Our beloved Barbara Jean Merriam Finley passed away peacefully on June 18, 2018 at Memorial Hospital with her daughter Debbie by her side. Barbara was 92 years old. Barbara was born to Hugh G. and Esther Stout Merriam in Modesto on August 21, 1925. She lived her joyful childhood years around Hickman and Waterford on the family farm and dairy, with her sister Winnie Merriam and many dear cousins as her first friends. Though times were not easy during the Great Depression and later World War II, Barbara shared with us many happy memories of that time. She was always an excellent student, voracious reader and excelled in learning. She graduated from Hickman Elementary, Hughson High School, Stockton Junior College and C.O.P. in Stockton ( now U.O.P.), where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree and elementary teaching credential. While at C. O. P. Barbara was a member of Lau Kappa Kappa sorority. She enjoyed teaching for 28 years and communicated her joy of reading to her mainly second grade students which she considered her greatest accomplishment. Barbara in her shy and quiet way was fully blessed with many friends. She was a 50 year member of the Phi Epsilon Phi sorority- Iota chapter of Modesto and a lifetime member of the California Retired Teachers Association, serving as the Stanislaus Division Resource Chairman as well as the state CRTA Area VI Resource Chairman. In her retirement Barbara traveled extensively, gardened her beloved flowers, and was an avid reader and dancer. Barbara was a member of Friends of Hospice, serving as President in 1993-1994, a member of the Modesto Antique Club, the McHenry Museum & Historical Society, the TNT’s square dance club and the McHenry Mansion Foundation , serving as a docent for many years. Barbara’s sweet, kind and giving nature drew many people to her, was cherished and loved by her family and friends, and will be greatly missed by all.
Barbara was predeceased by her parents, her sister Winnie Merriam, daughter Leslie Woodruff Baker and husband of 23 years James David Finley. She is survived by her children Debbie (Richard) Stone, John Gentleman and Jeffrey Gentleman all of Modesto, and step son David (Kathy) Emmans of Minnetonka Minnesota. She is also survived by her grandchildren, James (Kristin) Baker, Amanda Young, Matthew (Christina) Houser, Brett (Holly) Houser , Nick Emmans and Abbey Emmans. Other survivors are her adored great grandchildren, Brayden Young, Leslie Young and Jason Houser. We are most grateful for the loving attention of her caregivers Vickie Vierra and Denise Price, as well as her children, which allowed Barbara to live out her life in her own home.
A celebration of Life service followed by a luncheon reception will be held at 11:00 Wednesday July 25 at First United Methodist Church located at 16th and I streets in downtown Modesto. Private interment will be held. Please feel free to wear something blue in Barbara’s memory. Remembrances may be made to Friends of Hospice, the McHenry Mansion Foundation—acquisition fund, Modesto Gospel Mission or the Salvation Army.