"She was such a joy."

"We are going to miss her gentle spirit."

"A truly great spirit."

Those were just some of the comments left on Facebook by people who knew Edith Frances Finley. The lifelong educator passed away on Aug. 22 at 69 years old. News of her death sent shockwaves throughout the community where she is being hailed as a pillar of strength and a champion for the education of children.

Finley showed no signs of slowing down when she ran for the Waxahachie Independent School District Board of Trustees earlier this year. A letter to the Daily Light editor, dated Apr. 30, 2019 — LETTER: Winn for Finley — endorsed Finley for her "calling" to academia.

"When I was speaking to Mrs. Finley about working in education now as opposed to when she started, she said, 'You have to love it and have a calling.' I believe, by her actions, she has this calling, and this is why I am supporting Mrs. Edith Finley for WISD school board," Ellis County Sheriff's Office Administrative Lt. Wess Winn wrote.

During a candidate forum in April, Finley said she was "married to education for 45 years."

Although the school board candidate didn't win a seat, the Waxahachie ISD remembers her as "a passionate champion for children for many years" who "touched so many lives both during and after her time as an educator."

"She was a great asset to our community," the post continued, "and will be missed very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and many friends."

The Waxahachie native attended schools in the city, including Turner High School, according to her Facebook page. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree and a master's degree in guidance and counseling from East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Waxahachie ISD said Finley spent 26 years with the district, wearing many hats. She taught history and mathematics and was a counselor for 11 years. Finley said she also taught English and was a drug counselor.

Before retiring, Finley worked as an assistant principal throughout the Ennis Independent School District for some 15 years, both at the elementary and secondary levels.

"First, she was my teacher when I was in the eighth grade. I had her for American history. She was a teacher who never needed to remind you who was in charge in her classroom," Waxahachie ISD Executive Director of Secondary Learning Dr. David Averett told The Ennis News. "She had a smile that could light up a room and a look that could stop you in your tracks if you were thinking of getting out of line. Most of all, she had a generous heart for children. First, she was my teacher, later she was a colleague, and finally, and most importantly, she was a friend."

"I had the opportunity to work with her when I began my teaching career," Averett added as he recalled working alongside Finley at Ennis Independent School District. "I was pleased to learn that I had a fellow Indian on the staff in Ennis. Ms. Finley and I shared a common bond, as we were both Waxahachie transplants in Lion Country … I was blessed to work with her during her last year in public education. She was well-received by her peers and the faculty. ... Her knowledge of the student body was invaluable as she had worked with most of them as they moved through our district."

Finley's lifelong commitment to education was inspired by her late father Eddie Finley, Sr., who too was a prominent figure in Waxahachie as an educator with decades worth of service. Finley Seventh Grade Center, now Finley Junior High School, was named after him in 2008.

The Ennis News reported that Finley survived cancer three years ago. Before her death, she was reportedly hospitalized for three weeks.

A wake is scheduled for Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. at Joshua Chapel A.M.E Church in Waxahachie, where Finley was reportedly a dedicated member. The funeral service is on Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. at Joshua Chapel.

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Patrick Clarke | @PatrickClarke1