GORILLA LOOSE / ON S. SHORE.

As Quantrell kept calling sources, her doubts grew. The final headline: "BABOON TERRORIZES / S. SHORE 7 DAYS, / COP SAFARI KILLS IT," Keeler wrote.

A day later it became an escaped orangutan, and then somehow, a rhesus monkey.

Quantrell's favorite swimming stroke was the Australian crawl, her daughter said. She also performed with the Jones Beach synchronized swimmers from 1938 to 1941, according to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Quantrell's first husband, Newsday columnist Leo P. Hanning, whom she married in 1946, died in 1960. Five decades after their last date, Lester Pecan, a fellow 1939 graduate of Hempstead High School, looked her up -- and became her second husband. He died two years ago, her daughter said.

Quantrell, whose remains were cremated, also is survived by daughter Melissa Gettling; and two grandsons. A memorial service is planned for the spring.

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