Don Finley

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Don Finley, 81, of Tallahassee, Florida, and a native of Jena, passed from this life on Friday, November 22, 2013 in Tallahassee. Don was born in 1932 in a house on the Natchez highway just outside Jena. He attended elementary school in Jena and graduated from Olla-Standard High School in its last graduating class in 1950. He was a third generation of the Finley’s to live in Jena. His grandfather, Harris Finley, owned and operated the old LaSalle Hotel and Café in downtown Jena until his death in 1932. His great uncle, Sam Finley, was superintendent for one of the sawmills in Trout. Sam died in 1965 at age 100. Don’s father, Howard F. Finley, Sr., ran a Singer Sewing Machine route out of Jena before World War II and a Standard Coffee route out of Olla after the war.  After graduating from Northwestern State University with a BA degree in journalism, Don served two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in Germany. After leaving the service, he went to graduate school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City where he got a master’s degree in editorial journalism. At age 19, between his sophomore and junior years at NSU, Don served as editor for The Jena Times and Olla-Tullos Signal (two separate publications then.) While at the University of Iowa, Don met his wife, Marilyn Lyon of Des Moines, who was also an undergraduate journalism major. They were married 55 years at his death. During the following years, Don would serve as a reporter and editor with United Press International (back when it was a viable wire service and a strong competitor for the AP) in Des Moines and Washington, D.C. He later served as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Geological Survey in the U.S. Department of the Interior, in the USGS headquarters in Reston, VA, and its Central Regional Headquarters in Denver. He was at Mount St. Helens when the volcano erupted in 1980. Don was very active in the Olla-Standard High School Alumni Association and served as editor of the “Tiger Talk” – an alumni newsletter. He returned to LaSalle Parish as often as possible to attend the reunions of the alumni association. Among his fellow 1950 OSHS graduates were Jimmie King, former mayor of Olla; Carriece Lindsey Duke, former Olla Town Council member; Frances Davis Allmon, Jimmie Walters, Jerry McDougald and Jimmy Dale Hendrix. A memorial service is being planned later in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where Don and Marilyn resided for many years after their retirement. In the past few years, the couple made their home in Tallahassee near their only daughter. Survivors include his wife, Marilyn Finley of Tallahassee; one daughter, Amy Finley of Tallahassee; three sons, Mark Finley and Eric Finley, both of Roanoke, VA, and Guy Finley of Omaha, NE; and five grandchildren, Austin Finley, Dillan Finley, Sophia Finley, Hannah Finley, and Casey Hanley.
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