Barbara Elaine Howard Finn passed away peacefully in her Missoula home on Sunday, June 27, 2021 with her family at her side. Barbara was born in Missoula to Sidney Francis Howard and Nellie Bridget Haley Howard on March 26, 1923. She was the second of four children and grew up with Missoula, exploring the town and its surroundings on foot, bicycle, and horseback from a young age. Music and art were parts of her life from early childhood. She and her siblings performed live on KGVO radio, their youthful a cappella voices filling the airwaves.
Barbara attended St. Anthony’s grade school and Missoula County High School, graduating in 1941. She was a dedicated student, but horses were her true passion as a young girl. Every nickel earned went to renting horses and sharing horseback riding adventures with friends. Her love of horses transferred to love of cars in high school. From her teen years until age 90 Barbara loved to be behind the wheel of a large, sleek car going a little over the speed limit.
While riding horseback in a parade during her senior year of high school, Barbara caught the eye of a charming Irishman, Tom Finn, who had just moved to Missoula from the Deer Lodge valley. Through their courtship they enjoyed many adventures in the Seeley-Swan valley. Tom enlisted in the army in 1942, and Barbara and Tom married in Manhattan, Kansas on March 7, 1943. Barbara accompanied Tom to Louisiana and California as he completed his military training. When Tom was called to duty on the European front, Barbara returned to Missoula and worked in the family business, the Florence Laundry and Dry Cleaners.
Barbara and Tom welcomed their first child, Cathy, in 1946. Mick, Don, and Janet joined the family over the next ten years. Barbara instilled a love of reading in her children at an early age, and she enjoyed taking them on weekly walks to the Missoula Public Library. Barbara encouraged her children in their artistic, academic, and athletic pursuits. She kept her own love of music and art alive by singing, reciting poetry, and pulling out her art supplies late at night to sketch or paint. Barbara sang as she cared for her children, cooked meals, and did housework. Her lovely voice created the soundtrack to her children’s lives.
The family moved to Butte in 1962, where Barbara became active in St. Ann’s parish, the St. James hospital auxiliary, and local garden clubs. Barbara returned to school at the Butte Vo-Tech in 1971 and began working for Dr. John Morris in 1972. Barbara and Tom divorced in 1973 and remained lifelong friends. After her divorce Barbara returned to Missoula and worked for several years in sales and floral design at Garden City Floral. She was also active in the St. Patrick hospital auxiliary, at St. Anthony’s parish, and as a volunteer with the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.
Barbara embraced the roles of mother, aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She welcomed son-in-law Dan Malone to the family in 1968 and was thrilled by the arrival of Cathy and Dan’s daughters Jennifer and Megan. She welcomed daughter-in-law Anne-Marie to the family in 1982 and enjoyed visits to the Boston area to visit Mick and Anne-Marie. Barbara was delighted when they returned to Missoula to live in 2008. Barbara embraced the role of great-grandmother as Megan Malone Olson and her husband Erik Olson welcomed their children Olivia, Grady, and Macie to the world. Barbara was pleased when her new son-in-law, Dave Ames, and his sons Jason and Stuart joined the family in 2010 and brought a new chapter of music into her life.
Over the years Barbara became the matriarch of a large extended family. A lifelong night owl, she welcomed guests for comfort and conversation at any hour. She was always ready to offer a sympathetic ear, a glass of Coca Cola, and a plate of homemade cookies. She maintained a large circle of friends throughout her life and was a true master in the art of conversation. Barbara always took care to look her best, whatever the circumstances. She never left the house without putting on her signature red lipstick and a pair of earrings. To our knowledge, she never missed her weekly hair appointment for over 60 years.
Barbara is survived by her children Cathy Malone, Don Finn, and Janet Finn (Dave Ames); Daughter-in-law Anne-Marie Finn; granddaughter Megan Olson (Erik Olson); grandsons Stuart and Jason Ames; great-grandchildren Olivia, Grady, and Macie Olson, and three generations of cherished nieces and nephews of the Finn, Hainline, Howard, Mayes, Miller, and Rainville families. She was preceded in death by her parents and siblings, her former husband Tom Finn, son Mick Finn, granddaughter Jennifer Malone, and former son-in-law Dan Malone. Donations can be made in her memory to Habitat for Humanity, the Poverello Center, or the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. The family gives special thanks to our friend Carol Sajor, who helped care for Barbara in recent years, and to the wonderful staff of Hestia Hospice. A memorial service will be held at Garden City Funeral Home on Thursday, July 15 at noon. We ask that those in attendance follow social distancing and mask guidelines. The service will be live streamed at: www.gardencityfh.com for those who want to attend virtually.