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Saturday, Jun 14 2014 12:37 AM

Bill Finch, BC's first All-American, dies at 88

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    Bill Finch

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Bill Finch, the first All-American in Bakersfield College history, died June 5 at the age of 88.

Finch is survived by his wife of 62 years, Gwendolyn; three adult children: daughter Teddi Loader, son Mike Finch and daughter Terri Crane-Finch; a brother, Jack Finch, and his wife, Bettie; brother-in-law Bill Kilmer and his wife, Bonnie; granddaughters Jami Petty and husbank Dusty, Kristin Baum and husband Chad; grandsons Mick Finch, Ryder Crane-Finch, Jaxon Crane-Finch; and great-granddaughter Kennedy Grace.

Finch was born in Coalinga on Sept. 16, 1925 and moved to Bakersfield in 1926. He graduated in 1943 from Kern County Union High, where he played football and basketball and was on the school's first water polo team.

Three months after graduation, Finch enlisted in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for Submarine Service. He served on four different boats in the South Pacific and earned the rank of Seaman First Class.

With the war over, Finch was released from the Navy in 1946 and returned to Bakersfield. Finch enrolled into junior college classes and reported to Renegades football coach "Jack" Frost.

Finch also competed for BC's swimming and diving team in 1947, coached by former Olympian Burtrand Wallace.

Wallace had stated he would coach only one year and in 1948 his replacement was a teacher by the name of Richard "Dick" Harkins.

Finch stayed out of football in 1947, but in the fall of 1948 he reported to Coach Frost and his assistant coach Earl Sargent. The '48 Renegades proved to be Frost's best team since he became BC's head coach in 1934. Led by Frank Gifford, Sam Barton, Mel McClanahan, Alex Thompson, Keith Carpenter and Ed Knapp, the Renegades went undefeated in the strong Metropolitan Conference until they ran into East Los Angeles in their final game and were defeated 20-13 to lose the league trophy.

In 1949, Finch reported to 1949 swimming coach Cliff Chisholm and placed second at the season-ending First Southern California Swimming and Diving Meet at Fullerton College. He then was surprised when he was named a "Junior College All-America" athlete. Bill Finch was the first Renegade in the history of the school to be so honored.

Finch later attended San Jose State, where he played water polo and was voted "Team Captain" in 1952, 1953 and 1954.

In swimming and diving, he placed ninth in the national diving championships, and that brought him All-America recognition.

San Jose State is also where Bill met his wife, Gwen.

In 1953, Bill was inducted into the San Jose State College Athletics Hall of Fame along with another former Renegade, 1952 National Collegiate pole vault champion, Bill Priddy.

Finch graduated from San Jose State in 1953 with B.A. and Masters' degrees and was hired to teach and coach at James Lick High School in San Jose. He stayed four years teaching P.E. classes and coaching many sports.

In 1957, Bill was hired by the Kern Joint Union High School and Junior College District to teach physical education and coach at North High School. After one year, he was transferred to South High School where he taught boys and girls physical education.

In 1960, BC hired Finch as its gymnastics coach. In 1961, Finch walked out to the swimming pool and offered his diving knowledge and coaching skills to swimming coach Jim Turner. That was the start of a 29 year coaching relationship.

The high-energy Bill Finch wanted to do more; he became the home game announcer for Renegade basketball for the next 17 years. When the game clock operator failed to appear, Finch also did that. If the scorekeeper failed to show, Finch did that, too. When someone asked Bill why he did it all, his answer was, "I needed the money and I enjoyed the work."

Funeral services for Finch were private for family and close friends.

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