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Farewell, Finnegan: Our longtime colleague is missed

March 13. 2013 4:47PM

Friends and family will pay their final respects today to Jim Finnegan, whose work and spirit graced these pages for nearly 40 years. We will pay ours here.

Finnegan was a force to be reckoned with on these pages. His good friend, former state Supreme Court Justice and former congressman Chuck Douglas, had it right when he said that Finnegan was "probably more threatening to those on the (political) left," than even his boss, the legendary publisher William Loeb.

Loeb could stir the blood. Finnegan marshalled the facts and often methodically demolished political foes with those facts. In the process, he helped make New Hampshire a beacon of low-tax, close-to-the-people government and popped the bluster of more than a few would-be Presidents.

He was also funny, his dry Irish wit leavening a lot of otherwise serious editorials and their headlines. "Desperately Seeking Susan" was his way to call out a favorite political foe, the late Rep. Susan McLane.

When a Manchester lawyer left politics for a time, he warned us against using his Finnegan-given nickname of "Devious Dave."

So notified, Finnegan grinned and asked an editor, "Can we call him the formerly Devious Dave?"

And when a Dartmouth professor, enraged at conservative students (yes, there were and are some), actually bit one of them, Finnegan's headline, "We eschew Dartmouth," caused even William F. Buckley Jr. to pay homage.

Finnegan had his favorite causes. His support for a group of Hampton nuns who battled with the Diocese of Manchester was memorable. If it had been against the law, he might have been convicted a time or two of beating a dead horse.

He grew up in the diverse worlds of big-city Philadelphia and bucolic Hershey, Pa. In the former, he would accompany a blind uncle on his rounds as a piano tuner. (His love of and knowledge of opera may have stemmed from that interaction.) At the Hershey school, where he and a brother were sent after their father's premature death, the city boy learned how to herd and milk cows. Perhaps his proudest moment came when he was honored as a Hershey School Alumnus of the Year.

James Joseph Finnegan also loved boxing, reading, travel and people. He left our employ nearly 20 years ago, but his presence is still felt here today. If you never met him, you missed one of the greats.


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