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Published: Monday, 5/10/2010

Civic activist wore many hats in improving Hudson, Mich.

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

HUDSON, Mich. - James D. Findlay, 95, Hudson's unofficial historian, its first city manager, and an advocate for preserving the community's past, died at his home Saturday.

The cause of death was uncertain, the family said.

Mr. Findlay worked hard for his community, which this month recognized his 70 years of civic activism by naming a nearly mile-long walking trail in his honor. He retired from his last civic position in March, when he resigned from the Downtown Development Authority.

Mr. Findlay was born March 29, 1915, in Battle Creek, Mich., and moved to Hudson in 1939. He married Helen Holmes on Jan. 1, 1942, and she survives.

He tried to enlist in the military during World War II but was rejected because he worked in a machine shop deemed important to the war effort, said his daughter, Mary Findlay Case.

"He was really disappointed that he was turned down three or four times," Mrs. Case said.

Decades later, while in his 90s, he and longtime friend Bruce Coleman, Sr., worked on the Hudson Patriot Memorial that honors members of the Armed Forces and people who contributed to the war effort at home, she said.

Mr. Coleman said his friend, troubled about the lack of recognition for people whose work at home was critical to winning World War II, suggested the memorial about three years ago.

Together they raised $30,000 for the memorial at Main and Lane streets.

The black granite alone cost $10,000, said Mark Monahan, funeral director for Eagle Funeral Home who assisted in obtaining the memorial stone.

The back of the monument includes a quotation from President Calvin Coolidge that reads: "A nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten," intended to honor the forgotten men and women on wars' home front.

"He thought there should be something, a symbol, even for those who did not go [to war]," Mrs. Case said. "He was a good patriot himself."

Mr. Findlay was a service manager at Harper Chevrolet for 39 years.

He helped found the Hudson Museum and served as its first president in the 1980s, Mrs. Case said.

One of his major disappointments in historic preservation occurred in the 1960s when Hudson demolished the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern depot, a train station built of cut stone.

That defeat spurred him to fight to save a railroad bridge, also built with cut stone, that eventually was listed by the state of Michigan as a historical site.

"He just loved the railroads," Mrs. Case said.

Up until his death, Mr. Hudson was working on a collection of postcards depicting mills along Bean Creek, a stream known as the Tiffin River in Ohio. With Bob Sell he wrote Teeter & Wobble, a book about the Toledo and Western Railroad Co.'s electric interurban railroad.

The title refers to the bumpy ride aboard those commuter trains, Mrs. Case said.

In the 1940s, he served as the second president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce.

At the time, most streets in Hudson did not have name signs, so the chamber group under his leadership raised money to erect street signs, she said.

He served a year as Hudson's first, unofficial city manager until the city charter made the position an official post, Mrs. Case said.

He was elected to City Council and served on the board of trustees for Thorn Memorial Hospital in 1961, and worked with the mayor and others to raise money to expand the facility.

"My Dad fought very hard to keep it going," she said.

Mr. Coleman, who said he and Mr. Findlay would meet two or three times a week, said he last saw his friend Tuesday, when Mr. Findlay was bedridden.

"It was tough to say good-bye. But he went gently into that night," Mr. Coleman said. "The world is a better place, and Hudson especially, for having Jim Findlay."

He is survived by his wife, Helen Findlay, son, David Findlay, daughter Mary Findlay Case, three grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hudson First Congregational Church, followed by a memorial service at 11 a.m.

Eagle Funeral Home, Hudson, handled the arrangements.

The family suggests memorials to the Hudson Museum, Hudson Memorial Library, or Hospice of Lenawee County.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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