BELOIT—Mark Finnegan, co-founder of VetsRoll, called the brush his 94-year-old mother Barbara Finnegan had with Coronavirus a “speed bump.” The ‘Rosie-the-Riveter’ not only had a full recovery from the virus, but was barely ill after she tested positive.
Her son wasn’t surprised. In the past five years she has fallen and fractured her pelvis twice, and “graduated” out of Hospice care.
His mother was tested for the virus at a Beloit care facility she’s living in along with other residents. She has been dealing with dementia for the past six years with her condition becoming more advanced. Despite her challenges, she still recognizes her son and on occasion will call out his name when he visits her every week or so.
Finnegan said the last day he saw his mother was March 13 when the stay-at-home order went into effect. Although she had dementia, she has enjoyed great physical health.
“She responds well to holding hands and touch,” he said.
On May 20, Finnegan learned his mother had tested positive. He was surprised as his mother hadn’t had a fever and had high oxygen levels in the days leading up to the test.
“Had she not had the test, they would have never known,” Finnegan said.
In her frail state, he began to plan for the inevitable, hoping she could at least hold on long enough to provide the family with one last visit.
“I haven’t been able to hold her hand since March 13,” Finnegan said.
As the days went on, Barbara slept a little more and had lost her appetite, but showed no additional symptoms. On June 2, Barbara was considered clear of the virus.
The care facility where his mother is staying is still under quarantine. Once the ban on visitors is lifted, he can’t wait to see her again.
When asked what he will do, he said he will give her “a great big old sloppy kiss on the cheek and a hug.”
Barbara Finnegan was born in 1926 in Beloit and married Cy Finnegan on June 15, 1946. She met her husband who was at a U.S. Navy training program at Fairbanks Morse. Barbara Finnegan always told the tale of meeting her husband after they crossed paths walking on the Portland Avenue bridge.
“She and her cousin passed my father and another sailor and they glanced over their shoulders at each other and kind of smiled,” Finnegan said.
His father, Cy, was in the South Pacific from 1944-1946 during World War II, but exchanged many letters with Barbara.
After Barbara graduated high school in 1943, she went to Arlington, Virginia to work for the War Department where she decoded messages from the Axis powers, the Germans and Italians. She came back home to Beloit for a funeral, and decided to stay, working at a Janesville factory and later at Jorgenson engineering.
Once the war was over she quit her job. On June 15, 1946 they got married and the two started a big family. Barbara later worked at Kohl’s Food Store as she helped raise the family. Cy Finnegan dug the basement for their first house by hand. Born during the Great Depression, his mother had few luxuries and ‘made do.’
“The older I get the more I appreciate what the greatest generation did and what they were made of,” Mark Finnegan said. “She always had a strong will and was a positive person. I never knew anyone who didn’t like my mom.”
Today Tom Finnegan, who served in the U.S. Navy, lives in Monterey California; Jerry Finnegan, who served in the U.S. Navy lives in Boise, Idaho; Denny Finnegan who served in the U.S Navy lives in Beloit; Tim Finnegan who served in the Army lives in near Washington, D.C.; sister Carol Pisetsky lives in San Francisco; and Mark and John live in Beloit running Finnegans’ RV Center and VetsRoll, an all-expense paid trip for veterans to see war memorials in Washington, D.C.
Another brother, the late Pat Finnegan of Madison, passed away in 2017.
A sister-in-law, Tim Finnegan’s late wife Cindy Finnegan, was a major in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War and combat nurse. She had to take retirement in 1983 due to multiple sclerosis, and she passed away in 2003. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“She is one of the reasons we started VetsRoll along with my parents,” Mark Finnegan said.