In Memoriam: Dr. Gordon Finley
To the best of my knowledge, few people ever called him Gordon. Most of us knew him as either "Doc Finley" or just plain "Fin" or "Doc." If you called him Gordon, likely you did not know him well.
Born April 25th, 1920, in Cranbrook, B.C., Fin attended the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Alberta and interned at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, where he met Vernon, his wife to be. Vern, or Vernie as he liked to call her, was taking her nurse's training at the same hospital.
Being unconventional and in search of experiences better than those being afforded by the Misericordia Hospital, Fin and one of his fellow students broke with tradition and moved to the West Coast.
Fin took up internship at Shaughnessy Hospital, and Vern, who had moved to the West Coast separately, went to work at the Grace Hospital. Fin and Vern got married on September 29th, 1949, and his dedication to his work was exemplified by his leaving the ceremonies prematurely to deliver a set of twins.
Survived by Vern, their 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, Fin was an unpretentious man. He was compassionate and honest, with a command of the English language that seldom left you wondering what he meant. In addition to practicing medicine, he played the violin, was a mariner, an airplane pilot, a HAM radio operator and, last but not least, he grew rhododendrons by the thousands.
Doc Finley was not a vain man, and of the many hybrids the Finleys produced, Fin never deemed any worth registering. He readily shared his knowledge with anyone who asked, and generously donated countless plants to the raffles of the various ARS chapters of which he and Vern were members. The Fraser South Rhododendron Society recognized his generosity in bestowing upon him the Gerry C. Emerson award in 1999.
He had a wonderfully wry sense of humour. When being pressured to come up with a name for one of his hybrids, he remarked: "What's in a name, you have to 'twikkum' into buying one." Some of you may have a 'Twikkum' in your garden.
He was a mentor to many members of the chapter, instructing and encouraging anyone who wished to venture into the arcana of rhododendron growing - striking cuttings and successfully rooting them, hybridizing two or more species or other hybrids with an eye to combining some particular and desirable characteristics.
At times Fin was impatient and demanding, and I was at odds with him on a number of occasions, but yet I could not have asked for a better father-in-law. He loved his family and I feel fortunate and privileged in being part of it. Fin passed away in the early morning hours of March 31st, 2006, with Vern by his side. He touched many lives, as was evidenced by the number of people who came to the funeral service. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.