Obituary | Mary Gaines Finley, 1933 – 2024

Mary Finley passed away peacefully on May 14, surrounded by her family.

Mary was born on December 20, 1933, in San Diego, CA. She was the second daughter of Captain Oliver and Phyllis Gaines. Mary had a unique childhood, growing up with her sister, her mother, and her grandmother in Vallejo. During the entirety of WWII, Mary’s father was a Prisoner of War after being captured on Guam following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. These were formative years for Mary, being raised by three generations of strong women.

After WWII, Mary’s family moved to the Elmwood area in Berkeley, where she attended Berkeley High and UC Berkeley. She met her neighbor and future husband, Hugh Dozier Finley, on Christmas day in 1949. To be with Hugh on his deployment in Oahu, Hawaii, they agreed to forgo a traditional wedding and were married in a small ceremony on Whidbey Island in 1952. During Hugh’s Naval career, Mary had a chance to live in many parts of the country, making and re-making a home nineteen times. Mary would often remark on these varied experiences with curiosity, humor, and occasional disbelief. She didn’t understand why the washing machines in Florida laundromats were separated by “white” and “colored” until she realized that the segregation didn’t refer to the color of the clothes.

Mary and Hugh had a son Bob in 1958, and in 1962 they welcomed their daughter Patty.

In 1971, Hugh retired from the Navy and the family moved to Piedmont. Returning to the Bay Area, Mary reconnected with many friends and family, including the community at St. John’s Presbyterian Church where she was a lifelong member. She was active in her children’s schools, taking part in AFS, CHIME, and parent boards (at the time, mothers’ clubs). Mary also volunteered at Children’s Hospital, Panhellenic/Sigma Kappa, and DAR. She was grateful to live in the family home, a backdrop for countless happy gatherings and celebrations, for 53 years until her death.

Mary is survived by her son Bob Finley (Regina Hawkins), her daughter Patty (Carter Dunlap) and her three grandchildren: Taylor Brooke Naylor (Chris Naylor), Trevor Fleshman (Ana Szaky), and Morgan Finley. She is predeceased by her husband Hugh and her sister Pat. She missed seeing the arrival of two great-granddaughters by a matter of weeks.

Leaving her family with grace and love, she will be greatly missed.

A private memorial service is planned.

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