Delano (Del) Dorr Finch, 89, of Mankato, Minnesota passed away quietly at home on February 3, 2023 with family by his side. Del was born on March 5, 1933, to Lewis Henry Finch and Emma Louise Finch in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Del was a wonderful, sweet man and will be especially missed by his wife Joellen; daughter Zella (Finch) Simmons & her husband Tim Simmons; son, Bob Finch & his significant other, Kelly Branscomb. He was loved by his grandchildren, Jennifer (Simmons) Tobola & her husband Phil Tobola, Nicole Simmons, Janna Finch and Wesley Finch. Del so enjoyed recently getting to meet his great-grandson, Benjamin Henry Tobola.
Del’s father, Lewis, passed away when Del was very young. He was raised by his strong, single mother Emma and with the help of his older siblings Lyle Hahn, Wilber Hahn and Lucille (Hahn) Jordahl, who all proceeded him in passing.
During his childhood in Dubuque, Iowa he loved to play around on the nearby banks of the Mississippi. One day he was near a Coast Guard station and docks when the crew of a boat invited him aboard to tour it and even see their guns. From that point on Del wanted to join the Coast Guard.
After Del graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1951, he finally joined the United States Coast Guard. He was very excited to find out he was going to serve in Samoa as he had always wanted to travel and going to the South Pacific sounded exotic. He was a little surprised to find out Samoa was a station in California. Del enjoyed his time in California and served actively in the Coast Guard until April 1954.
On returning from the Coast Guard, he made what he often called “the best drug store stop ever” and met his future wife Joellen Cornick, while she was working there during her junior year of high school. While Joellen finished high school Del worked as a laborer at the Wilson meat packing plant where his brother, Lyle, made sure he had the worst jobs so he would decide to go to college.
Del and Joellen became engaged and moved to Mankato in 1955 where they both attended Mankato State Teachers College. They were married in Albert Lea in 1956.
Del graduated from Minnesota State Teachers College in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science with a Major in Social Studies and a Minor in Business Education. In 1959 he and Joellen moved to Long Prairie, Minnesota where they both taught as the first married couple ever hired by the school district. Del obtained his Master of Science specializing in Guidance from Mankato State College in 1965.
Del had a 34-year career in Counseling / Education and Financial Aid. For 25 of those years Del worked at what is now South Central College in Mankato. While there Del saw a need to help students he counseled in obtaining financial aid. He eventually created the position of Financial Aid Director and held the position until he retired in 1993. He obtained many professional certifications during those years and even traveled and trained other financial aid staffs around the Midwest.
Del had many hobbies including trap shooting, hunting, fishing and riding motorcycles. He loved finding treasures at garage sales, finding a good bargain and tinkering in his shop. He enjoyed investing in the stock market, and with fellow teachers he helped found an investment club in the early 60’s that stayed active until the early 2000’s.
The hobby he enjoyed the most was home brewing and wine making. In the 70’s he and Joellen even ran a little beer and winemaking supply shop in Mankato called “The Hop-N-Grape”. Del always loved a good IPA and passed his love for beer making on to his son Bob and son-in-law Tim.
Del was a member of the Mankato Lions Club, a membership he maintained in later years, and he was the longest continuous member of the Club. He was also a life member of the American Legion and of the Nicollet Conservation Club. He enjoying trap shooting with his lifelong friend and work colleague, Bob Singelstad, and other friends. They often enjoyed breakfast or lunch out with a group of old friends. Del went to Starbucks every day in Arizona enjoying his sugar free vanilla latte. On the way to Starbucks he once told his granddaughter Nicole he “never drank coffee” and was shocked when she told him a latte was coffee.
Del and Joellen were well known for their love of travel, especially camping. In 1962 they loaded their red Volkswagen Beetle on a ship to Europe where then drove around many countries and tent camped all summer. They also took several driving trips to Mexico from Minnesota in the late 60’s / early 70’s towing a tent camper behind a sedan dragging their children Zella and Bob along for these months’ long adventures.
They loved taking trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with their canoe and packs becoming so good at it that they didn’t really plan out meals – just tossed food in packs and went. On one eventful trip with his son Bob their food pack ended up with other campers and they canoed around yelling “Do you have our food pack?” until dark. They were eventually reunited with the food pack at the portage the next day.
In the 1990’s they drove their pickup camper roundtrip on the Alaska-Canada highway to Alaska. Eventually they graduated to taking their 5th Wheel Trailer to Florida, Texas and finally Arizona for snowbirding winters. Del enjoyed the driving trip to Arizona each year because it gave them a chance for extended visits in Oklahoma with his daughter Zella, son-in-law Tim and his grand daughters, Jennifer and Nicole. Every visit he made sure to enjoy an IPA with Tim and make a trip to the casino buffet to indulge his love of crab legs.
In his later years he and Joellen continued to travel making trips to China, Cuba and a river cruise from Budapest to Bucharest.
In Arizona they finally settled in the Tucson area for their winter home. While in Arizona Del enjoyed eating Mexican food, working with the computer club and making silver jewelry as well as attending wine tastings and going to plays with Joellen.
Del was a wonderful supportive husband to Joellen. Many summers he held down the fort so she could study in Mexico and France. During these summers he added cooking to his skills, learning to cook tacos even better than Joellen with each tortilla individually fried to perfection. We always looked forward to Del making tacos!
In the last few years Del and Joellen started wintering in Minnesota again. Slowly as Del has moved into later phases of dementia and had multiply surgeries that impacted his mobility everyone around him commented on what a sweet person he was and how he treated everyone with such kindness. He continued to enjoy reading magazines, watching TV, spending time with his family, watching the birds in the backyard, watching his son Bob make improvements around the house and would never pass up a chance to eat ice cream.
Joellen, Zella & Tim, Bob & Kelly are so grateful for the VA who provided a ramp and stairlift for his home helping him stay there as long as possible; Anne from Freedom Home Care who assisted Joellen in caring for Del; all the nurses and all the staff at The Pillars of Mankato and Moments Hospice who have provided wonderful caring support for both Del and Joellen.
The family plans a private burial service in Albert Lea at a later date.