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Patrick H. Finley, 78, of Big Rock, Illinois passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, September 30, 2023. He was born June, 22, 1945, the son of Laurence H. Finley and Mary (Behrens) Finley.
Pat was an only child growing up in Big Rock. After graduating from Hinckley Big Rock High School in 1963, Pat pursued his passion for art. He found Ernie Harding, a sign painter from Waterman, who quickly became his mentor. Along with Ernie’s guidance combined with Pat natural talents, Pat became quite accomplished in the sign painter trade.
During those years Pat and his father built and modified a 1929 Model “A” Ford truck which won honors at the 1962 World of Wheels car show. after many years the truck came back into his possession, and his goal was to get it running so he could drive it to his 60th class reunion. Mission accomplished. He also took it to the World of Wheels last year and won again!
In 1966, while serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War, Pat’s talents were soon noticed. During his stint he painted welcome signs for USO stars Bob Hope, Martha Ray and Jonathan Winters. Pat and his talents were in popular demand.
After his discharge and returning to the states in 1969, Pat, along with his passion for auto racing he found himself in Daytona Beach Florida. It was during speed weeks and the running of the Daytona 500. While standing outside of the pit entrance with his painter’s box of paint’s and brushes in hand, he was noticed by the legendary NASCAR driver Richard Petty. Petty asked him if he could touch up his racecar. Once Pat started on Petty’s car, his talents were soon noticed throughout the pits and he was in demand. He did his most extensive work on the eventual winner of the Daytona 500, LeeRoy Yarbrough’s car. Once returning home he successfully partnered with John Everly and they formed Everly-Finley Sign Company. Among the regular painter’s trade the duo also focused on local stock cars. This would be a huge part of Pat’s future.
Pat was united in marriage on April 14, 1973, to Janis Plapp, they spent the next fifty years together. Pat eventually started his own sign painting business, Finley Signs. As he became further recognized for his artistic and groundbreaking talent’s for truck lettering, sign painting, and pin striping. He always had that love for race cars and classic cars, turning them all into pieces of art, some gracing the pages of multiple racing newspapers and national magazines. Pat was featured in the movie “Sign Painters” and was the first sign painter inducted into Illinois Stock Hall of Fame in 2018. In 2012 he was awarded the Frank A Atkinson Award as a mentor, innovator and friend and The Chicago Bushmasters Automotive Artist of the years 2014, 2019 and 2020.
Pat took great pride in all of his artwork and pin striping. He took most pride in painting his son Ryan and future son-in-law Dave’s race cars. He would sit in the stands excited to see his amazing artwork go around the track. It would always bring a huge smile to his face and loud YEEEEEAAAAHHHH!! Saying, “they really stand out.”
But beyond all of the artistic work he did throughout the years there was another aspect to this veteran artist, he was a compassionate humanitarian. Pat along with fellow sign painter, Bob Behounek, they formed a group called, “The Chicago Brushmasters.” Before then most sign painters were rivals but the newly formed group brought them all together as one, and friendships were formed. The group displayed their talents by creating custom artwork to be auctioned off at the World of Wheels car show in Chicago. They have raised over $1,000,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.
He is survived by his wife, Janis; his son, Ryan; his daughter, Megan (fiancé Dave Parker); his granddaughter Kelly Parker; sister-in-law, Sherilyn Stroud; brother-in-law, Merwin Plapp and Sharon Rissman; nieces and nephews, Christopher Stroud, Carmen (Justin) Starr and children, Adam Grayson, Jody (Kyran) Helgesen and girls, Cassie (Ryan) Maxard and girls and Dustin Rissman. along with several stepsisters and brothers and their families; many cousins; his special shop cat, Snappy and grand dogs, Ms. Blondie, Ms. Cleo and Mr. Flip.
He was preceded in death by his parents; stepfather, Morsch Leifheit; sister-in-law Charlene Seberg and in-laws, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Plapp.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, November 4, 2023 at the Marvel Davis Farm, 47W066 Jericho Road, Big Rock, Illinois, 60511. Family will welcome guests from 11:00 a.m. until the time of memorial service at 1:00 p.m. with military honors. It’s going to be cold so dress warm.
Those of you who knew Pat - you understand the quality of his work and craftsmanship. It showed in everything he did. You might have had to nudge him just to get something done for you but when you got the final project you understood why it took just a little longer. His life was filled with many friends, colleagues and those who just admired the work and had no idea who he was.
His family will miss him dearly and his friends will forever keep his memory alive with Pat Finely stories. He leaves a void that can never be filled. Thank-you for being in all of our lives… YEEEEEAAAAHHHH!!
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Pat Finley Memorial Fund, addressed to the Finley Family in care of Anderson Funeral Home, P.O. Box 605, 2011 South Fourth Street, DeKalb, IL 60115.
For information, visit www.AndersonFuneralHomeLtd.com or call 815-756-1022.