The Dawsonville community is mourning the death of a local historian, retired school teacher and beloved family man this week.
Lifelong resident Charles Finley passed away July 4 due to complications from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle wreck June 15. He was 64.
"He was one of the most outstanding men I had ever known," said Margie Weaver, a longtime friend and director of the Dawson County Senior Center. "He was a wonderful friend."
The head-on collision occurred last month as Finley and his wife, Kathy, were traveling east on Hwy. 53. Authorities have said a westbound vehicle crossed the centerline and struck them head on.
The Finleys were flown to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta in critical condition.
As of Tuesday, Kathy Finley, 62, had been discharged from the hospital and was preparing for long-term physical therapy, according to the couple's son Ben Finley.
The Finley's had been married for 31 years.
"My mother and I would like to sincerely thank each of you for the continued prayer that we have felt," said Ben Finley. "Words cannot express the gratitude and the feelings of love that have encompassed our family over the last few weeks.
"We know that Charles is in a better place, where he wanted to be. He is free of all suffering and injury. His memory will live on through the lives of students, friends and family."
Known as an expert on Dawson County, Charles Finley was heavily involved in various organizations. He was a member of the Dawson County Historical and Genealogical Society, the Retired Teachers Association and the Gideons International.
He penned several books about local schools and at the time of his death was compiling an authoritative history of the county.
"He spent so much time weaving history for all Dawson County to read," said Rachel Padgett, a fellow Dawsonville resident and lifelong friend.
Finley was also a founding member and former president of the Dawson County Jaycees, which helped establish the Mountain Moonshine Festival and the Empty Stocking Fund, now known as KARE for Kids.
He taught elementary school and worked for many years as a media specialist in the local school system. Weaver said he was an "amazing man" and teacher.
"I had children and grandchildren in his classes and he was always their favorite teacher," Weaver said.
Padgett, 83, who knew Finley his entire life and taught third grade with him, described him as "a wonderful person to work with."
"He made a difference in every child's life," she said.
Finley was also involved in his church and came to be recognized for his humble acts of service to the community, Weaver said.
"He lived every single day of his life as a wonderful, steadfast Christian man," she recalled. "When there wasn't enough money at times for serving hot meals to people in need, Charles and Kathy would make donations out of pocket."
Longtime friend and colleague Nicky Gilleland, former Dawson County school superintendent, echoed the words of many others.
"He's always been such a good friend to me," Gilleland said.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Bearden Funeral Home Chapel.
The Revs. Casey Martin, Russell Burt and Jason Hamby will officiate. Interment will follow in the Goshen Baptist Church Cemetery.
The family will receive friends from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home.
According to the obituary, donations can be made to the Goshen Baptist Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 1055, Dawsonville, GA 30534, in lieu of flowers.