Finches declared Stars & Stripes Super Seniors

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From their solid family business to their civic engagement, Charles and Joanne Finch have helped shape the Guttenberg community. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The Stars and Stripes committee has chosen to honor Charles and Joanne Finch as the Super Seniors for this year’s celebration on July 1. “The Finches are hard working, model community members,” said Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce Director Emily Sadewasser. “Their contributions to local business and culture over their shared lives are immeasurable.” 

Charles Finch was born in the 800 block of South River Park Dr. 84 years ago, and he still resides on that same block. His mother was born next door to his current home, and his grandfather built three other houses in the neighborhood. His parents were married across the street, just steps from the original Zimmerman and Ives shed that eventually grew into Meuser Lumber Company, the family business.

Finch’s grandfather, Fred Friedlein, owned Meuser Lumber Company with his son-in-law, Herold Finch. Eventually, Charles joined the business in partnership with his father.

“I enlisted in the Navy and my grandfather made me promise when I left that I would come back and be part of Meuser Lumber Company someday; that I’d come back and run it and own it,” Charles told The Press. “I had other chances while I was in the Navy but I remembered that promise and I came back.”

Charles was sole owner of the company for about 35 years before passing it down to his own son, John Finch. His grandson, Alex Finch, has also made a career at the lumberyard. Together, the members of the Finch family are responsible for designing and constructing many of the buildings Guttenberg residents call home today, especially on the north end of town.

Joanne Finch grew up on a small farm outside of Osterdock, one of seven siblings. She attended country school and was often the only student in her grade level. “It was a modern school, because it had a basement with a furnace, but we had to carry drinking water from the neighbors’ house,” Joanne recalled. 

“She came to school as a freshman when I was a junior, and that’s the only thing I saw for two years,” joked her husband. The couple celebrated 64 years of marriage on June 21. Together they have 41 descendants: eight children, 22 grandchildren and 11 great-granchildren. 

“When we were first married back here we were original members of the square dance club, which was very active in our day. We went around to different clubs and performed at Lakeside several times,” Charles told The Press. “We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and we were close.” The club met every other Sunday evening to practice for several hours. Leland Tomkins was the caller and the club raised funds for the hospital. 

Charles firmly believes that the secret to a long marriage is tolerance. “You have to learn to tolerate things. She maybe doesn’t think the same way you think, but instead of getting in an argument you either go along with it or dismiss it.” His wife commented, “You have to sleep on it,” to which he added, “Don’t get too hasty with your decisions.” 

Tolerance is also the way Charles does business. “You have to tolerate people, because you meet all kinds,” advises the long-time business owner. “You have to be dependable. You have to be on the job. You can’t do it from a baseball field or out in the woods hunting squirrels or on the river fishing. You have to be on the job and it isn’t an 8-4 job. It can be 24 hours a day.”

While owning a local business and raising eight children, the couple still made time for civic engagement. Joanne has been an active member of the Ingleside Club since 1980, and she is also a member of the American Legion Auxiliary and Eastern Star. Both Finches are active in the United Methodist Church, where Charles has held every position on the board at least once. He’s also a member of the Peoples State Bank board, the American Legion, the Historic Preservation Committee and the Free Masons, and he served for 20 years on the volunteer fire department.

Charles and Joanne will be escorted by convertible through the Stars and Stripes parade, which begins – like so many important parts of their lives – in their own neighborhood. The route starts at Meuser Lumber at 7 p.m. and continues along River Park Drive to Main Street.

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