Icie Pearl Lamm Finch, 95, of Bailey, passed away at her home on Wednesday, February 1, 2023, surrounded by her loving family.
She is survived by her daughter, Jane Flowers Finch, and her husband, Ashley Story; her daughter-in-law, Louise Finch; her grandchildren, Amy Finch Galloway, Wade Raymond Finch (Jen), Heather Louise Finch, Sterling Story Kane (Bryan), Hampton Ashley Story (Grace), Savannah Jane Story (Emma Jane); her great-grandchildren, John Merritt Kane, II, Stratton Ashley Kane, Benjamin Wade Finch, Abigail Pearl Finch, Lydia Anne Finch, Hannah Oakley Finch, and Elizabeth Ray Finch. She also cherished her many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Pearl’s life revolved around her family, friends, and community. She met her beloved husband, Raymond Earl Finch when she was 17 and won him over with her beautiful singing voice. Not long after their courtship began, Raymond left to serve in Europe during World War II. Their correspondence throughout this time solidified this inevitable romance. Once he returned home, they married and settled in Bailey, N.C.
Pearl graduated from Rock Ridge High School in 1945. After having her children, she enrolled at Atlantic Christian College and graduated in 1967. She taught and became a guidance counselor at Southern Nash High School from 1968-1990. While teaching, she received a master’s degree in Education from N.C. State University, in 1970 served as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Atlantic Christian College. She was a passionate believer in the power of education. She never lost her love for learning and her ability to teach others effectively, and she encouraged everyone she encountered to keep bettering themselves.
Pearl was an active member of the Bailey Baptist Church and was the first woman to serve as a Deacon. She played the piano, directed the choir, taught Sunday school, and served as Sunday school superintendent and director of vacation bible school.
Pearl was a proud Democrat and the first woman to serve as chair of the Nash County Democratic Party in 1976. She managed and worked on Democratic campaigns at the precinct, state, and national levels from the 1950s through current Governor Roy Cooper. Pearl was well known as the “go-to” woman to get out the vote in Nash County. Her dedication to the democratic process went beyond party. She served on the Nash County Board of Elections, spanning over four decades, and served a tenure as chair.
In 1959, Pearl was selected by the USDA to represent Nash County for a study and tour of the United Nations. She was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and talk with Adlai Stephenson. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed her to the Federal Anti-Poverty Board for Nash and Edgecombe Counties as part of his War on Poverty. In 1968, she was the recipient of an R.J. Reynolds Fellowship in Economics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for the summer.
Perhaps Pearl’s greatest passion was improving access to services for mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse. She served a long tenure as chair of the Nash/Edgecombe Mental Health Board, helping many in the community receive the mental health services and support they needed. She served on N.C. Mental Health Commission and served as chair of the Commission for a term. She was president of N.C. Council for Community Mental Health Programs. Her service also included N.C. Council for Developmental Disabilities, and the Legislative Study Committee for MH/DD/SA Planning. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Career Leadership Award for her lifelong commitment and leadership for those in need of mental health services.
In 2012, she was awarded North Carolina’s highest honor—the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for her contribution to Mental Health Services in N.C. Pearl also participated in the Friendship Force International, a global network started by President Carter, which allowed her to travel internationally, and host others at her home in Bailey.
Pearl’s most significant accomplishment was her influence on the lives of many students she nurtured at Southern Nash High School, where she taught and served as a guidance counselor. Her nurturing, care, and support of many spilled over into the community, where many called on her for help. The true beauty in Pearl Finch was her ability to use her mental health training and skills with her faith in Jesus Christ and Biblical scriptures to guide people through their perils and challenges in life.
The fun side of Pearl was demonstrated in her role as a singer, dancer, and entertainer. Over the years, she entertained locally and was a member of the Red Hots who entertained at area nursing homes and community events. Pearl was well known for her renditions of “Harper Valley PTA” and “Blues in the Night.” She laughed frequently and embraced the hearing and sharing of a good joke.
Pearl was preceded in death by her husband, Raymond Earl Finch; her son Raymond Earl Finch Jr.; her parents, John Hoover Lamm and Icie Flowers Lamm; her brothers, Coy Roger Lamm, John Hoover Lamm Jr., Isaac Claudie Lamm, and Leland Brochie Lamm.
The combination of Pearl’s work ethic, dedication to service, and faith in the Lord made her a force of nature in North Carolina. She leaves a legacy embracing equality, diversity, and loving all people. Pearl was, indeed, a wise woman who shared her wisdom with others. In the last year of her life, the message she passionately conveyed to all was simple, “Love one another.” She somehow balanced this with an unmatched sense of humor and grace. “Icie Pearl was a gem of a girl.” God rest her soul.
Services at First Baptist Church of Wilson, NC, on Monday, February 6, 2023, at 11:00 am, with a reception to follow in the fellowship hall. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations are made to the Pearl and Raymond Finch Scholarship Fund. Send checks payable to Barton College and note the Pearl and Raymond Finch Scholarship, Barton College Office of Institutional Advancement, P.O. Box 5000 Wilson, NC 27893. Or make a secure online gift by visiting https://give.barton.edu//. There is an option to designate your contribution to the Pearl and Raymond Finch Scholarship. This scholarship is to be for the benefit of a graduate of Southern Nash High School.
Condolences directed to Joyner’s Funeral Home and Crematory at www.joyners.net.