Mary Elizabeth Mary Lib Purvis Finlator

November 19, 1918June 29, 2012

Mary Elizabeth Purvis Finlator died at Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community on the Friday, June 29, 2012. She was the widow of the Rev. Dr. W. W. Finlator, Sr., former pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

Mary Lib Finlator was born on November 19, 1918 in Salisbury, NC, where her father, Dr. Sovereign Paschal Purvis, was a dentist and her mother, Belle Hicks Purvis, taught Latin. After graduating from Salisbury’s Boyden High School in 1935, she enrolled in Woman’s College in Greensboro, majoring in English and French. Her parents promised to pay for a trip to Europe after graduation if she would abstain from smoking and drinking alcohol through college, and she collected on the promise. She traveled through France, Italy, and Germany during the summer of 1939 and never forgot a torchlight parade she saw in Berlin.

In1939 Mary Lib took a job teaching English and French in Pittsboro High School. There she met the love of her life, William Wallace Finlator, who at that time held pastorates at three churches in Chatham County, including the First Baptist Church of Pittsboro. After a two-year courtship, they married on November 1, 1941 and remained happily married 64 years until his death. Her parents were Presbyterians and Republicans, but after her marriage she transitioned to Baptist and Democrat and almost never looked back.

Mary Lib and Bill lived in Weldon and Elizabeth City, North Carolina until he accepted a call to Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh in 1955, and Raleigh became her home for the rest of her life. She had three children, Wallace, Elizabeth and Martha. To them she was a devoted mother and steadfast friend. She was a devoted wife and homemaker and was tirelessly active in the churches at which her husband held pastorates. She was also involved in many community organizations including book clubs, Delta Kappa Gamma, Broughton Scholarship Committee and the Raleigh Woman’s Club. While she was a member of the Woman’s Club she served as Chaplain and published a book of prayers.

In 1964 Mary Lib began teaching English at Broughton High School in Raleigh, devoting herself to thousands of students over the next seventeen years. Fair, open, and democratic, she was effective and popular across all socioeconomic and racial lines. Her students remember that she hated the word “ain’t” and banned its use in her classroom. One of the proudest moments of her life occurred when she was selected Broughton High School Teacher of the Year.

After retiring from Broughton in 1981, Mary Lib became a docent at the North Carolina Museum of Art. She loved to play bridge, garden, and travel, and during her retirement she and her husband traveled to Alaska, Canada, and Europe. She was frugal with herself but generous to others. She was devoted to her many friends, and they to her. Above all, she loved her family, and in her seventies she spent countless hours compiling a three-volume album of family histories, full of pictures.

She is survived by two daughters, Martha Dell Finlator, of Washington D.C.; Elizabeth F. McCutchen and husband Joseph C. McCutchen, of Farmville, VA; a son, William Wallace Finlator, Jr., of Raleigh; a sister, Martha Dell Hudson, of Salisbury, N.C.; a former daughter-in-law, Silke Karen Marquardt Finlator; eight grandchildren, Benjamin Finlator Gerdes, John William Gerdes, Matthew Gwyn McCutchen, Ethan Fraser McCutchen, Joshua Finlator McCutchen, Marten Wallace Finlator, Kristian Marquardt Finlator and Hannah Verena Finlator; a great-grandson, Finn Caspian McCutchen; and many nieces and nephews.

Mary Lib was preceded in death by her beloved husband, William Wallace Finlator; a sister, Belle Hicks Gaskill; and a son-in-law, Ronald Wayne Gerdes.

The family is grateful for the loving and dedicated care provided to Mary Lib by the Springmoor Life Care Retirement Community.

A memorial service will be held in the sanctuary of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church at 2:00 pm on Saturday July14, 2012, followed by a reception in Finlator Hall at the church. A private burial will precede the memorial service.

In lieu of flowers, to honor the life of Mary Lib, the family requests that you support the public schools of North Carolina in whatever way you can; or a memorial donation may be made to Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, or the charity of one’s choice.

Arrangements by Brown-Wynne Funeral Home, Saint Mary’s St., Raleigh, NC, (919) 828-4311.


  • Memorial Service Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mary Elizabeth Mary Lib Purvis Finlator

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mia Reed

August 28, 2012

Just a passerby. Your mother taught my sister Melissa, English, at Broughton. Now, I'm the writer, and Melissa is an artist. Melissa always loved your mother.

I'm writing about your father, Reverend Finlator, and how my mother phoned him one day (my folks were friends of your folks) to tell him I was "getting married and that the groom was a Baptist." Your father replied, "What? She's marrying a Baptist? Tell her, she's crazy!" We had many great laughs over that, through the years.

Your folks are forever in our memories, and now, on the pages of a book.

Warmest thoughts,
The Reeds

Cheryl Hall

July 12, 2012

Dear Martha (or "Mah-tha" as your Mom would say)...I offer my condolences and deepest sympathy at this time of great loss to your family. I had hoped to attend the memorial service on Saturday and speak with you but since I have a family obligation at the same time, this note will have to suffice. Although I knew your mother way back when you and I were at Sherwood-Bates (hey, you left out the part about her being our Girl Scout leader), I got to know her a lot better when we were docents at the NCMA. We both gave tours on Friday so we often chatted in the docent lounge while waiting for our tour groups to arrive. We had a great time reminiscing about former classmates and teachers. She kept me up to date about you and your family---yes, I enjoyed listening to her brag about all of you; she was justifiably proud of everyone. She often passed along words of wisdom, among them being "All things in moderation, even religion"---which I thought was interesting coming from the wife of a minister. In looking through the photos here, I see your Mom is always smiling, always having a good time...bringing smiles to others around her. She was a wonderful person and I'm happy to have known her.

Blessings to you and all your family,
Cheryl (Burgess) Hall

Marlianne Midyette

July 4, 2012

My dear friend "Purvis"--Elizabeth...I, too, have lost both of my parents...we lived in a generation of close family thought the world of your family. Your mom opened your home to all us crazy teens! Even on my trip from Michigan, at Christmas, my junior year--I sure missed my NBHS friends...she loved everyone. I know you will miss her. I am donating to my 'dog rescue' in her will be on: & on Love Mutts Rescue on Facebook...I hope to see you, your brother all had a profound love that impacted my life! Marlianne Mauch Midyette