The Bay Area lost a lion-hearted soul on the evening of August 24 when Jerry Finley passed away peacefully at home in Larkspur surrounded by his family after a long and spirited battle with cancer. Jerry was born on the windswept plains of South Dakota on the family farmstead in Carthage, SD on September 4, 1931. He was the 4th of four children born to William and Mary Finley, preceded by Jeanne, Peggy and Frank. Tragically, his mother died of pneumonia when Jerry was five years old and, shortly thereafter, the family farm was sold and the extended family moved to Southern California, leaving behind Jerry and his brother Frank to be raised in a nearby boarding school. The two boys boarded a train and left South Dakota six years later to attend school in Los Angeles at Montebello High, where Jerry excelled in football and basketball, and achieved Pro Merito academic status. The Korean Conflict was in full bloom after Jerry graduated from high school and he soon found himself on a ship to Korea, courageously rising through the ranks to become an Army Sergeant and Tank Commander thereafter, immersed heavily in combat against Chinese troops. During the war, Jerry made a pact with God that if he left Korea alive he would become a regular church-goer and this was a promise he kept until the last month of his life. After the war, Jerry enrolled at Los Angeles State College (now California State University at Los Angeles) where he majored in Business and played football for the Diablos. It was during this time that he met the love of his life, Louise Wood, a co-ed who was studying chemistry at nearby Mount St. Mary's College in Westwood. Jerry and Louise graduated in 1954 and were married on November 22, 1956 in Los Angeles, where Jerry began working for the Teamster's Union. It wasn't long before his leadership skills caught the eye of one James Hoffa, Teamster's President, and Jerry was appointed Business Agent for the local chapter. In the meantime, Jerry and Louise bought a home in Glendale, CA and welcomed their first child in February of 1958, Marlene Finley, followed two years later with son Patrick, and three years later with a second son, Timothy. Jerry made a critical career decision at this stage of his life, accepting a position as a Federal Mediator in the San Francisco office and moving his family up to Northern California, settling in the Larkspur home where he lived until his passing. Two other children soon followed, Sean in 1965 and Tisa and 1968, and the Finley's quickly established strong roots in Marin County soil. Jerry was instrumental in settling many high profile labor strikes for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, including those of Caesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers, and he ultimately served as Commissioner for the Western States. He became a confidant of Mayor Dianne Feinstein during this time, helping her navigate the turbulent labor-management waters. He was also very active in community events, coaching and volunteering his time to St. Patrick's Catholic Church. The feat he was particularly proud of was serving three consecutive terms as President of the Men's Club, coordinating St. Pat's Day Dinner Dances and poker nights. In 1987 Jerry retired from the Federal Mediation Service and entered perhaps the most enjoyable phase of his life, attending local sporting events, fishing the local lakes, and going on daily hikes in the Mount Tamalpais watershed with a new informal 'men's club.' He was also fond of taking off on weekend jaunts with the family, exploring Northern California, or relishing annual summer vacations in Santa Barbara, Las Gaviotas (Baja Mexico) or his ancestral homeland in Ireland. Jerry held dear to a dream from his youth where he envisioned buying a convertible and driving all over the country with his beloved brother Frank in tow, Willie Nelson crooning from the dashboard. And so it was that Frank and Jerry spent their twilight years jumping into his car at moment's notice, traversing the Wild West, or simply riding the wind toward Reno or Laughlin to place a few bets on the ponies and sample a new casino buffet. It is difficult for many to conceive of a world without Jerry Finley right now, his love of life and travel, and the twinkle in his eye when he told a joke or story. His wisdom and candor were cherished in the community and business world but, in spite of all of his accomplishments, he maintained extraordinary humility that permitted him to laugh heartily at his own expense. We should all be so lucky to live 87 full years and leave a legacy of stories for our progeny to share around the hearth or fire pit. Jerry's spirit lives on in his wife of 62 years, Louise, his children Marlene Finley (and spouse Gary Munsterman) of Anacortes, Washington, Dr. Patrick Finley (and wife Jennifer Briscoe) of Sonoma, Tim Finley of San Francisco, Sean Finley (and wife Mary) of San Francisco, and Tisa Finley of Corte Madera. He also leaves behind nine grandchildren who will sorely miss their Papa. The memorial service for Jerry Finley will be held on Friday, September 27 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, 114 King Street in Larkspur. A reception will follow immediately afterward in St. Patrick's gym. Guests are encouraged to RSVP for the event via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, the Finley family has requested that donations be made to the School Sisters of St. Francis charity (sssf.org), 1501 S. Layton Boulevard, Milwaukee, WI 53215. Monte's Chapel of The Hills San Anselmo, CA 415-453-8440.
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