Robert Lee Finch

April 9, 2020

“A great man is always willing to be little.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Robert Lee Finch, 90, of Altavista, died Thursday, April 9, 2020 at his home.

Although he never sought recognition for his accomplishments nor his generosity, and he lived his life to serve others, Robert Lee Finch did want to be remembered as a man who truly cared about people. Bob died at his home in Altavista, April 9, 2020. Bob was the loving husband of Beatrice F. “Pug” Finch for sixty-five years.

Bob was born March 12, 1930 in Lynchburg, a son of the late Hubert Judson Finch and Connie F. Finch. Bob’s mother, Connie, passed away in 1936 from leukemia. In the following years, Hubert married Connie’s youngest sister, Virginia who raised Bob.

Bob spent over 65 years as a licensed funeral director and embalmer, serving countless families, guiding hundreds of people through the most difficult losses of their lives, and working steadfastly to build a legacy for his family. Established in 1905 by Bob’s grandfather, Finch and Finch Funeral and Cremation Service is the oldest business in the area, includes two locations, and is also known as the first in service for five generations. Bob’s son, Rob, is now the home’s President and Bob’s grandson, Robert L. Finch III joined the firm in 2010. Truly, Bob’s time toiling at his beloved profession has given him the satisfaction that he desired: a business which not only provides for his family, but one which provides for his much-loved community.

A prolific worker, Bob once spent seven straight years laboring seven days a week, and on-call 24 hours each day. He demanded much from himself and spent more holidays comforting others than he did celebrating with his own family. Yet, despite all of the attention he gave to his firm, he was also immensely curious, and with that, took advantage of every opportunity which came his way. For instance, in order to provide a better service for his clientele, Bob studied the art of floral arranging, graduating from the American School of Floral Arts in Chicago. That entrepreneurial endeavor led him to grow his own greenhouse flowers and soon, he became the supplier for local florists. In fact, upon the wedding of his oldest son, Rob and his wife, Judy, Bob created the bridal bouquet for Judy. His penchant for the creative was always apparent: the furniture he refinished and the toys he built were immaculate, down to the smallest detail. Likewise, when Bob wanted to improve the Altavista location of Finch and Finch, he decided to put in a stained-glass transom window, so he enrolled in a stained-glass course at Central Virginia Community College, made the window, and installed it himself. His window, the only stained-glass piece he ever made, and the carefully cut Old English logo he devised, is still a prominent feature at the entrance of the Finch and Finch Altavista location.

Although it’s difficult to imagine how he had the time with all of his other activities, Bob was compelled to not only serve families, but also serve his professional peers. Bob was a past president of the Southside Funeral Directors Association and the Virginia Funeral Directors Association. He was also a former member of the National Funeral Directors Association Policy Board. In 1991, Bob’s peers voted him Virginia Funeral Director of the Year and his contributions to the profession were again recognized in 2002, when he received the Golden Licensee Award from the Virginia Funeral Directors Association, for 50 years of service. He received the Golden Licensee Award again in 2017 for 65 years as a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Bob’s dedication, combined with his vast experience, continues to serve Finch and Finch, where he is recognized as president emeritus.

A graduate of Altavista High School and Lynchburg College, Bob remained loyal and committed to his roots and extended his good work into the community, where he quietly addressed improvements. For example, Bob was instrumental in the development of the playing surface at Altavista High School’s English Stadium. He utilized his greenhouse experience to prepare the soil (with the help of Altavista High School football players, students, and families) and plant grass, while using his greenhouse equipment to provide irrigation to the high school’s football field, turning a dry, dusty field into lush turf for all the students to enjoy. Additionally, if he knew a neighbor wanted to begin a project, Bob would take over and start on it. Typical of his generation, if Bob saw something that needed to be done, he simply did it, again, regardless if he was asked to help. And sometimes, he did it regardless of anyone else’s wishes. As Bob always said, “It’s a whole lot easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission.” Like his work at Finch and Finch, he did whatever it took to complete a job, and even more important, to complete the job correctly. Bob’s tendency to circumvent authority and seize control of a situation has produced results that can still be seen throughout Altavista. Never one to sit still, Bob continued to provide his expertise well into retirement, whether it was requested or not, of course.

It’s no surprise that Bob’s dedication to community also led him to the Lions Club International, of which he was not only a member, but also past president of the Altavista chapter, and former regional chairman. He was also a retired member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Altavista and a longtime member of Lane Memorial Church, where he formerly served on the Board of Trustees.

Bob is a man of deep commitment, quiet emotion, and immeasurable loyalty. He is also a man who boldly confronted mortality nearly every day of his life. Just as he stoically enlisted in the U.S. Army at the height of the Korean conflict and bravely faced the daily challenges of the funeral profession, he just as fearlessly addressed his own end, stating with his usual wit and humor, “Well, I’m on my way out of here. My time is about done.” Certainly, Bob built a strong legacy at Finch and Finch, but more than that, and a feat much more difficult to accomplish, he leaves behind a legacy of kindness, humor, strong principles, and boundless love. This is definitely apparent in the family business, but even more important to Bob, these traits are evident in his sons and his grandchildren, in his contributions to the Altavista community, and in every family who has and every family who will pass under that lovingly-crafted stained-glass window at Finch and Finch Funeral and Cremation Service.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Rob Finch and his wife, Judy of Lynch Station and Mark Finch of Oconomowoc, WI; four grandchildren, Trey Finch and his wife, Brooke of Altavista, Tara Finch of Madison, WI, Jackson Finch of Edenton, NC, and Nicholas Finch of Pensacola, FL; and two great granddaughters, Austen Rylie Finch and Avery Camryn Finch.

Due to the COVID-19 health concerns in our society today, the funeral service will be held in a unique fashion. Bob firmly believed in the celebration of a life. We think Bob would be excited and proud to have a customary and traditional celebration of his life performed in an uncustomary manner.

A drive-in funeral service will be conducted at 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, 2020 in the parking lot of Finch and Finch Funeral and Cremation Service, Altavista by the Rev. Ben Horrocks. While in the parking lot, please tune-in to 87.9 FM on your radio to listen to the service while within your automobile. The service is only available to those in attendance due to radio transmission limitations.

The family will greet friends following the service. Friends will drive through the portico for a few words with the family.

Please join and support our family while celebrating the legacy and incredible life of Bob.

For those wishing to view Bob, viewing will be available from Noon until 9:00 p.m. Saturday and 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday at the funeral home. For the protection of your health, proper health precautions and social distancing will be practiced.

The family would like to extend a special thanks for the loving care provided by the staff at Gentle Shepherd Hospice and especially Vivian Wright-Farmer and her team of caregivers including, Delicia Smith, Tasia Tucker, Cambria Lee, Shelia Lee, Joyce Miller, Annette Tucker, Tanisha Rucker, Jade McCoy and Trudy Stone.

The family suggests that those wishing to make memorials consider Lane Memorial United Methodist Church, 1201 Bedford Ave., Altavista, VA 24517 or Altavista Area YMCA, 718 Eighth St., Altavista, VA 24517.

Finch and Finch Funeral and Cremation Service, Altavista
Southside Funeral Directors Association
Father of Rob Finch, Finch & Finch, Inc. and Past President of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association (1988-89)

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