By Ric Rhinehart
For the staff of the SCA the world contains a little bit less light today, because today Skip Finley has physically left us. As we mourn Skip throughout the coffee world, we also have a chance to remember his spirit, which remains very much with us. In an organization that was founded on, and thrives on, the energy and commitment of its volunteers, Skip was an exceptionally generous, gracious, and committed example of volunteer leadership.
Skip served on the brewing subcommittee of the SCAA—the famous ‘brew crew’—and then as a member of the SCAA Board of Directors Skip was appointed as Chairman of the highly respected Technical Standards Committee, which is entrusted with developing and protecting the crucial standards of specialty coffee. Skip’s role on the SCAA Board of Directors was to lead the entire specialty coffee community, a responsibility Skip took on ably and seriously. Always a man of the people, he brought dignity and clarity of purpose to the office of SCAA director, never forgetting that his responsibility was to the members of our association and the greater coffee community, never himself. Skip was a friend to and an advocate for everyone in specialty coffee, from the barista to the technician to the producer to the consumer.
But Skip was much more than a committed volunteer and leader. He was a remarkably open, caring, friendly man who moved seamlessly from one group of coffee people to the next, always ready to listen, to share, to hear and understand a different perspective or viewpoint. Skip was a big man with a big heart, a big smile, and an enourmous love of life. He had boundless energy for the activities that gathered the coffee community together. He could always be counted upon to arrive early to set up a barista competition or a roasters retreat, and then counted on to close the night with great humor and conversation.
It was clear to everyone who met him that Skip loved the people of our coffee community. His friendly, outgoing nature and boundless grace found a place in the hearts of coffee people across all walks of life. One would be hard pressed to think of any place in the specialty coffee world where he didn’t add something unique just by being there. We will miss his energy, his enthusiasm, his leadership, and most of all his warmth.
Words are never enough to capture a life, any life. The energy and love that emanated from Skip needs something greater than words. Today, we join hundreds of others across our industry in feeling temporarily diminished, but can take great pride and solace in remembering all the ways we are better for knowing Skip. Even more, we can continue to honor him by doing what he would have done, by reaching out and making friends, offering a hand, raising a glass. Rest easy Skip.