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Florence E. Finch

1915 - 2017
Florence E. Finch Obituary
Finch, Florence E.

Florence E. Finch of 521 Hudsqn Street, Ithaca died on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at Oak Hill Manor. Born on October 11, 2015 in lsabella Provence, Philippines, she was the daughter of Charles George and Maria Hermosa Ebersole. At the outbreak of World War II, December 8, 1941 in the Philippines, she was a civilian stenographer in the Office of Army Intelligence, Headquarters Philippine Department, Manila. She was married to Charles Edward Smith, a special agent with the Office of Naval Intelligence, also in Manila, who was killed in action off Subic Bay on February 8, 1942. After liberation by United States forces she repatriated to the United States to live with her father's relatives in Buffalo, New York. The American militarv forces withdrew from the Philippines on December 24, 1941 and the Japanese entered Manila on January 2, 1941. Since she did not acknowledge her American background the Japanese gave Finch a job with the Japanese controlled Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union. Soon she was writing out vouchers for gasoline, diesel fuel, oil and alcohol for the Philippine Underground. She was also arranging for stocks of critical items to be destroyed when they were shipped. During that time Florence's former American boss, Lt. Col. E.C. Englehart, was captured. Soon after Finch received a letter from the colonel asking for soap and quinine for U.S. prisoners. They took everything they could to them including taking their laundry and doing it for them. In October 1944 the Japanese discovered Finch's activities. She was then taken to a nearby Japanese military station where she was questioned and tortured using electrical devices on all her fingers. the worst of her experience was in Bilibad prison where she was confined to a 2 x 4 foot room, where she was left squatting in GI pajamas, and starved. Florence remained in Bilibad trying to drown out the sounds of others suffering and realizing the names heard called out were those to be executed. There was a trial for her where she was sentenced to three years hard labor at the Philippines Women's Correctional Institution in Mandaluong, on the outskirts of Manila. Conditions improved as the guards were not Japanese. On February 10, 1945 the American troops came and freed the inmates. At that time Florence weighed a mere 80 pounds, Florence then chose to repatriate, to the United States, to live with her father's sister in Buffalo, New York. She arrived in May 1945 and soon thereafter she joined the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was delighted to have a Navy widow and heroine from the Philippine Underground join their ranks. Immediately she was awarded the Pacific Campaign ribbon for her service in the Philippines. After she was discharged from the SPARS Florence was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor an American civilian call receive from the government, in November 1947.Early in the 1990's a questionnaire was sent to all women who were ever in military service as part of the Women's In Military Service Memorial to be built in Washington, DC. Through this the U.S. Coast Guard discovered her again and at which time were amazed at her contributions during WWII. The Coast Guard had been looking for a way to open their new headquarters on the 50th anniversary year of the ending of WWII. The Coast Guard found its something special in Horence Finch. On February 28, 1995 the United States Coast Guard in Honolulu , responsible for 276,000 square miles of ocean, named its new $3.5 million headquarters for florence Ebersole Smith Finch. At this time this humble woman's story was revealed, as she had not shared it beyond her immediate family. Florence was the widow of Robert Thornton Finch who died in Ithaca on August 12, 1968. She is survived by her daughter, Betty Finch Murphy (Joe Longo) in Ithaca, her son, Bob Finch (Mary Henderson) in Denver, colorado. Also surviving are her sister, Olive Keats in California, her grandchildren Rob Murphy (Toni) in Erie, PA, Bryan Murphy (Melissa) in Austin, Texas, Heather Murphy (Scott Fitchett) in Kirkwood, NY, Chad Murphy in Ithaca, Annie Finch (Jack Stephens) in Portland, OR and Logan Finch (Melanie) in Denver, CO. Also surviving Florence are her two great grandchildren, Trey and Lucas Murphy of Erie, PA ~Iong with numerous family members in Alden, NY, Columbia, MD, San Diego, CA, Los Angeles, and in northern California, Arizona and Alaska. As many of you know our mother collected friends wherever she went and they remained close to her throughout her life. Her life at Oak Hill Manor was extraordinarily busy due to their many activities, thanks to Debaura Dahl. The list at Oak Hill Manor is far too long to thank individually but we would like to thank each and every one for the excellent care and the love you so generously gave our mother. You took our mother from being bedridden to walking laps in the hall after each meal to watering her flowers, doing her nails, preparing her for numerous outings, sharing stories, helping with family dinners and conspiring with us for many a surprise. Thank you also to friends Tinny Oey and Ann Cedarholm. Your friendship to our mother had no boundaries. And finally a very special thank you to Katrina Morse. A simple autograph in one of Katrina's books developed into a friendship like no other. Your endless generosity, whether it be sewing, doing cprrespondence, experimenting with 'halo halo' or ever faithful Tuesday evening visits brought our mother unexpected joy and love. You are so much a part of our family.

Florence Finch was a member of the First Presbyterian Church where she was an Elder and a Deacon (serving a second term while she resided at Oak Hill Manor). A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church at 315 N. Cayuga Street, Ithaca on Saturday, April 29th, 2017 at 1:00PM with the Rev. Kirianne Weaver Riehl officiating. Burial will be at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery at 11:00AM prior to the Memorial. Please, please, please absolutely no flowers as we will be planting a tree in the church Memorial Garden in qpr mother's name. If you wish a donation we would graciously recommend the Franziska Racker Centers, 3226 Wilkins Rd. Ithaca, NY 14850.
Published in Ithaca Journal on Apr. 22, 2017
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