Obituary : Frances M. Finnen; Activist Whose Stabbing Ignited Crime Concerns


Frances M. Finnen, whose 1990 stabbing at a supermarket ignited a community outcry over crimes committed by the homeless in Santa Monica, died Saturday.

She was 92 and had been in ill health since April, according to her niece, Laurie Klein, of Riverside.

After recovering from her wounds three years ago, Mrs. Finnen became a symbol for residents who suffered from the criminal element within the transient population. Her attacker, a homeless man, was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and robbery.

Mrs. Finnen, meanwhile, became a regular at news conferences and other public appearances in support of a ballot initiative to make the Santa Monica city attorney an elected position.

The 1990 initiative, launched by Mrs. Finnen's friend, Leslie Dutton, was aimed at forcing from office then-City Atty. Robert M. Myers, whom Dutton and others viewed as being too soft on homeless crime. It failed at the polls, but Myers was ultimately ousted by his own supporters.

The failed campaign was the last in Mrs. Finnen's long history of political involvement. She was a stalwart in Republican grass-roots activities on the Westside for more than 25 years.

"She and Leslie (Dutton) kept the Republican Club together before the Reagan years," Klein said. "She worked at what she believed in. She proved women can make a difference in politics."

Dutton recalled that Mrs. Finnen was also no stranger to making news. In 1974, she was featured in a widely published newspaper photo that showed her delivering a scroll containing the names of thousands of supporters to President Richard M. Nixon, who was embroiled in the Watergate scandal.

Indeed, Klein said her aunt was fond of quoting Nixon in explaining a philosophy that kept her active and undeterred from going about her activities--even after her stabbing.

Nixon said, "You only lose when you quit," Klein said. "He had to quit, but she didn't."

Born in Ft. Worth in 1901, Mrs. Finnen is survived by Klein and another niece, Mary Lou Jackson of Coarsegold, Calif.

There will be no memorial services, but the family suggests that memorial gifts in Mrs. Finnen's name to the Citizens Protection Alliance, 2210 Wilshire Blvd., No. 174, Santa Monica 90403.

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