NORWICH - Eugene Leonard Finneseth, 76, died on April 18, 2012, at the family homestead in rural Norwich after a long battle with colon cancer.
He was born on March 22, 1936, in North Prairie Township, McHenry County, the son of Kenneth and Blanche (Ofsthun) Finneseth. Gene was baptized and confirmed at Norwich Lutheran Church. He was raised on the homestead and attended country school at North Prairie No. 2, the only pupil in his grade for eight years. The school was equipped with a horse barn for his fondly remembered pinto ponies, Captain and Diamond. They always made sure that Gene made it to school through blizzards and then back home again. He graduated from Norwich High School in 1954.
The same year Gene joined the Navy for four years starting at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. He was assigned to the USS Bremerton CA 130, and reported aboard in February 1955 as a fireman/boilerman. During his tour, Gene completed three six-month cruises overseas, visiting several countries in the Pacific and the Melbourne Olympics in January 1956. He was honorably discharged in October 1958.
In December 1958, Gene began his Civil Service career with the Veterans Administration at the John Moses Memorial Hospital as a steam/boiler plant operator. In June 1959, he married Wanda J. Vetter; they divorced in 1974. There were three wonderful children from this union. In July 1959, he transferred to the Air Force when John Moses became the Minot Air Force Base hospital. In 1962, Gene was promoted to boiler plant supervisor and then to hospital facility manager in 1973. In 1983, he transferred to Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Ariz., for a change in scenery and a warmer climate.
During this tour of duty, Gene met and married 2nd Lt. Jane Marie Travis on April 12, 1985. Soon after, he returned with his bride to Minot and the new Air Force hospital under construction. Gene retired in 1991 after 38 years of federal service. Then he accompanied Jane during her military career, going to Korea, Germany and North Carolina. They spent most weekends sightseeing in Europe and the eastern United States. It was a good time and a good life.
In 1995, Jane returned to civilian life and they moved to the Finneseth homestead to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. For the next 13 years, Gene completely gutted and remodeled the farmhouse, including the two original claim shacks, until his colon cancer returned. He also never stopped trying to improve the landscape to provide better wildlife habitat.
Gene played and enjoyed his accordion over the years. He also liked to hunt, mainly waterfowl, and modified a Sweetheart Bakery truck into a hunting RV known as the Roadrunner. Gene enjoyed reading about history and visiting historical sites. They made several trips in his beloved Chevy TransVan to see the grandkids in Washington state. He was a member of the Norwich Lutheran Church, American Legion, and National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.
Gene is survived by: his wife and best friend, Jane; daughter, Barbara (Randy) Ivers of Tacoma, Wash.; son, Wayne of Federal Way, Wash.; grandchildren, Jesse and Rayme Ivers of Tacoma, and Tyler and Trevor Finneseth of Federal Way. He is also survived by his brother, Kenneth (Thelma) Finneseth of Norwich; aunt, Rosella Knoepfle of Minot; uncle, Woodrow (Barbara) Ofsthun of Gig Harbor, Wash.; father-in-law, Dean Travis of Glen Mills, Pa.; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Joanne (Vincent) Fabiano of Millsboro, Del., and John (Jody) Travis of Newark, Del.; and several cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Gene was preceded in death by his daughter, Debora Obregon.
Memorial service: June 26, 2012, at 10 a.m. at Norwich Lutheran Church.
Visitation: There will be no reviewal but friends may sign a memorial register book on June 25, from noon until 5 p.m., in the Thomas Family Funeral Home, Minot.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to Trinity Hospice, Minot, or a charity of the donor's choice.
Those wanting to sign the online memorial register or share memories and condolences are invited to use the expressions of sympathy section at (www.thomasfamilyfuneralhome.com).