A photograph of State Correction Officer Greg Quibell, a World...

A photograph of State Correction Officer Greg Quibell, a World Trade Center first responder, at the North Babylon home of his widow, Theresa Quibell. (Nov. 21. 2010) Credit: John Dunn

Theresa Quibell had just started thinking about things she could sell to make ends meet.

About 2 1/2 years after her fiance, Greg Quibell - a first responder to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center - died from an illness he said stemmed from his exposure to the smoldering wreckage at Ground Zero, money for the North Babylon woman and her three children, ages 19, 14 and 11, was getting tight. There had been an avalanche of medical bills to pay, followed by an almost equal number of legal bills.

So when Theresa Quibell, who legally changed her name shortly after Greg Quibell's death, got the news Friday that she will be receiving a substantial check next year as part of a historic $650-million settlement of health claims against New York City by Ground Zero responders, she did feel some relief.

"I'm tired of fighting," Quibell, 49, said Sunday. "This money is not going to bring him back. But it is going to help me raise my children."

Quibell declined to say publicly how much money she expects to receive. Because her partner died, she is among the Tier 4 plaintiffs who will receive the most money. But while she said it is enough for her to set aside a nest egg for her three children in case anything should happen to her, she also said it is "a fraction" of what she was originally told to expect.

Quibell cannot work due to a head injury she sustained in a violent attack in 2006, she said.

Quibell was a friend of Greg Quibell, who worked for the state Department of Correctional Services on the U.S. Marshal's Fugitive Task Force for years before they became romantically involved in 2005. But even though his work at Ground Zero happened before they fell in love, she always knew how he felt about it.

"No one could have held him back," she said, adding that even on his death bed, he said he would serve all over again given the chance. He worked on the pile for weeks, she said, doing the grueling and disheartening work of identifying bodies. Among his duties was to try and determine whether the remains belonged a civilian or a first responder.

The symptoms started about two years later: first chronic bronchitis, then chronic pneumonia. Soon, he was pulling over on the side of the road on his way home from work and sleeping for two hours, just to work up the energy to complete the drive home. Finally, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and leukemia.

The couple was planning to get married Oct. 28, 2008, but Greg Quibell, 53, died almost exactly two months earlier. He also died before he could complete a plan to adopt Theresa's children from a previous marriage, who thought of him like a father, she said.

However, because he named her as the beneficiary of all his assets, she did not have trouble claiming the settlement, she said.

Despite what she has been through, Quibell said she still counts herself lucky.

"Not too many people in this life can truly say they had a soul mate," she said. "I didn't have him for long, but I had him."

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