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Thomas "Tom" Edward Finch

Obituary for Thomas "Tom" Edward Finch

June 22, 1936 - December 24, 2019
Spring Branch, Texas | Age 83


Thomas "Tom" Edward Finch, Jr. died on December 24, 2019 at the age of 83 years. Tom is preceded in death by his parents, Thomas Edward Finch and Emma May Stall Finch, brother Pat Finch, and by three of his children: Betty Finch, Jimmy Finch and Billy Finch.

Tom dearly loved his family and loved his friends as if they were family, loved riding motorcycles, scenic roads, mountains, steam locomotives, beautiful music and absolutely enjoyed anything that was a mental challenge for him. He was a man of habit and routine of the best sort. He was up early each Saturday morning to ride with his close-knit group of motorcycle friends all over the Texas Hill Country – always challenging himself to find roads no one in his group had ever seen. His Sunday routine was to go to the OST restaurant in Bandera for breakfast – getting there early enough to ensure his favorite table was available for his group. As the years went by, that habit evolved into making sure he arrived one hour before opening, working alongside his friends to set up each table for the waitresses and then sitting down for coffee and stories until the restaurant opened for business. It was these types of simple routines that made Tom the happiest and gave him the opportunity to catch up with everyone and to meet new people.

The activity that brought Tom the greatest joy was riding motorcycles. Having ridden since he was a teenager, Tom carefully documented his mileage on each of his motorcycles as he sold them. In his 72nd year, his friends surprised him with a huge party in honor of a documented one-million-miles on motorcycles in his lifetime. This circle of friends then presented him with a brand-new motorcycle - it was a day that left him speechless and touched. In the years that followed, he logged over 250,000 additional miles – a fact he was very proud of.

Tom was a man of many talents and had multiple careers over his 83 years. He worked as a rebar shop supervisor and a maintenance electrician at Alamo Iron Works when he was 18 years old, then worked for an audio company where he met fellow audio enthusiast and airplane designer, Ed Swearingen. The friendship that followed ultimately led to Tom's engineering talents being discovered as he solved a number of aerodynamic and structural engineering problems for the developing Merlin and Metro aircraft. Tom later became the Vice President of Engineering for the Dee Howard Company, where he led groundbreaking design work for thrust reversers, nacelle drag reduction, noise reduction and complex mechanical system design.

After he left the Dee Howard Company, Tom - along with his sons and extended family - started a company to produce a powered wheelchair that could do more than the standard electric wheelchair. This was a labor of love, as his second son, Jimmy, was a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. It was Jimmy's own frustration with a constantly failing chair that led Tom and his sons to develop something better. The wheelchair was unique and revolutionary from its specifically designed transmission to handle rugged terrain, custom controls, powered lifts, to placing big wheels in front – it was simply unlike anything else. The design work on this chair led to Tom's induction into the Texas Science Hall of Fame in 2002.

In his final and most treasured career chapter, Tom built a company that blended his brilliant engineering mind with the greatest passion in his life which was riding motorcycles. His featured product was an aerodynamically perfect, incredibly strong, one-of-a-kind motorcycle trailer. This trailer was not only his showcase product and pride and joy, but it became a common bond tying Tom together with his customers turned steadfast friends. Tom would plan annual events in scenic locations around the country and invite his customers to get together and spend a few days touring. It was a time of great joy for Tom.

Tom was a thinker and a tinkerer. He was always designing things and once those things were designed, he then re-designed them to make them better. He built an indestructible "beach buggy" from literal scratch – collecting used aircraft seats, scrap tubular steel, parts from other vehicles so that his kids could learn to drive and have fun for years. He designed and built speakers, built and repaired pipe organs, made a guitar following his own acoustical design principles and countless other things in his lifetime. All told, there are twelve patents that Tom is responsible for, a testament to his brilliant mind. Tom was a man who lived his life to its absolute fullest. He leaves behind a massive legion of friends and family.

Tom is survived by his loving children, Margie Taylor (Don), Tom Finch III (Debbie), and Terrie Parsons; and by his brother Richard Finch (Jill), sisters Fay Kelley (Phil) and Margaret Locke, seven grandchildren, one great grandchild, many extended family members, and countless friends.

A memorial service will be held at Porter Loring North on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 12:00 noon.

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Porter Loring Mortuary North

2102 North Loop 1604 East
San Antonio, TX 78232
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