June 23, 1933 - August 27, 2011
Local artist and business owner Jack Finney passed away Aug. 27, 2011, at his home in Steamboat Springs.
He was born June 23, 1933, in Salem, Ill., the oldest of four children. He was a graduate of Salem Community High School. He was an excellent marksman and competed in numerous sports including football, basketball and track. After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy and served as an operations strategist during the Korean War.
After serving his country, he moved to Trinidad to attend Trinidad Community College. It was there that he met his wife of 55 years, Shirlee. Soon afterward, they moved to Denver, where Jack worked as a draftsman at Martin Marietta Aerospace Corp. He continued his education at the University of Colorado, eventually receiving a Bachelor of Science in business. After several successful years as a manager at a computing firm in Denver, Jack decided to relocate to Steamboat Springs, where he had spent many fall seasons hunting and fishing in the Yampa Valley.
The Finneys arrived in Steamboat in 1970, and Jack began with Ski Country Realty as a real estate broker. Always having a nose for business, Jack recognized the need in Steamboat for a travel agency, and in 1972, he started Great Escape Travel, which grew into a very successful business with clients across the country. He was actively involved with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for several years as well as the Kiwanis Club. He also was instrumental in bringing the first Winter Special Olympics to Steamboat. Always an outdoorsman, he was an avid hunter and fisherman and active in numerous other sports including skiing, golf and tennis.
In about 1980, with the business established and his three children off to college, Jack’s true passion as an artist resurfaced, and he began taking sculpting classes at the Scottsdale Art School. His natural talent as an artist could not remain hidden, and within two years, he received the Rookie of the Year award at the prestigious Charles M. Russell Art Show in Billings, Mont. Through the remainder of the ’80s until his retirement, Jack’s time was split between business operations at Great Escape Travel and bronze sculpting and painting in his home studio. He continued taking art classes at Scottsdale Art School, where he met and learned from nationally recognized artists in their respective fields.
Some of his most notable bronzes include Buddy Werner at the top of the ski area, Hazy Werner at the entrance to Hazie’s restaurant and the Bud Werner Memorial Library, Billy Kidd at the base of the ski area, and Doak Walker in the Doak Walker Care Center. He also was commissioned by the city of Santa Barbara to do a bronze of internationally recognized swim coach George Haines, who coached and trained numerous world-class and Olympic swimmers, including Mark Spitz.
Jack was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to many who lived life fully. He always will be remembered for his loyalty to family, endless wit and artistic passion.
He is survived by his wife, Shirlee; three children, Terri, Mike and Doug Finney; daughter in-law Ann Finney; two grandchildren, Cory and Jamie Finney; sister, Rita Sewell; and brothers Don and Bob Finney.
A memorial service was Sept. 2, 2011, at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp.