When her longtime friend, Robert Poindexter, would start a new school year at Elkins Elementary School in Cheltenham, where he taught for 32 years, there would be flowers on his desk. Guess where they came from.
Carolyn Finney, who taught for 40 years at Martha Washington Elementary School in West Philadelphia, a tireless church worker and active member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, died of cancer Sept. 15 in the Saunders House, Wynnewood. She was 92 and had been a 46-year resident of Iroquois Apartments on City Avenue in Wynnefield.
Poindexter said that when a security guard at the apartment building learned of her death, he wept. And when Poindexter went to the Overhill Flower Shop at 53rd Street and Lancaster Avenue to see about flowers for her funeral, the florists couldn't stop talking about her.
"They said she was just a joy," he said. "She always lifted their spirits. If they were having a bad day, a visit from Carolyn would cheer them up."
When Robert's father, the well-known CBS3 reporter Malcolm Poindexter, was ill, Carolyn would pick up his son and say, "We have to visit your father."
"She always cheered him up," Robert said. His father died in 2010.
Carolyn's membership in the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was perfect for her desire to be of service on a broader stage. The sorority is committed to public-service programs, including providing scholarships for needy students.
She was chairwoman of the Hospitality Committee from 1996 through 2004, and a member of several other committees, including Social Action, Physical and Mental Health, Delta Dears and fundraising drives.
She treasured her 50-year membership pin.
Carolyn was active with the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas and St. Luke's Episcopal Church. She delighted in arranging flowers for the altars. She was so proud of her creations, she often photographed them and sent the pictures to family and friends.
Carolyn, who was known to family and friends as Finney, was born to Dr. James Edward Bell, a physician, and Musette Neal Bell in Baltimore. She attended public schools in Baltimore and went on to Coppin State University in Baltimore, majoring in elementary education. After graduating in 1942, she moved to Philadelphia, where she became a schoolteacher and took graduate courses at St. Joseph's University.
She was married to Dr. James C. Finney, professor of education at Cheyney University, for 41 years before his death in 2009 at age 89.
"She loved teaching," Poindexter said. "She loved children and animals. She was very humble; she didn't like a lot of fuss. She just had a need to give back to people."
She retired from teaching in 1988.
When she was hospitalized at Lankenau Hospital, the doctors and nurses fell in love with her. "She didn't question what they were doing," Poindexter said. "She told them they knew what to do."
Carol is survived by a sister, Vera Bell Fry.
Services: Mass of Christian Burial 12:30 p.m. Monday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 5241 Germantown Ave. Omega Omega service will start at noon.