Life Story Visitation
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Please join us for a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. The Rosary will be recited at 7pm.
Mass of Christian Burial
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
George Richard “Dick” Finnerty was the first born of Dorothy and Joseph John Finnerty residing in Geneva, NY. Later, two brothers would be born, John “Jack” and D. Thomas “Shorty”. Their house was directly across the street from Geneva General Hospital. The hospital had a huge lawn, often the site of ball games until the guards would chase the kids away.
Circumstances changed and the family moved to Stark Street in neighboring Waterloo, NY. The street was filled with family from Ireland. Just a few blocks away was St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which became their parish. Dick attended St. Mary’s School and met best friends Jimmie Johnson and Duane Sharpe.
One day in 1954, while attending Waterloo High School, a freshman girl, Beverly Jones, caught his eye. In a show of affection suitable for this high school junior, he threw her school books out a window. This definitely got her attention! Over time, they began dating. Jimmie would begin dating Bev’s sister, Sonia. Love bloomed. To earn money for cars, Dick and Jimmie hitchhiked to the Geneva bakery every weekday at 4 or 5 a.m. If they couldn’t get a ride, they would walk the seven miles.
On September 27, 1958, Dick and Bev married in St. Mary’s Church and settled on Stark Street. After a few years, along came Jacqueline “Jackie” and Edward “Eddie” Finnerty. Dick continued working at the American Can in the family tradition. As a natural leader, he was a vocal and thoughtful union representative at the Can, rising to chair the negotiating committee. This service sparked a desire to advance his education.
Many a long night was spent traveling to Auburn Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology (“RIT”) to earn degrees. First an Associate of Applied Sciences, followed by his Bachelor of Science.
At the same time, he followed a second passion: volunteer firefighting. Installed in the basement stairwell of the house on Stark Street was a brass bell connected to the town fire alarm pull boxes. The sound was deafening and impossible to sleep through. His firefighting boots, pants, and suspenders were perpetually hung on the 4-poster bed on the home’s upstairs floor. At the sound of the bell, he could seemingly jump out of bed and straight into his gear without breaking stride as he headed for the door. He loved the adrenaline rush. His youngest brother Tom, who would settle his young family next door, across the street from their boyhood home, pretty much gave up on trying to beat his sibling to the fire house.
Dick couldn’t not lead or volunteer. Civic duty was in his nature. He held ranks in the Waterloo Fire Department from Lieutenant to Chief. His Cornell chicken BBQ sauce was the only sauce used with the fund-raising chicken barbecues, traditional in upstate New York. He helped form the inaugural chapter of the Jaycees in Waterloo, serving in many capacities being named Outstanding Jaycee of the year. He was elected councilman for the Town of Waterloo and served as chairman of the Seneca County Planning Board.
His volunteer spirit carried through his whole life. Anywhere he and Bev moved, he joined and supported the fire department. After moving back to Michigan in retirement, Dick volunteered as a mediator with Dispute Resolution Service of Gryphon Place, serving courts in Kalamazoo, Portage, and Battle Creek. He remained an active member of the Kalamazoo Area Labor Management Committee, attending meetings on occasion with his daughter, Jackie. He belonged to the Irish American Club. He served on the board of several of their homeowner’s association. He was a lifelong member of the Knights of Columbus, rising to the rank of Fourth-Degree. On Monday nights you could find Dick helping with K of C Bingo in Paw Paw, or handing out Tootsie Rolls gathering donations on any given Saturday. Marching in his Knight uniform in the Kalamazoo St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a special honor for Dick.
Dick loved his work and he was great at it. He was dedicated and loyal to a fault. After earning his bachelor’s degree the American Can came calling. Now he was changing teams, which meant a move to the Fairport, NY facility, now representing the company, not the union.
In those days, manufacturers relocated key people to fill key roles, sometimes with very little notice. Mergers transitioned the business models, but Dick never quit the company, regardless of changing from a can producer to a paperboard producer. Dick was moved from New York to a suburb of Toledo, OH in 1977, then to a suburb of Houston, TX in 1980, next to Chambersburg, PA in 1980 (not a typo – they were only in Texas for 9 months!), then to Portage, MI in 1982, to Cincinnati, OH in 1990, and finally to the north Chicago suburbs, where he retired in 2001 after nearly 45 years on the job.
During these times, Bev and Dick were able to travel to Ireland with his brothers and their wives. They saw the town where the Finnerty family originated. They visited Sweden with Bev’s mom to see her relatives. A Baltic Cruise brought them to Estonia. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, Dick & Bev took the entire 10-person immediate family to Riviera Maya, Mexico. It was the dream trip of a lifetime for everyone.
In retirement, in addition to his volunteering, Dick relished family get-togethers at their home in Oshtemo and his children’s houses nearby. He loved to gather the family for dinner at LaCantina in Paw Paw, invariably ordering his favorite – veal Marsala – and picking up the check.
Dick & Bev enjoyed watching their grandchildren play sports in all sorts of weather. As a Dad, Dick loved to invent silly songs to entertain Jackie and Ed. “Maple Surple” was a favorite. The tradition continued with the grandchildren, where uttering the word “yogurt” causes a song to breakout.
Hard-working, loyal, principled, a tad mischievous, a bit stubborn, always genuine – all adjectives that ring true of George Richard Finnerty during a life well lived.
George Richard “Dick” Finnerty passed away Aug. 1, at Bronson Methodist Hospital, surrounded by family following a brief illness. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Beverly (Jones) Finnerty; daughter, Jacqueline C. Finnerty and son, Edward J. Finnerty (Jody), both of Mattawan; five grandchildren: Sean (Shannon) Henegar, Matthew (Cammie) Henegar, Brittany Finnerty, Nicholas Finnerty, and Rachel Finnerty; two brothers: John “Jack” (Mary) Finnerty of Pittsford, NY and D. Thomas “Shorty” (Kitty) Finnerty of Waterloo, NY.
Please join us for a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Tuesday (AUG 9) from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, (269) 375-2900. The Rosary will be recited at 7 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 AM Wednesday (AUG 10) at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. A luncheon will follow. Memorial contributions may be made St. Catherine of Siena Church or the Waterloo Fire Department. Visit Dick’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook.