Dover woman, 91, tells stories of a lifetime

DOVER — Without missing a beat, Rennie Quible deflected a compliment about her surprisingly strong grip.

“That’s not my strong hand,” the spry 91-year-old responded after a handshake concluded a recent interview.

“The other one is stronger, that’s my strong hand.”

Indeed, underestimating the former educator, world traveler, author, poet, two-time cancer survivor and more will lead to surprises.

The Dover resident doesn’t refer to herself as 91, but immediately reverses the age to 19 with a smile during an introduction.

Maybe that attitude comes from being the baby of the family — Ms. Quible’s brother and sister are 93 and 94 years old, respectively; her mother died at age 100.

She’s seen so much in her nine decades although she was born with a inward turned left eye that required surgery at 4 1/2 years old and left her with little vision on that side.

“Presently, I see motion and things, but I can’t tell what they are,” she wrote in her autobiography “Ren Remembers”.

Ms. Quible considered her malady a blessing when her own mother had eye surgery 60 years later and “I told her how to go down steps and a few other tricks I had learned … she explained then that she never realized what I had experienced.”

With the use of only one eye, “I have been able to train other one-eyed people,” Ms. Quible said, noting her work with

Still quite active, Dover resident Rennie Quible, 91, has plenty of memories to share. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Still quite active, Dover resident Rennie Quible, 91, has plenty of memories to share. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Lions Club International’s screening of eyes of preschool and kindergarten children.

Some of the book’s remembrances include whiskey as the medicine to fight off pneumonia, having a descented skunk named “Stinky” as a pet, and meeting actor Mickey Rooney, actress Liz Taylor, entertainer Bob Hope, French President/General Charles de Gaulle and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

‘Perking along’

Currently, Ms. Quible describes herself as “perking along. I take my vitamins and my arthritis medicine. I haven’t had even a cold in three years.”

Admitting to “getting a bit lazy,” Ms. Quible still finds time to work with Lions Club International and teach Sunday school at First Baptist Church on Walker Road in Dover.

Regarding her bouts of cancer and possible death, Ms. Quible quipped “I hate to brag but I had a talk with [The Good Lord] who laughed and said ‘Are you for real? You can’t come up here now.’

“The devil snorted and said ‘You talk too much and can’t come down here.’”

She’s passionate about the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II and can quickly speak a couple of terms the Indians used to disguise radio transmissions from the enemy while enlisted in the United States Marines.

Her interest rose after meeting a former code talker during a chance encounter in Washington in 1995, and fit nicely with the book she was writing on the Navajo culture. She later traveled to New Mexico several times to speak with other ex-code talkers as her manuscript took shape.

Ms. Quible is scheduled to make a presentation on code talkers on Aug. 15 at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

Connecting with Delaware

A Chevy Chase, Maryland native, she arrived with her now-deceased husband and still beloved Norm in 2003. They were married for 65 years.

“I haven’t learned enough about Delaware,” Ms. Quible said.

She’s fascinated by Kitts Hummock resting 2 1/2 feet above sea level, and Ms. Quible also said she’s found her “serenity place” — Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Whitehall Neck Road in Smyrna.

Rennie Quible, left, shares a smile with actress Elizabeth Taylor during a Lions Club meeting many years ago. (Submitted photo/Quible family)

Rennie Quible, left, shares a smile with actress Elizabeth Taylor during a Lions Club meeting many years ago. (Submitted photo/Quible family)

“I go there for the birds, the trees, the quiets, the snow, the heat, the flies,” she said. “I love it.”

Ms. Quible worked in the Prince George’s County (Md.) School system for 36 years and was raised just a mile from the Washington border

While serving as principal at Chillum Elementary School in the 1980s, Ms. Quible and other educators she holds in high esteem taught an influx of ethnically diverse students from Vietnam, Cambodia, Nigeria, Haiti and several other countries.

Many of the students had a severely limited grasp of the English language, writing and reading skills. Ms. Quible and her cohorts would sometimes use sign language for early communications. Once a Cambodian girl was able to write descriptively she said, “I got my think,” Ms. Quible said.

“She then proceeded to write about her mother’s beheading; I think it was a form of catharsis for her.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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