Robert “Bob” Finley, 79, of St. Charles, Minn., died with integrity and courage in a sunlit room at Mayo Clinic Hospital, St. Mary’s Campus, on Sunday afternoon, June 14, 2015. A self-proclaimed optimist, he was seen off by loving family members on what he described as a brand-new adventure.
Bob was born Nov. 13, 1935, in Genoa, Ill., the son of Richard and Anne (Kramer) Finley, who, in 1943, moved to Maple Park, Ill., to a farm at the edge of town “where the sidewalk ends.”
Early on, Bob exhibited a talent for farming. A member of both 4-H and the Illinois Foundation Future Farmers of America (FFA), he obtained one of the highest yields with corn entered in the Pioneer Hi-Yield Corn Growing Contest in 1950, and earned awards for farm safety and being an outstanding member. As an established farmer, he was elected as an FFA Honorary Chapter Farmer.
At school in Maple Park, Bob revealed his extensive knowledge of government and politics, which would become a lifelong affinity, by winning the Political Quiz Contest sponsored by the Quill and Scroll society. As No. 10 on the Maple Park Parkers basketball team, he perfected his technique for the “granny shot” (a skill he would later gladly demonstrate to his children and grandchildren during games of H-O-R-S-E in the machine shed).
Bob graduated from Maple Park High School in 1953, remaining close to his classmates even as his life’s journey took him away from Illinois.
During a two-year stint in the United States Navy, Bob satisfied some of his desire to explore the world. In the grade of Aviation Structural Mechanic Third Class (AM3) aboard the “USS Yorktown,” nicknamed the “Fighting Lady,” Bob visited the west coast, Hawaii, Japan and other destinations in the Pacific, traveling 35,270 engine miles over 170 days in one cruise alone.
After the expiration of active obligated service, Bob returned to Maple Park to help his father farm and court Patsy Jo “Pat” Broadhurst, whom he met through mutual friends. He claimed she wasn’t too impressed with him at first, but he was able to win her over, and the pair married in 1960 at St. Mary’s Church in Maple Park.
They settled on a farm there to have and raise eight children, but in 1973 moved to a larger farm in St. Charles, Minn., where Bob established himself in the farming community, particularly with enthusiasts of old machinery, and as a regular at the coffee shop. He also became a civic leader and advocate for public education, serving on the school board of District 858 for 12 years, as well as board member and secretary of the Hiawatha Valley Education District.
Bob retired from active farming over a decade ago to spend winters with Pat in the Florida Keys, but continued to grow his highly prized sweet corn in the summers, reputed to be the best in the county.
Bob will be greatly missed by his children, Judy (Steve Hammes), Joe (Lynette Kerce), Mike (Kassie Madden), Steve (Joann), Jeanne (Alex Wilson), Trish, David (Angela) and Beck (Mike Ireland); grandchildren, Aimee, Cole (Melanie), Andy, Bridget, Brendan, Brynn, Leo, Beau, Aidan, Conner, Thea and Zane; Navajo daughter, Shelley (Tim Doyle) and her children, Alex, Ethan and Timara; sisters, Rosemary Kennedy and Charlotte (Jack) Mosher; and many beloved nieces, nephews and cousins.
He joins his parents, Richard and Anne; and adored wife Pat, who passed away in 2013; in this next venture, on which he will, no doubt, continue to make friends of everyone he meets.
Join the Finley family in a celebration of Bob’s varied and inspirational life on Sunday, June 21, at Hoff Funeral Service, 519 St. Martin Ave., St. Charles. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m., with the memorial services beginning at 4 p.m., during which family and friends are welcome to say a few words or share a story about Bob.
Memorials to help further Bob’s vision of “making school a place where kids want to be” may be sent to the St. Charles Foundation for Academic Excellence, c/o St. Charles High School, 600 Highway 14 East, St. Charles, MN 55972.
Share a memory of Bob and sign his online guestbook at www.hofffuneral.com.