April 10, 2003
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Finn remembered as man who kept Township running

Harold Finn in 1994. Former Miami Township trustee Bill Hooper said that he did not know how Miami Township Fire-Rescue ‘ever got along without’ Finn after he stepped down as a volunteer with the squad.


Without fail, the first thing people remember about Harold Finn is that he could fix just about anything. The second is that he was a family man. On both these things he spent the major part of his 68 years in Yellow Springs, as a father of five and as a volunteer and an employee of the Miami Township fire department and road crew.

He died at home last Monday, March 31, of prostate cancer.

Finn loved mechanics and he spent much of the time with at least one hand on a wrench. From his boyhood days when he had a bicycle repair shop to his retirement days spent working on old tractor engines, Finn always worked with his hands. Bikes turned to cars in high school, and from there he went to work for Bales Chevrolet on Xenia Avenue.

Butch Heaton remembered working with Finn, who rarely missed a day, underneath the cars on the lift. He was exceptionally adept at electrical wiring, Heaton said, a skill that not all mechanics then had.

“But Mr. Bales was always on Harold because Harold knew more than Mr. Bales about certain things, and Mr. Bales didn’t like that,” Heaton said. “One day Mr. Bales had too much to drink and told Harold to leave. I told Mr. Bales the next day, ‘We lost a good man.’ ”

But Ehman’s Garage was glad to have him, and in 1960 Finn went to work at the repair shop on U.S. 68. He stayed there 14 years, all the while serving as an engineer for Miami Township and as a volunteer for the Yellow Springs Fire Department.

All the Township’s firetrucks, automobiles and maintenance machinery kept running thanks to Finn’s handiwork. Andy Benning, who worked for the Village as a meter reader and then as fire chief in the ’50s and ’60s, remembered watching the quiet fix-it guy with admiration.

“Harold liked to mess around with motors, and he was, pardon my expression, damn good at it,” Benning said. “We couldn’t find anyone better than he was.”

Finn also loved to fight fires, he said in an article in the News shortly before he retired as Township road superintendent. He kept a scanner in his house and went on almost every run.

Many people say that Finn was a calm, quiet man, a strength that allowed him to do his jobs so well.

Longtime Miami Township Fire-Rescue volunteer Dave Huber has known Finn since the ’50s. “I’ve never seen Harold lose his cool,” he said. “If there was a problem he took care of it without any ado.”

But he had a sense of humor too. Huber remembered what Finn told him in their firefighting days.

“Harold always said when he died he didn’t want to be cremated because he’d been too hot already fighting fires,” he said.

When Finn went to work full-time for the Township in 1979 as the road superintendent, he was handling emergencies of a different nature: snow. Former township trustee Bill Hooper recalled Finn’s diligent road clearing when the area was under so much snow the Air Force was called in to help dig the town and surrounding area out.

“He was a quiet sort of guy, very pleasant and reliable, and you could count on him in emergencies,” Hooper said. “When it started snowing he was ready for it, and he kept the essential roads open for the rescue squad.”

Harold Finn, it seems, was ready for almost anything, especially when it came to his family. Finn married his schoolmate Martha (Marty) See in 1954, and they took their five children camping all over the United States in the family RV trailer. Once when the family’s car overheated pulling the camper out on a dusty road somewhere, Finn rigged the windshield washer pump to spray the water onto the radiator to cool the engine down.

The family belonged to Dayton’s Roamin’ Holiday Ramblers chapter No. 23 for RV aficionados, and camping was a favorite family recreation. It was even, at times, a savior. The family’s eldest son, John Finn, remembered as a child his dad working late one night during heavy spring rains. When Harold came home at midnight, water had flooded the crawl space under the house and it was sloshing into the home’s first floor.

“Dad said, ‘Everyone get in the car, we’re going camping,’ ” John said. “He carried each of us one by one out to the car, and we went to Houston Woods for the weekend.”

John has remained not more than a step behind his father from the very beginning. Since the time he started walking, John said he followed his dad to work. John had a love for cars, and he worked for Chevrolet, then Ehman’s, then he eventually came to work for the Township as well. Father and son worked side by side in the 1990s on the road crew.

“It was great, I got to see my dad every day,” John said. “We’d only occasionally get into little skiffs, which were more disagreements than anything and which he later always had a right viewpoint about.”

When Finn retired in 1999, John was right there to take his father’s place as the new road superintendent.

John said he and his father talked about everything. And they worked on all kinds of projects together, including building a garage and remodeling a bathroom in John’s house.

“He was my best friend,” John said.

After he retired Harold Finn concentrated on fixing up antique farm machinery as a member of the Old Timers Club. He had several David Bradley tractors and he was fixing up a 1950’s Farmall M tractor in his yard, Martha said.

Chris Mucher, the current president of the Township Board of Trustees remembered Finn fondly.

“He had a great toothy smile, and the man could fix anything,” Mucher said. “But he didn’t like paperwork, and he had a stubborn streak in him where he’d get this set jaw face and you knew you weren’t going to get anything from him.”

He got paid for 40-hour weeks, Mucher said, “but he probably worked 90.”

—Lauren Heaton