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Gary D. Finch of Auburn, New York passed away peacefully on May 5, 2023 with his family by his side. He was born in Auburn the son of the late Dorothy Dean Finch Smolak and Donald P. Finch, and was a lifelong resident of Cayuga County. He attended Cayuga Community College, and in 1966 was awarded a degree from the Simmons School of Mortuary Science in Syracuse, New York. In addition, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration and Political Theory from SUNY Empire State College. In 1970, Gary became the owner of Shakelton Funeral in Aurora, New York which became part of Brew-Finch Funeral Homes, Inc.
Gary was first elected to public office in 1979 as a village of Aurora trustee, and in 1982, he was elected mayor. During his eight years as mayor, he was successful in negotiating financial support from a local tax-exempt higher education institution and planned a financially-solvent, long-term strategy for the village. He was also instrumental in planning the village's water storage and delivery system and upgrading the village's streets.
On November 2, 1999, Gary was first elected to the New York State Assembly, where he was the longest serving Assemblyman in the history of Cayuga County. For over two decades, he represented the 123rd & 126th Assembly Districts and from 2011 – 2021 he served as Assistant Minority Leader to the Republican Conference. While on the Assembly Agriculture Committee he received the “Circle of Friends Award” from the New York State Farm Bureau, which is given to select lawmakers who have a strong voting record in support of New York Agriculture. He was proud to work with the district’s number one industry in addressing issues facing the farming community. It was one of many Committees that he served on. In addition, he was a member of the American Irish Legislators Society, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the New York State Pilots Association.
Gary was an active member of his community serving on many boards in numerous capacities. As a member of Owasco Watershed Lake Association, Gary secured the first funding of 200K for the remediation of Brook Hollow on Owasco Lake; and later he obtained over two million in funding for water treatment facilities in the town of Owasco and the City of Auburn due to blue-green algae contamination. He served as Cayuga County United Way's president, campaign chair and also on its executive and finance committees. He was a past member of Leadership Cayuga's curriculum program committee; Chair of the membership committee for Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, and past President of the Rotary Club. He was a member of Saint Alphonsus Church and Saint Mary’s Church; a Papal Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and a fourth-degree member of the Auburn Knights of Columbus #207; a past president, charter member and big brother for Big Brothers and Big Sisters; past board member of Hospice of the Finger Lakes and a former member of the Schweinfurth Art Center finance committee.
In recognition of his commitment to his community, Gary has been honored with many awards and commendations: the Advocate of the Year Award given by Options for Independence for his tireless efforts on behalf of people with disabilities; the Auburn/Cayuga NAACP Millennium Award; the Korean War Veterans Association, Chapter 296 commended him for his support of the Korean War Veterans Memorial; the New York State Correction Officers Police Benevolent Association has honored Gary numerous times for his support and advocacy for the brave correction officers that continue to risk their lives every day; and the New York Jaycees honored him with the Outstanding Young Man in New York State for his contributions in Public Service.
In November 2020, Assemblyman Finch was presented with a key to the City of Auburn by Mayor Michael D. Quill in recognition for his more than two decades representing Auburn and Cayuga County and in 2021, he was honored as the “Man of the Year” at the Tyburn Academy Sports Banquet for his continued support throughout the years.
Surviving Gary is his wife, Marcia Herrling Finch and their two children and families: Amy Finch Elser (Steven) and their children Lucy Mia, Dalton and Alanda (Rich) Nuzzo and Gregory Finch (Nicole McGarry-Finch) and their son, Brayden; two brothers, Wayne (Jeanne) Finch and Kevin Finch. In addition is a sister-in-law, Jennifer Finch and several nieces and nephews
Gary is predeceased by his parents and a brother, David Finch.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 am at Saint Mary’s Church, 15 Clark Street, Auburn, NY on Friday, May 12, 2023.
Interment will be held in Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, Auburn, NY
Memorial contributions may be made to Auburn Community Hospital Foundation, 17 Lansing Street, Auburn, NY 13021 in memory of Gary D. Finch
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Shakelton and Brew Funeral Homes.