Van Darrell Finch passed away peacefully in his sleep with his family by his side on Sept. 8, 2021, after a long illness, just a few weeks shy of his 77th birthday. He believed that death was just another part of life and was ready to face it on his own terms.
Van was born on Sept. 29, 1944, at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif., to Doris, a homemaker, and John, a soldier in the U.S. Army. He spent much of his youth surfing at Manhattan Beach and sneaking into USC football games. His mother remarried to Larry Lyons who owned property in Trinity County and that is how Van was first introduced to the area.
He attended Aviation High School in Redondo Beach and after graduation went on to join the United States Air Force where he was recognized for marksmanship.
Van met his first wife, Hazel, while stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. He was honorably discharged in 1965 and shortly thereafter he moved with Hazel to Douglas City to run the Timber Lodge Motel which had been given to them by his parents as a wedding gift. He loved horses and could often be seen riding his palomino, Sundance, around Douglas City during his early years in Trinity County. Van also loved to fish and would often take guests on guided fishing trips during the time he owned the motel.
He went to work for Douglas City Elementary School in 1973 as head of maintenance and transportation and this became his life’s work. He helped take the school from a one-building schoolhouse to the sprawling campus it is today. Sports were one of his passions and over the years he coached flag football and girls softball, organizing hundreds of softball tournaments.
Van separated amicably from Hazel in 1983 and went on to meet Rosemary, whom he referred to as the love of his life. They were married in November 1984 and soon thereafter had their first child, Travis. Daughter Heather followed 18 months later. Van had wanted nothing more than to be a father and was an amazing one. He instilled in his children a love and respect for the environment and to always value sportsmanship over winning.
He retired in 2005 after 32 years at Douglas City Elementary School and went on to drive the Trinity Transit until fully retiring in 2008. His family often joked that he could “drive a bus backwards while blindfolded” since he’d driven buses for so long. Van spent his later years enjoying his quiet home in the mountains and traveling with his son.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and wife of 26 years. He is survived by his two children, older brother Steve, and half-sister Laurie.
He will be greatly missed. A public memorial will be announced at a later date. If you are so inclined, please make a donation to an environmental or animal group in Van’s honor.