Keith Williamson Finley

July 5, 1926December 27, 2019

Keith Williamson Finley- July 5, 1926- December 27, 2019

Keith Williamson Finley, age 93, went home to be with the Lord Friday, December 27, 2019, holding the hands of his three daughters. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 5, 1926 and was the beloved only child of Judge James A. and Alice Finley. He grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi. One of his earliest memories was surviving the Tupelo tornado at age 9. He remembers his father shielding his body as the roof was torn from the house. His father ran through the streets with Keith on piggyback and put him on a train for Memphis. He considered it a great adventure and only later realized what a tragedy it was for the 454 who lost their lives. He joined the Navy on June 6, 1944. He was 18 and had just graduated from Tupelo High School. He lied about having asthma so he could serve. He was deeply disappointed that it was D-Day so although he worked aboard a ship, he never saw combat. He graduated from Auburn in 1950 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was in Phi Tau Sigma (honor society) and Delta Kappa Epsilon (social fraternity) He went to work at General Electric and spent the next 35 years as a design engineer. He worked at Oak Ridge, Tennessee on The Manhattan Project and received a patent on a “termination box” used in Venezuela. He married the former Betty Bennett of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 1954. He had a lifetime membership to the Rome Little Theater whose home is in the historic Desoto Theater. He designed the lighting system used at both Rome landmarks, The Desoto Tester and The Rome City Auditorium. For many decades he shown a spotlight on every little girl who danced in a recital as well as most plays, concerts and variety shows. Keith was a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church. He cooked breakfast for the Men’s Prayer Breakfast every Thursday since 1973 until very recently. He served as a deacon and elder. He helped design the King Hall and The Crossing. He helped fill and deliver Christmas food boxes. For a time was the only one who knew how to turn the lights on. His favorite job at First Presbyterian was helping out in the nursery. His buddy, Henderson Stegall, now a grown man, misunderstood the name Keith Finley to be “Chief Friendly” as he was still known to children there. He went on mission trips to Africa, Venezuela and Belize helping build water stations, wiring remote places for electricity and building schools. He had a workshop in his basement and could fix anything his daughters needed or broke. He made doll cradles, desks, helped with science fair projects and hope chests. Then he taught his grandsons how to work with tools. At age 91 through DNA testing he was amazed and delighted found out he had a biological sister. He was able to fly to Louisville, KY to meet her. He was predeceased by his wife Betty Bennett Finley and a son-in-law, Jeff Cavaness. He is survived by his daughters Florence Finley Milway (Jeff) Mary Finley Niedrach (Jack) and Jane Finley Cavaness. His grandchildren Katie Milway Fullerton (Daniel) Jackson Milway (Sarah) Bennett Niedrach (Thuy) Lee Niedrach (Christine Wong) and Adam Cavaness and great-grandchildren Wyatt Fullerton, Ada Fullerton Kaylee McLendon, Austin McLendon. Asked to sum up his life recently he said; “I’ve had a great marriage, great health and a great family. I’ve had a damn great life.” He asked that this quote from Rudyard Kipling be included in his obituary: “And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd—they know the Angels are on their side. They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied. They sit at the feet—they hear the Word—they see how truly the Promise runs. They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and—the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons! A memorial service will be held Sunday, December 29, 2019 at 2:00 P.M. at First Presbyterian Church, Rome. The family will receive friends following the service in King Hall. Daniel’s Funeral Home has charge of the arrangements.



  • Memorial Service, First Presbyterian Church, Rome. Sunday, December 29, 2019


  • Reception following service


Keith Williamson Finley

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Harriet Hamrick Langford

December 30, 2019

Keith, and of course Betty as well, were such lovely people and so kind to my mother Martha Hamrick. I miss holiday visits with "Chief Friendly" and Betty, so I want the children and their families to know how much they both meant to me and my mother. I am so grateful to have known them both.

Meredith Thomas

December 29, 2019

Thank Mr. Finley for *shining* on me and Rome Civic Ballet with your time and talents as our lighting designer for 20+ years!! My heart overflows with gratitude.