Memorial service for "Grandpa Pumpkin" held at his pumpkin patch


July 5, 2023

Tobias and Ryder Surber, great grandchildren of Ken Finley, peer out the back window of "Grandpa Pumpkin's" side by side. The side by side with the tools sticking up in the air was Ken's trademark transportation during the summer. The vehicle was part of the setting during Ken's memorial service held at his pumpkin patch south of Chinook.

Ken Finley's family and friends gathered to remember Ken last Saturday at his pumpkin patch down by the water plant in Chinook. In some ways the gathering for Ken's memorial service was a sad time. But, as Ken's son Jeff noted, "We decided to have the memorial service for dad at the pumpkin patch. It's the thing most people remember him by and it was a place he loved." A reception was held following the memorial service at the Chinook Senior Center.

Jeff Finely told me earlier that he and his family had spent some time preparing the patch for his dad's memorial. And the family had planted pumpkins for the coming fall. After several years of raising both vegetables and pumpkins Ken had scaled back to just pumpkins the last couple of years. He explained, "The bending and getting up and down to harvest the vegetables was physically too hard for me to do any longer." For several years it was not unusual to see Ken in the summer with his side by side, loaded with produce, sitting adjacent to the Post Office parking lot in Chinook and customers lined up for his tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.

Then in the fall it was "come pick your own pumpkins." He enjoyed seeing families come to the pumpkin patch and watch the kids chose, and sometimes even carry, their own pumpkins. He never charged for his pumpkins but asked that a donation be given to the Chinook Library. He raised a good bit of money for the library over the years.

The memorial service at the pumpkin patch

At the patch Jeff (Ken's youngest son) and his wife Lynette welcomed the guests. It was a sunny, pleasant day, just right for being at the patch. Near the speaker's podium Ken's side-by-side, his trademark transportation during the summer, was on display. Jeff explained that "Dad's side-by-side was always distinguished by all the tools sticking up in the air." A couple of metal detectors were leaned against the vehicle. Jeff noted that Ken liked to look for buried treasure and artifacts.

After the reading of Ken's obituary, Jim Finley, Ken's oldest who lives and works in the Washington, DC area, did the eulogy for his father. Jim closed noting, "He (Ken) wasn't a catcher, a baseball player or a golfer. But he was a dad who knew that life is short and our times together were precious."

During Ken Finley's recent memorial service held at his pumpkin patch, his grandchildren and great grandchildren planted a pumpkin spice plant in his honor. Ken was famous for his passion for raising vegetables, flowers, and especially pumpkins, on his plot of land at the south edge of Chinook. Jeff Finley and his family have planted pumpkins for the coming fall and say the tradition of providing pumpkins to the community will continue.

After the eulogy Ken's grandchildren and great grandchildren planted a pumpkin spice plant in Ken's honor. Guests were encouraged to come by the small memorial with the planting and add a handful of dirt to the new plant.

And then in a Finley family tradition of not wasting an opportunity for fun, son Jeff fired up the electric swing so the kids could have a ride. Ken worked most of one winter negotiating and finally acquiring the small electric-powered swing that became part of the pumpkin patch scene. He was proud of that swing.

Then guests moved to the senior center for some fellowship and treats. One of Ken's granddaughters had put together a slide show of Ken's life and family. It was pretty obvious from the photos that Ken enjoyed having fun with his grand and great grandkids.

Jeff Finley said at the beginning of the memorial service, "Dad had said he didn't want a big memorial service. We thought he would like having the event at the pumpkin patch. I think it was just the kind of event he would have enjoyed." I also think "Grandpa Pumpkin," the nickname Ken's family gave him, would have appreciated the event held in his honor.


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