Dr. James J. Finnerty, 92, formerly of Watertown

WATERTOWN, NY — James J. Finnerty, MD, MA, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

Born March 15, 1929, in Brooklyn, NY to James F. and Anna (Maloney) Finnerty, he graduated from Brooklyn Prep High School, Niagara University, class of 1951 and New York Medical College, class of 1955. Growing up in Brooklyn, James worked at Ebbets Field and the Schaeffer Brewery whilst attending high school, college, and medical school.

James and Patricia Cullen were married on Dec. 26, 1953, at St. Theresa’s Church in Brooklyn, NY.

After medical school, James completed his internship and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sisters of Charity Hospital, Buffalo, NY from 1955 to 1959. Dr. Finnerty was commissioned in The United States Air Force as a Captain and proudly served as Chief of OB/GYN and Deputy Hospital Commander at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, NV from 1959 to 1961.  Upon completion of his military service, Dr. Finnerty entered practice with Dr. James Fitzgerald in Watertown, NY. He practiced Obstetrics and Gynecology for 30 years, delivering thousands of babies at Mercy Hospital and The House of The Good Samaritan, serving as President of the Medical Staff at both hospitals. During this time Dr. Finnerty served as an Associate Professor in OB/GYN at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY.  He also spent many years as City Health Officer for Watertown, NY.

The Finnertys were long time communicants of St. Patrick’s Parish in Watertown and were active in many parish activities. Dr. Finnerty was a life-long member of the Knights of Columbus.

Upon retiring from private medical practice, Dr. and Mrs. Finnerty relocated to Charlottesville, VA, where Dr. Finnerty taught at the University of Virginia Medical School as an Assistant Clinical Professor until 2004. While at UVa, he earned a master’s degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis on medical ethics. As a 65-year-old member of the 1994 graduating class, he was the oldest student to “walk the lawn” at UVa.  In addition to his passion for teaching, he wrote and lectured on medical ethics and participated in the medical ethics consult program for the UVa Medical Center assisting families with difficult end of life decisions. The faculty and students at the UVa School of Medicine recognized him as an outstanding teacher numerous times during his tenure.

In 2004 Dr and Mrs. Finnerty moved to Latham, NY to be close to their family. Dr. Finnerty continued teaching medical ethics at Albany Medical College until 2017. He was also an occasional guest lecturer at Siena College in Loudonville, NY on medical ethics.

Dr. Finnerty was honored with the Dean’s Award, College of Arts and Sciences from Niagara University at his 60th Reunion in 2011.

Throughout his medical career Dr. Finnerty was guided by the need to pass along compassionate, professional standard of care to medical students and to assist them in developing an ethical and caring approach to their profession. Dr. Finnerty loved working with students, and it was a highlight of his academic career. He drew a great deal of energy from the intellectual engagement with his students and always felt he was learning as much from them as he was imparting to them.

Dr.  Finnerty learned to ski at age 37 and enjoyed skiing at Dry Hill Ski Area, Snow Ridge, and on annual ski trips with his family and friends. Dr. and Mrs. Finnerty have had a summer cottage on Lake Ontario since 1964 and loved having all the family there enjoying sailing and waterskiing, along with beautiful sunsets and amazing meals.

Dr. Finnerty touched many lives and left a lasting impression on his patients and colleagues.  His family all have repeatedly experienced the joy of being asked ‘are you related to Dr. Finnerty’ and hearing a story of that person’s experience with him.

Dr. Finnerty was predeceased by a son, Edward, grandson James ‘JJ’ Finnerty, a granddaughter Hannah Finnerty, a cousin Reverend Peter Finnerty, and two brothers-in-law Jack (Joan) and Edward (Mary) Cullen.

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Patricia M. (Cullen) Finnerty and his children Sheila A. Emminger (Larry) Rensselaer NY, James P. Finnerty, Watertown, NY, Anthony M. Finnerty Troy, NY, Paul F. Finnerty (Mary Beth) Clifton Park, NY, Mary R. Finnerty Suffield, CT, Emmet C. Finnerty (Karen) Wynantskill, NY, cousin Dr. Thomas Finnerty (Marie) Elmira, NY, grandchildren Matthew Emminger (Deanna Reiss), John Emminger (Katie), Jim Emminger; Molly, Meghan, Ryan, Connor, Eamon, Maggie and Anna Finnerty, and great granddaughter Charlotte Emminger, along with many devoted nieces and nephews.

The family would like to express profound appreciation to the staff and nurses at The Terrace at Beverwyck, St. Peter’s Hospital, Albany Medical Center, and Community Hospice of Albany for the excellent care they have provided over the past several years.

Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, March 5, 2022, at St. Patrick’s Church, South Massey Street, Watertown. Interment will be at Glenwood Cemetery, Brookside Drive (County Route 67), Watertown, NY.  Relatives and friends are invited to visit with the family 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 5, 2022, at Cummings Funeral Service, Inc., Watertown, prior to the funeral services.

The family encourages donations in Dr. Finnerty’s honor to CREDO Community Center Foundation, 595 West Main St., Watertown, NY 13601 or online through https://credocc.com.

Online condolences may be posted at www.cummingsfuneral.com.