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Lisa Quintan with her Siberian Husky, Luna, next to her garden at her Parker Avenue home in Meriden. This garden is on the tour of the friends of the library garden tour. May 26, 2004. | Record-Journal file

Meriden community organizer had big impact in short time

MERIDEN — Lisa Broberg Quintana, a community organizer, avid gardener, and quilting maven, will be remembered by those who knew her as a brilliant and caring person.

Quintana died in October after a 20-year battle with breast cancer, and a remembrance service will be held in May 17 in Wethersfield. She was 53.

Quintana was born in Michigan, but transplanted to Meriden for more than a decade before moving back to the Great Lakes Region to be near family in Ohio.

Though brief, her impact in Meriden was lasting, especially to those in her Broad Street to Dexter Avenue neighborhood in the late 1990s. Quintana co-founded the East Side Neighborhood Association.

At the time, an abandoned mill at 122 Charles St. had been renovated and reopened as 80 units of affordable housing, and Quintana as well as her co-founders, Claudia Whitehead and now-state Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, were concerned about the impact of the new development and the need for a community police officer.

It wasn’t the first major change for the neighborhood. A Stop & Shop supermarket opened at East Main Street and Broad.

The neighborhood association was ramping up in mid-1997 shortly before plans to build a Stop & Shop supermarket at the corner of East Main and Broad streets emerged. Quintana and the association provided input on the project to ensure that the design didn’t negatively impact the area.

In 1998, Quintana had a recurrence of breast cancer.

“Lisa never sat still, she was always doing a million things at the same time,” said Marina Mozzi, a friend and former colleague of Quintana.

Quintana’s resume seems to back up Mozzi’s description.

She had a master’s degree in colonial American history, and worked as a museum curator and for historical societies throughout Northeastern Connecticut.

She was a guest member on the Record-Journal’s editorial board in 2001. She worked with Novartis, a pharmaceutical company, to present to company employees the experience from the patient’s point of view.

She was an ardent gardener whose landscapes were regularly a stop on the Meriden Garden Tour, and an enthusiastic quilter.

“Not only was she extremely brilliant, but she had the ability to integrate different knowledge into the different areas she was interested in,” said Susan Varanka, a fellow quilter and neighbor while Quintana lived in Meriden.

When Quintana relapsed in 1998, Varanka spearheaded the creation of a “prayer quilt” common in the quilting community. She distributed squares of fabric to those who knew and cared about Quintana to decorate with messages of healing, eventually assembling all those into a quilt that was by Quintana’s side for years after that.

“The messages were clearly personal to Lisa,” Varaka recalled, “but they all encompassed loving and caring about her.”

“What a gifted lady; what a smart, brilliant person she was,” Quintana’s husband, Carlos Quintana said.

Mozzi said, “Lisa never let there be an elephant in the room,” when it came to talking about her cancer. “She lived every minute until she died.”

Quintana also had ties to Wethersfield through her work for the Wethersfield Historical Society.

The memorial service will be held May 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, 200 Main St., Wethersfield. (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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