Jack Finney, known for bronzes of community personalities, dies at 78 | SteamboatToday.com

Jack Finney, known for bronzes of community personalities, dies at 78

Jack Finney, right, poses for a photograph with his wife, Shirlee Finney, and Olympic skier Billy Kidd in a photo taken in January 1991 for the Steamboat Pilot.

— Noted Steamboat Springs Sculptor Jack Finney, who created enduring bronze monuments to several of the community's best-loved personalities, died Aug. 27 at his home after a lengthy illness. He was 78.

Finney served in the Navy during the Korean War and had success in real estate and operating a travel agency with his wife, Shirlee. But he will be best remembered as the artist who created lifelike bronzes of Olympic medalist Billy Kidd, the great American skier of the 1960s; Buddy Werner; Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker; and Buddy's mother, Hazie, who embodied Steamboat's reputation for Western hospitality.

All of those sculptures are in public places where Steamboat residents and visitors can and frequently do, interact with them.

When skiers plan to meet at the bottom of the Steamboat gondola for a day on the slopes, they almost invariably say, "meet you at Billy Kidd," a reference to the life-sized bronze of Kidd in action that occupies a prominent spot just off the deck of Bear River Bar & Grill.

And when the spring snowpack rose to unheard of heights here in May, reverent skiers hiked to the top of Storm Peak to honor and photograph the bronze bust of Buddy Werner that barely peaked out of the snow though it sits atop a tall pole.

Hazie Werner's bust sits in a place of respect outside the mid-mountain restaurant that bears her name. And another bust of Doak Walker, the humble Heisman winner from Southern Methodist University, greets visitors to the Doak Walker Care Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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After the Korean War, Finney moved to Denver to work as a draftsman at Martin Marietta Aerospace Corp. He went on to earn a degree in business from the University of Colorado and managed a computing firm in Denver. But the autumn afternoons he spent hunting and fishing in Steamboat Springs lured him to the Yampa Valley, where he became a broker with Ski Country Realty and in 1972 founded Great Escape Travel.

It was in about 1980 that Finney began taking sculpting classes at the Scottsdale Art School in Arizona. His midlife career change took off when he claimed the Rookie of the Year award at the Charles M. Russell Art Show in Billings, Mont.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Memorial service

A memorial service for Jack Finney is at 4 p.m. Friday at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.

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