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Patricia Ann Mullican “Pat” Finley, 84, tap danced through the pearly gates of heaven on April 24, 2021, restored to health and resplendent in her signature orange, leaving behind these written words: “If you are sad, I swear I will come back and haunt you!” She knew where she was headed, and that it was going to be splendid beyond imagination.
Born in Wesson to H.I. “Happy” and Mary Nell Mullican on March 18, 1937, she was welcomed by sisters June, 16 and Elsie, 12. This made Patsy, as she was known back then, a “bonus baby,” which explains a lot. She was “extra” all her life. It was her birthright.
She had a wonderful childhood in Wesson, where she met dear lifelong friends, played the piano like her mother, and met her husband, Walton Eugene “Gene” Finley. They married in 1958 and were together until his death in 2001. They settled in Mendenhall and Pat set about recreating her amazing childhood for her children. She largely succeeded, and it was here that she developed the signature style and spirit for which she is so well known.
Gene brought home some neon orange safety paint from his work one day and she painted the mailbox with it because it was so festive looking. A neighbor or two raised an eyebrow at this, which delighted her so much that she also painted the front door of the family’s red brick house. She had found her color! She said it sounded like love. (She had synesthesia, a neurological condition that annoys most of its sufferers, but not Pat. She enjoyed seeing colors in music and hearing emotions in words. This also explains a lot.) She wore orange almost every day of her life from then on.
One would think that a single signature style of such flare would be enough for a person, but one would be mistaken if that person is Pat Finley. For reasons not quite clear (because the story kept changing through the years), Pat wore only one earring. She loved wearing one dangly, feathery embellished creation in the right lobe, prompting complete strangers to helpfully inform her that she had lost an earring. Over the years, people not only became accustomed to it, they would save their singleton earrings for her if they lost one of their pair. She amassed an incredible collection of solo danglers, but the one she treasured the most was a set of small diamond studs that Gene had made into one earring just for her. It was the gesture of a man who accepted his wife for the person she was. What other choice did he have?
Pat was a fantastic musician, playing piano both by sight and by ear. She regularly played for weddings, funerals, church services, anywhere music was needed, and she never charged a dime. She believed it was her ministry, and she blessed so many with it. For years she volunteered at a local nursing home, where the residents would call out song titles and she would play them all without a missed note. Never once did she have to say, “I don’t know that one.” It was cross-fade at its finest, as show tunes and hymns morphed into standards and classical pieces. She enjoyed it more than her audiences.
As much as she adored her family, it could be said that she might love animals just as much (even more, on occasion). It seemed that strays had a doggie network that would point them to her house, and she would never turn away a hungry animal in need. She was also a talented writer, having worked for the Jackson Daily News, the Simpson County News and the Magee Courier. Anyone who needed a political speech, an obituary, a term paper, a poem or just a blurb knew that Pat would write it to perfection.
She got her grandchildren behind the wheel of a car at a young age, even when they didn’t really want to. She gave them “freedom to find their adventure,” and her spirit lives on in them. She also loved photography, New Orleans, politics, seafood, and a good margarita on the rocks with salt. She loved all things Irish, and was completely unphased when both her children got DNA tests that showed almost ZERO Irish blood in them. Never one to let the facts ruin a good story, Pat was Irish no matter what the irrefutable scientific evidence might say.
Pat Finley’s house was an oasis for many through the years, a safe haven that was free of judgment and open to all. She was an influencer before it was cool, offering encouragement and support to the misfits, the broken hearted and hurting, and anyone in need of a soft space to land. She knew what it meant to be a little different, she who wore miniskirts to church and bikinis at the pool and had an orange front door on her red brick house. She was fiercely protective and bowed up all 100 pounds of herself against injustice, bullies, and unkindness of any sort. She preached and lived acceptance, and you knew you had a magnificent ally if Pat Finley was in your corner.
Mostly, she lived for being a mother. Her children could not have been more adored and cherished. Her family meant everything to her, and she often expressed her great astonishment at the blessings in her life. Her children’s spouses, her beloved grandchildren and greatgrandchild, her loyal friends, from nursery school on, all were loved beyond measure. After many years as a widow, as she said, God saw fit to bring another love into her life, a special partner who enriched her days right up until the end. And she had her faith and knew that no matter how wonderful this life was, the life to come was going to be even better.
Pat is survived by her daughter Erin Granberry and husband Dennis, of Hattiesburg; her son Michael Finley and wife Kathy, also of Hattiesburg; her grandchildren Taylor Finley of Jacksonville, Fla., and Connor Finley of Orlando, Fla.; one great-grandchild, Lucy Rose Hopkins of Jacksonville, Fla., bonus grandchildren Lee Granberry and wife Kaitlin of Sumrall; Eric Granberry of Biloxi; and bonus great-grandchild Remi Kate Granberry of Sumrall. She is also survived by her partner, Jackson Truett, her Bookstore Gang, the Joy Sunday school class, and a host of family and friends.
She is preceded in death by her husband Gene Finley; her daughter Shaughn Michelle Finley; her parents, H.I. and Mary Nell Mullican; and her sisters June Brazelton and Elsie Wilkinson. The family would like to thank her wonderful caregivers: Willie Smith, Vera Burkett, Veira McLaurin, Trinity Burkett and Elizabeth McCullum.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Pat has selected for donations the Mississippi Animal Rescue League, msarl.org, 5221 Greenway Drive Ext., Jackson, MS 39204; and Community Animal Rescue and Adoption (CARA), carams.org, 960 N. Flag Chapel Road, Jackson, MS 39209.
This motto was framed several places around Pat’s house, and it sums up her philosophy perfectly: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!’” Godspeed, Pat.
Colonial Chapel Funeral Home of Mendenhall is in charge of arrangements. (601) 847-4401
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