Tom and Mary Quilter
Tom Quilter was born April 24, 1921, in Monroeville, Ohio to Timothy Michael and Helen Quilter. Tom spent his early years in Sandusky.
His father was a chiropractor, accomplished home winemaker, friend to many of the state's founding winemakers and the first to introduce Tom to grapes and wine.
Mary was born April 30, 1921, in Toledo, Ohio, to William Henry and Anna Rose Comte. Mary spent her early years in Toledo where her father was a founder of the Comte Construction Company - which still exists today and is run by her brothers.
Mary was very much raised as a "city girl". When her mother first saw her working in the vineyard at the farm, she said, "Sis, what do you know about farming?" --- a phrase which Mary is fond of quoting.
Tom and Mary met a DeSales College I Toledo. They married during wartime, August 12, 1944, in Mary's home church, Holy Rosary Cathedral, in Toledo. Immediately following the wedding, they moved to Chicago, where Tom enrolled in medical school at Loyola University. Upon graduating, he served as a urological resident in the United State Navy.
While their first daughter, Mary Patricia, was born in Chicago, the next four children were born during their Navy years. The first son, Thomas in Portsmouth, Virginia; Second son, Michael, in Corpus Christi, Texas; Third son, William, in Bethesda, Maryland; And daughter, Elizabeth, in Naples, Italy.
After many years as an urologist in the U.S. Navy, the family returned to Ohio in 1054, where Tom went into private practice in Marion. Their sixth child, Kathleen, was born in Marion, a short block from the current family home where they lived for almost fifty years.
Five states, two countries and ten years span the children's births - 1945 to 1955. For the next twenty plus years, the couple was very busy raising a family and managing a private medical practice.
Tom grew roses in the backyard (a passion inherited from his mother) but in the 1960's, grapevines, some of which still climb high through crabapple and evergreen trees, slowly replaced roses. The formal growing of vines began as a "hobby" on a farm in Waldo, originally owned by their children's babysitter.
The Quilters eventually purchased that farm and the original 120 vines are now in excess of 4,000, with ongoing plantings. The Quilters survived over time and harsh winters to learn which grapevines belong best to the site. Terroir, the natural environment of the sir, must have been in their souls since their early Navy sojourn to Italy.
Until 1984, when the winery was bonded, grapes were sold to home hobbyists and established wineries in the Lake Erie region. All grapes now go into the production of the family label "Chateau Shamrock". Their customers are region and loyal with new visitors added every season.
Tom and Mary Quilter emphasize the French-American hybrids and the pairing of their wines with traditional foods of the area. Besides his duties in the vineyard and winery, Tom served six years on the Ohio wine Producers Association Board of Directors and represented the wine industry ay many agricultural meetings. Mary's dedication to the winery and vineyard made it possible for Tom to serve the industry.
The Quilters can proudly claim Shamrock Vineyard as a family work in progress. Each of their children is involved in individual ways; vineyard-and-grandparents are synonymous in the minds of 14 grandchildren (ages 34 to 16 years); and five great grandchildren (ages 8 to 2 years) who have all played among the growing vines. Volunteers and friends also contribute significantly to the intensive work of the vineyard.
Shamrock Vineyard is a happening of a couple devoted to each other and, for better or worse, to a "retirement" adventure with grapes.
We all wish them a happy 60th wedding anniversary this coming August. May they continue to age gracefully as their vines and wines. They picked the Shamrock, a symbol of good luck, as the insignia of their winery, but Tom & Mary, we're the lucky ones to have you in our industry all these years. Thank you.