Each time I saw him over the last decade, he seemed increasingly able to weather, overcome and joke about the impact of his advanced years; true, he was blessed with great genes of longevity, but I always thought he just simply followed Satchel Paige’s admonition: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
He was always too busy to get old.
Funeral services for Lt. John William Finn will be held 10 a.m. Thursday at El Cajon-Lakeside-Santee Mortuary, 684 S. Mollison Ave. in El Cajon—(619) 440-8033. A public Viewing will be held Wednesday, June 2, 2010, 3:00-7:00 p.m.
Full military honors and internment will be in the Campo Indian Reservation cemetery where his wife, Alice, was buried in 1998. Survivors include his son, Joseph; and his companion and care-giver, Francis Carmichael.
In lieu of flowers donations are requested in memory of John W. Finn to The Association of Aviation Ordnancemen, C/O Dave Lepard, National President. AAOPresident@aaoweb.org
According to Monique LaChappa, Campo tribal chairwoman, one of her uncles was among those helped by the Finns. “Some of the older elders would tell about how (the Finns) would feed our people. He was part of our survival. He understood us—not that he felt sorry for us, but he understood us.”
John Finn was born on July 23, 1909 in Los Angeles and he was enlisted in the US Navy when he was barely 17 years old. Finn received his Medal of Honor Sept. 15, 1942, for his actions at Pearl Harbor and was promoted to lieutenant. Following transfer to the Fleet Reserve in March 1947, he reverted to the enlisted rate of Chief Aviation Ordnanceman.
In September 1956, he was placed on the Retired List at the rank of Lieutenant (See my post: The Remarkable Mr. Finn for one of the little- known stories from his early day as “an old China hand.”)
Mr. Finn was beloved as few men I have ever known. When the Senior Recipient was on deck, his fellow Recipients and other friends were alert to his slightest need… a little help out of his wheel chair, a subdued phalanx in heavy crowds of well-wishers, and always…always his Navy and Marine Corps brothers wherever he went.
According to Frances Carmichael, his long-time companion and care-giver, he only began to noticeably slip some in the last year, but to those who only saw him once or twice a year, he always seemed much the same.
His wry sense of humor was always at the ready… and his timing was impeccable.Interviewed on the red carpet at the premier of our documentary A Hero’s Welcome he was asked, “How many times have you been here to Gainesville?”
“I’ve been here twice I think, ‘course I mighta been drunk and forgot.”
We here in Gainesville were fortunate to have him attend our MOH Host City Program Weekend three times. He enjoyed coming here because of the small town patriotism and access to the public—especially children.
At our request Gov. Rick Perry issued a proclamation on Mr. Finn’s 100th last year, as did most of the country’s governors… but Perry was the only one to personally deliver his to Mr. Finn at his celebration aboard the Coronado Naval base last July.
My fellow Vietnam veteran and long-time friend, Rick Mixon (USN, Ret.), a San Diego resident, framed the document and gave it to the governor as the ceremony began.
I like to claim that we were the first to celebrate “The Finn Century” last year by presenting him his cake four months before his birthday.
“Mix” attend our 2007 MOH weekend and said that meeting the Navy legend was one of the highlights of his life.
We will miss him greatly as does the nation, but Mr. Finn would be the first to say “I’ve had a good run.”
May we live up to his optimism, his standards, his sacrifice and above all, his more than eight decades of his service to the country he loved.
Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.