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Obituary: Reverend Wallace D. Finley

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Wallace Dean Finley, was born in Canon City, Colorado on Jan. 27, 1931. He died in Mexico on Dec. 29, 2018.

Wally was raised in South-Eastern Colorado in the Wiley-Eads-Lamar area. Although as a child he lived in a house made of sod — “a soddy” — with scant educational resources, he became an outstanding student and a life-long learner. He taught himself to play the piano, played clarinet in a dance band, sang in high school musicals and placed first in the state spelling competition. 

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Wally graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a major in accounting. He paid his college tuition by working as an accountant for the Wiley Garage. Scholarships helped, but it took him six years to graduate. He joined ROTC and was later drafted into the Army during the Korean conflict.

Student and army life pointed him toward the ministry. He received a full scholarship to Boston University School of Theology to specialize in student ministry. He and CU classmate Katy Drexel Finley, both deeply involved in the Methodist Student Movement, married and moved to Boston. After the course of study and a year-long placement in the Cochituate United Methodist Church, Wally was ordained.

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His first assignment as campus minister was to the Methodist Student Fellowship at the University of Denver where he and Katy spent five years and adopted two babies Ruth and Tim. His second appointment was to the University of Colorado Wesley Foundation in 1965. The family grew with one more baby, Tony. Eighteen months later —in 1965 — Katy died of sudden heart failure.

In 1968, Wally married Mary Peace Finley, a former member of Wally’s Methodist Student Fellowship at the University of Denver. At CU Boulder, the exciting and tumultuous years of the 1960s and 1970s called for radical ministry and action, trips into the deep south, political demonstrations, and peace groups. Wally and Mary led cultural awareness travel and workcamps to Mexico to expand student opportunities in the wider world.

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After serving 16 years in campus ministry at CU, Wally worked with the American Youth Foundation in St. Louis, Missouri and at Camp Miniwanka, an AYF youth leadership training camp on Lake Michigan. For a decade he pastored the congregation of the Carbondale Community United Methodist Church of Carbondale, then he retired.

Post-retirement, he served for two years as an adjunct pastor for the Aspen Chapel, an interim pastor at the Monte Vista United Methodist Church, interim pastor for three more years in Carbondale and two years as Chaplain for the Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colorado.

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Wally is survived by his wife, Mary Peace, three children, Ruth Ellen Finley, Timothy Allen  (Nghi “Nee” Tran), Anthony “Tony” Roy; his brother, Jerry (Katherine), their son, Andrew and family; two grandchildren, Katie Finley, and David Allen; nieces, Barbara Ormsby, Judy  Haskell, Patricia Gregory and nephews, Mike and Bif.

Preceding him in death were Wally’s first wife, Katy; his parents, Mabel and Merle; siblings, Olive (Jack Francisco), Roy; Larry Finley (Jeannie); nephew Geoffrey, niece Peggy, and other extended family members.

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During Wally’s last year, he and Mary moved to Frasier Meadows Retirement Community in Boulder, Colorado. and continued to travel.  They were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary near Cancun, Yucatan, Mexico when a heart attack sent Wally on to his next adventure.

Gifts in Wally’s memory may be sent to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in care of the Carbondale Community United Methodist Church. P.O. Box 793, Carbondale, Colorado 81623.

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Wally’s family and the Carbondale Community United Methodist Church invite you to gather together with us at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 20 at the church, 385 S. Second St. in Carbondale, to remember Wally’s life and ministry, to celebrate his time with us, to laugh, to cry and to say, “Hasta la vista, Wally,” — until we meet again.