Heather Finnie – supporting family and the community

·8 min read

Heather Finnie’s life seems to have come full circle. She lives in the same community, in the same house where she was raised, and is surrounded by family and friends she loves dearly.

Born Heather Boyle, she is one of six children, sharing the middle spot with another sibling. She attended school in Ripley, next door to what is now the Huron-Kinloss Township municipal building and was very active in 4H and Junior Farmers, as were many of her peers, growing up in such a rural area, and was president of the student council. She laughingly recalls that in her final year of high school, there were 124 students at RDHS.

After completing Grade 13, she was off to the University of Waterloo to earn a bachelor’s degree in social development studies. She describes herself as an “innocent” and said “I learned more being in residence and from being away from home than from any course I took.”

She might have been a small-town girl, but her participation in Junior Farmers allowed her to travel and experience the world in ways many teenagers did not. Members attended competitions and shows, and in 1981 she was awarded a nine-week scholarship that brought her to the United Kingdom, where she lived with farm families in Scotland, England & Northern Ireland. Heather said Junior Farmers would award four such scholarships each year, and the experience created friendships with people that she still keeps in touch with today.

After earning her degree, Heather worked for children’s aid societies in Napanee, Belleville and Oshawa for the next half-dozen years. It was during that time, in 1983, that she met her future husband, Sam, not surprisingly, at a Junior Farmers event. Sam was calling a square dance, and because more men were needed on the dance floor, he quickly taught Heather how to call. The couple was married in September 1985.

After a short stint in Guelph, the couple chose to relocate back to Heather’s family farm. Sam decided to take real estate courses, and at the young age of 24, earned his credentials. He balanced working on the farm while building his real estate career, to make ends meet.

Heather continued her career in social work, with a home base in Walkerton. She worked for Community Living running a respite program, doing home studies for people who were interested in becoming respite providers for disabled children.

Children followed and the Finnie family grew, a girl and three boys in all, in 1987, 1989, 1992 and 1994.

Sam has been the Broker of Record at Century 21 in Kincardine for 30 years. In 1997, to assist him with his career, Heather completed the real estate courses Sam had taken nearly 10 years before. This year marks her 25th anniversary in real estate, and his 35th.

She refers to herself as “his glorified licensed assistant,” providing backup. “We work as a team but he is the captain,” saying “Sam has forgotten more about real estate than I ever knew.” A passion that she and Sam have pursued over the years is taking professional development and training courses.

Just last year, December 2021, the Kincardine office merged with the Century 21 office in Owen Sound, and is now referred to as Century 21 In-Studio Realty Inc. Heather and Sam’s son, Brandon, has joined them to form the Finnie Team, and Sam is also a licensed real estate appraiser.

Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as saying “If you want something done, asks a busy person,” and there is no doubt that busy person is Heather.

While raising a houseful of children, running a consignment shop in the Century 21 office and providing back up support for Sam’s career, Heather has continued to support community initiatives and events that are important to her.

She said back when the kids were attending St. Anthony’s School, she would volunteer to help them pack the Christmas hampers provided for those in need each year. As the program has grown and evolved, even through the pandemic, she has continued to be involved.

“In 1974, the hamper program was started by Mrs. Nagle and friends,” said Heather. “In 1986, it was taken over by Kincardine Community Services (and is still run under their umbrella). In 1996, the high school and the Kincardine Knights got involved in the collection of items to fill the hampers.”

With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the hamper program pivoted to providing gift cards rather than baskets of food and toys. Heather said feedback from the recipients indicated they actually preferred the gift cards, as it allowed them to do their own shopping, so the hamper program is sticking with that arrangement going forward. Last year, 198 of the gift card ‘hampers’ were distributed.

“I’m going to miss it so much,” said Heather. “It has changed so much in the last two years. We were doing Christmas hampers for us – we had such fun doing it.”

One program she is involved with that will be returning to its former format is the Christmas Day dinner, an event she calls “Sam’s baby.” A half dozen years ago, when the Finnie’s found their children living far from home or with other commitments on Christmas Day, they decided to organize a family-style holiday lunch on Dec. 25 that would welcome anyone who might find themselves alone over the holidays. During the past two years the meal has been set up for takeout, but she hopes this Christmas they can return to the original format. In 2021, they served 220 meals, and expect those numbers will remain consistent or grow in years to come. Building that sense of community and friendship, especially over the holidays when some people may find themselves lonely, is important to them both. She says they will continue with the program “as long as we are able.”

Her other community interests include serving as treasurer and booking agent for the Purple Grove Community Centre, a one-room school house around the corner from her home which the community purchased and supports through rentals, meetings and private events.

She sits on the Kincardine Legion committee that arranges the loan of medical equipment: crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and other supportive apparatus, to those who need it. For close to ten years, her office has served as the hub for the collection of payment and orders for the Good Food Box, she belongs to the Catholic Women’s League, is a founding member of the Kincardine Ladies Fitness Co-op, sits on the Ripley Fall Fair committee and participates in a twice-weekly walking group. And after all that, she and Sam serve as part time ushers four or five times each season at the Blyth Theatre – “just for fun.”

Heather has also developed a passion for tracing her familial roots, a project she has taken over from her mother, saying, “The pandemic gave me some time to get things inputted into the Family Tree Program, with the help of cousins and Ancestry connections. It is a huge jigsaw puzzle that will never be complete.”

And speaking of fun, another event she looks forward to involve an annual family camp week at a Christian camp near Markdale, called Camp Kumuntome. The Finnies have visited there for more than 30 years, and now enjoy bringing their grandchildren to the same spot they first brought their children.

The cornerstone of Heather’s community spirit and commitment to bettering life for those around her is undoubtedly her faith. She offers her skills, positive attitude and support wherever it is needed, and does so without expectation of reward. It is simply a part of her make up. She strives to be more generous each day than she was the day before.

“Some are generous with money, some with time,” said Heather. “There are so many people that are generous in this community. It doesn’t have to be with dollars. It can be (as simple as) saying something nice to someone.”

As to what drives her forward, she says helping others, and her family, inspire her, saying she will do anything for family. She maintains a very close relationship with her four children and four grandchildren, much the same relationship she had with her parents and extended family.

Heather says it is important to build those relationships now so they last forever, adding “Both of our parents were very good role models – we come from strong stock, and they helped us a lot when we were young.”

Down the road, “I see myself doing much of what I am doing now, but spending more time with my grandchildren,” she says. She hopes she and Sam can return to travelling in the future, perhaps including a trip to the Hawaiian Islands or back to Venice.

“I looked over my goal list…,” said Finnie. “Most of my goals are very superficial. My #1 goal is to get to Heaven, hopefully not too soon! I strive to live my life so that Heaven is a real possibility.”

Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent

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