Assemblyman Gary D. Finch, who formerly served Tioga County as a representative for District 123 in the Assembly, passed away on Friday, May 5, 2023 at Auburn Community Hospital. A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Friday, May 12, at St. Mary’s Church in Auburn, and the burial followed at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Fleming.
A longtime New York Assemblyman, Finch, a Republican, was a member of the New York State Assembly and represented District 126 prior to leaving office on Jan. 1, 2021, and after completing his 10th term.
Finch previously represented District 123 in the Assembly, which included Tioga County, N.Y., and later ran for re-election in District 126, representing parts of Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland and Onondaga counties.
Finch served as assistant minority leader of the minority conference, and was assigned to the Assembly committees on Agriculture, Banks, Corrections, Insurance and Rules.
Word of his passing caused reaction by several Republicans that Finch worked with during his tenure serving District 123. He was described as “a wonderful person to work with,” and “someone admired for being able to work across the aisle to get things done.”
In an email from Don Castellucci, Town of Owego supervisor and chair of Tioga County’s Republican Committee, he wrote that he was saddened about the passing of former Assemblyman Gary Finch.
“He represented Tioga County well and was considered a friend and always welcome in Tioga County,” said Castellucci.
He added, “Personally I was humbled when he brought a State Flag and a New York State citation recognizing my Public Service; they are both displayed in my office today. Although his health was starting to fail, he still came to my last rigatoni and meatball dinner. This is just one story. He did much for many during his public service.”
Tioga County Sheriff Gary Howard remembered Gary Finch as someone that truly cared about people, a politician that would spend a lot of time talking to those he represented.
As an example, Howard recalled the flooding in 2011 and how Finch, who was representing Tioga County at that time, came down to the Command Center at the Public Safety Building. According to Howard, Finch was “very concerned.”
“We were his concern,” said Howard, who took Finch, along with the late Senator Tom Libous, through the flooded areas to witness the extent of the damage first-hand.
Another example of Finch’s far-reach into the community was a story told by Howard of how the Assemblyman got lost on W. Creek Road while searching for a Farm Bureau meeting. It was then that Finch stopped at the Weltonville Fire Station for directions.
That stop, according to Howard, ended in much more. While talking to the department’s members, Finch learned that the department was looking to build a new station. Shortly after the department received a $10,000 grant from the Assemblyman, according to Howard.
In another example, Howard talked about Finch’s cufflinks.
One afternoon, during a visit to Owego, Howard was admiring Finch’s cufflinks, which had a New York State Assembly emblem on them. Much to his surprise, a Christmas gift arrived months later at Howard’s home with a small box inside. Finch had sent him a set of the same cufflinks.
“I will be wearing those on Friday, and in memory of him,” said Howard of his planned attendance at the Assemblyman’s funeral in Auburn.
Debbie Howard, who serves as Vice-Chair for Tioga County’s Republican Committee and served as a Community Liaison at one time for Finch and now for Assemblyman Christopher Friend, talked of his personality, and his humor.
She also recalled an occasion following the flooding of 2011 where Assemblyman Finch personally contacted first responders in the county, and then presented them with the New York State Assembly Medal of Merit.
“He called everyone personally,” said Debbie, adding, “It meant so much to everyone.”
She also talked of Finch’s involvement in parades and at community events, and how he would host meetings with various community groups and organizations, continually searching to provide for their needs.
“He will be missed,” said Gary Howard.
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