Knox County Dem Activist dies at 98: Mary Finkbeiner

Knox County Dem Activist dies at 98: Mary Finkbeiner

GAMBIER – Mary Moffat Finkbeiner, 98, died on Jan. 28, 2021, and will be remembered as an inspirational mentor and loyal friend by the many people she met during her active and purposeful life. She was born on May 14, 1922, to Edith A. and James D. Moffat Jr. in Washington, Pennsylvania; the fifth of six children: James, Clara, Elizabeth, Charles, Mary and Jane.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Daniel T. Finkbeiner II; her five siblings; and a son-in-law, Harvey Rubinstein.

She is greatly missed by her children, Susan (Donald) Myers, Heidi Rubinstein, Ann Moffat and Kate Baxter; grandchildren, Emily (Dylan) Johnson and Caleb Baxter; and great-granddaughter, Ella Johnson. She was quite fond of her many nieces and nephews, as well as her aunts and great-aunt who lived in her childhood home and helped run a busy household of 11. Learning, teaching and active engagement were lifelong pursuits and her greatest enjoyment. She guided family, friends and many others in math, science, literature, languages, architecture, arts and culture.

Mary’s childhood homes were in Washington, Pennsylvania; Dayton, Ohio; and Fort Wayne, Indiana. She attended Lyons Township High School in LaGrange, Illinois, and in 1943 earned a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish from Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. After graduating, Mary found her first job at the Great Southern Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, as a reception clerk. This was soon followed by a wartime job in Illinois at Alcoa Manufacturing while her fiancé served as a radar specialist in the U.S. Navy.

They married in 1945, and after a few years at The California Institute of Technology and Yale University, they settled in Gambier in 1951, where Dan became professor of mathematics at Kenyon College. His teaching sabbaticals took them to Princeton University in New Jersey and twice to The University of Western Australia in Perth. They traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and the world.

For many years, Mary served enthusiastically as clerk treasurer of the Village of Gambier and as copy editor of “The Psychological Review” at Kenyon College. She volunteered her time to the PTA of Gambier, the League of Women Voters, Knox County Democratic Women, New Directions crisis hotline, Knox County Hospice, the American Red Cross, A Hand at Home and the Western College Alumnae Association. Throughout her life, she was a strong advocate for women and children.

Mary was an avid bridge player, knitter, quilter and reader; and she enjoyed theater, classical music, contemporary architecture, gardens, wildflowers, birds, fine dining and entertaining at home. She and Dan shared a special fondness for collecting owls, singing songs from Camelot and reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways.” She found ironing to be a relaxing pursuit but didn’t care much for crocheting or the color green.

She was an invaluable mentor to her children, teaching them to accept life as it comes, with optimism and determination. She would often advise, “Know what you’re doing and do it.” She wants all her friends to continue reading, thinking, laughing and making this world a brighter place.

The family extends a depth of gratitude to Brookdale Senior Living for their many years of excellent care.

In celebration of Mary’s life, please consider a donation in her name to the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County, to be used for the large-print collection of books at the Gambier Public Library.

The Lasater Funeral Home is handling the arrangements for the Finkbeiner family. Please visit