May 27, 1921 - March 13, 2015
Willis Arnold Finchum Jr. passed away at Legacy House in Logan, Utah, on March 13, 2015, after a short illness. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 27, 1921, to Willis Arnold Finchum and Maggie Gladys Wells. He grew up with 3 younger sisters: Francis, Jean, and Polly. He was educated in Indianapolis public schools, and graduated from Ben Davis High School in 1939. Arnold joined an amateur radio club while in high school, and continued in it after graduation because he found it “interesting.” At the onset of World War II, a Navy Recruiting Chief and also a club member, encouraged Arnold to enlist in the Navy instead of the Army because his knowledge of radio and electronics could get him a starting rank of E4. So he did. Basic Training was at the Great Lakes Naval Center. Third Class Petty Officer W. A. Finchum was then sent to the USAC (now USU) in Logan, Utah, for training in elementary electricity and radio in early 1942. It was here that he met Gladys Noble of Smithfield. They courted via US mail for several months while he was stationed at Treasure Island. She met him in San Francisco and together they travelled by bus to Reno, Nevada, where they were married on Oct. 18, 1942. Arnold received orders to teach at the Bliss Electrical School in Tacoma Park, Maryland. Their first son, Kenneth Arnold Finchum, was born April 29, 1944, in Washington, D.C. He was assigned to the USS Benner, a new destroyer of the 2250-ton Gearing class as an Electronic Technician in charge of the ship’s radar. Arnold and Gladys then went to Bath, Maine, to await the completion of his ship. The Benner was launched on 30 November 1944. The ship and crew embarked on a shakedown cruise down the eastern coast of the U.S. and through the Panama Canal. They and numerous other new destroyers in their group were deployed to the Pacific Fleet and charged with the protection of aircraft carriers during the summer of 1945. Arnold saw heavy sea combat and many Japanese kamikaze planes. He said at times the sailors could see the grim determination on the pilot’s faces before they hit the ship. He saw the destruction of the radio room of the Benner’s sister ship, the USS Gearing DD-710, and the instant death of the radar man, a close friend. Arnold was aboard the Benner in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, when General McArthur and the Japanese high command signed the documents on the deck of the USS Missouri ending the war in the Pacific. He was discharged from the Navy 26 October 1945 at the rank of Radio Technician First Class. After the war Arnold, Gladys and Kenneth made their home in Smithfield while Arnold completed a B.S. in radio at USU on the G.I Bill. Arnold worked as the radio station engineer at KVNU in a tiny building in the middle of a huge pasture (near the current location of Sam’s Club). He also did some announcing doing live advertisement pick-ups at stores and interviewing “The Man in the Street.” His favorite story of his live radio experience was when tried to say “Shop at City Grocery” and transposed the 2 beginning letters of “Shop” and “City” in an unfortunate malaprop of a major advertiser. The couple’s second son, Ted Gerald Finchum, joined the family September 9, 1947. The family made several moves after Arnold’s graduation in 1949. He worked as an engineer in Albuquerque, NM; Oxnard, CA; and Canoga Park, CA. At a site on Hurricane Mesa near St. George, he worked in top secret research designing and installing instrumentation on the sled that was used to develop pilot ejection seats for jet aircraft. Arnold returned to Logan and completed a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at USU in 1959 and was employed teaching EE at USU from 1960-1968. During the summers between academic years he was employed in several different companies where he was able to stay on the cutting edge of research. He also worked with the latest developments in industry, including the first main-frame computers, and one of the biggest changes in the field: transistors. These experiences helped him and others at USU to turn out preeminently qualified electrical engineers who were very actively recruited. He held various teaching and administrative positions at IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN; University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA; Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; and Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA, where he was Dean of Electrical Engineering until his retirement in 1983. Gladys “mothered” many of Arnold’s students, and Arnold always credited her with being the “secret ingredient” to all that he achieved professionally. Arnold and Gladys returned to Logan and he spent his “retirement” teaching EE students at USU. In 1988 he was called to be the Mission President for the Genealogy Library missionaries in Salt Lake City, with Gladys as his Executive Assistant. There were usually about 250 missionaries at the library during their tenure. The couple was of great help to many “older missionaries” that came to assist the thousands of people doing family research at the library. Arnold was instrumental in the genesis of computerizing the genealogical records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Increasing health concerns led them first to a single floor home in a retirement community just off 200 West in Logan, and subsequently to Williamsburg Assisted Living. Gladys passed away November 19, 2006 in Logan. Arnold married Doris Fernelius on June 28, 2007. He enjoyed his “new” family of children and grandchildren. Doris passed away in August. He said not long before his death that he married “two nice ladies.” He is survived by two sons: Kenneth A. (Linda) Kaysville and Ted (Cathy) Logan; six grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. Funeral services will be held at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at the Nelson Funeral Home, 162 East 400 North, Logan. Friends and family may call Tuesday evening from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the above address, and from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. prior to services. Interment will be in the Smithfield City Cemetery. Condolences may be extended to the family online at www.nelsonfuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to KSL’s Quarters for Christmas.
Willis Arnold Finchum Jr. passed away at Legacy House in Logan, Utah, on March 13, 2015, after a short illness. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 27, 1921, to Willis Arnold Finchum and Maggie Gladys Wells. He grew up with 3 younger... View Obituary & Service Information
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