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Willie Finister Sr.

The pastor of Greater St. James Baptist Church and Mount Canaan Baptist Church, he died Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, at his home surrounded by his family. He was 74, a native of Sicily Island and a resident of Baton Rouge. He was also a retired employee with the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. He was educated in Catahoula Parish. Before graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a Korean War veteran. He later returned to school and graduated from Rosenwald High School in Sicily Island as the salutatorian of his class. He also attended Grambling State University. He gave his life to Christ at age 9 and was baptized by the late Rev. H.P. Jenkins at New Zion Baptist Church in Sicily Island. At age 13, he became assistant superintendent of the Sunday school, and served on the Junior Usher Board. He always had a servant's heart. He was a lead singer with "The Gospel Melotones." He later moved his membership to Gloryland Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, where he served in many capacities including choir member, Sunday school teacher and deacon. He accepted the Master's call to the ministry, and on Oct. 18, 1975, was ordained as an associate minister by the late Rev. Dr. John D. Lands. In 1976, he enrolled as a student at Christian Bible College of Louisiana and subsequently received his bachelor's of theology and master's of theology. He later received his doctorate of divinity from Inter-Baptist Theological Center of Houston on June 2, 1981. He dedicated his life to service and as such, was elected to pastor Greater St. James Baptist Church and Mount Canaan Baptist Church. He served as vice president and instructor of Christian Bible College of Louisiana. He was a Master Mason 32nd degree with the Blazing Star No. 114 F&AM Prince Hall Affiliation. He served as the financial secretary for the Fourth District Baptist Association until his health began to fail. He was also a member of the East Baton Rouge Parish Ministers Conference and the National Baptist Convention. Visiting at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 185 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, on Sunday, Sept. 25, from 3 p.m. until funeral services at 6 p.m., conducted by the Rev. Dr. Edward Howard. Dismissal on Monday, Sept. 26, at 10 a.m., with interment in Southern Memorial Gardens. He will always be loved and remembered by his loving and devoted children, Vernetta and husband Donald Carmouche, Shonda, and Joseph Finister, all of Baton Rouge; daughter-in-law, Donna Phillips-Finister, of Baton Rouge; a brother, Joe Henry Finister, of Pittsburg, Calif.; three sisters, Queen Esther McDougall, of Houston, Francis Watson, of Sicily Island, and Emma Jean Brooks, of Wisner; and three brothers-in-law, Stone Wall Jackson, of Sicily Island, and Leonce Jr. and wife Ella Vallery, and Paul and wife Carolyn Vallery, all of Baton Rouge. He was preceded in death by his beloved and devoted wife of 37 years, Elaine Rosa Finister; parents, Frank Finister and Minnie Douglas Watson; a son, Willie Mac Finister Jr.; two brothers, Charles Douglas and Huey Finister; and a sister, Rachel Finister Jackson. Arrangements by Winnfield Funeral Home, 7221 Plank Road, Baton Rouge, (225) 357-2675.

Published in TheAdvocate.com on Sept. 24, 2011
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