Personality plus! Prettiest girl alive! Human dynamo! That is how Mary Lou (Talbot) Finley – known to most of us as Lu Lu – is best remembered.
A talkative and skinny-legged North Fork native, Lu Lu left her childhood home near Manzanita Lake when she earned silver wings from Western Airlines and began traveling the world as a charismatic flight attendant.
Finley became a local celebrity, described as charm in a capsule, when selected top United States airline stewardess in 1958 and later Miss International Airline Stewardess. A promotion to airline public relations quickly followed for Lu Lu where her “small town girl enthusiasm” was featured in nationwide advertising campaigns.
Always on the go, Lu Lu fit in well with the jet set crowd – landing the Director of In-Flight for the Air Tour division of Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas, Finley dazzled as head stewardess for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack.
Lu Lu “grew a cup size” with patriotic pride when she shared the skies with three U.S. presidents on campaign flights (her favorite being John F. Kennedy), and contributed to U.S. Strategic Air Command through a study involving domestic air carriers. Time magazine even featured Lu Lu for “adding a touch of glamour” while perched on the back of a Ford pickup at a missile system test.
During her high-flying career, Lu Lu was an in-demand model with several agencies and achieved a teaching degree from UCLA. She ultimately served at the Federal Aviation Authority, consulted for 20-plus air carriers throughout the world, and worked as a technical advisor to Hollywood productions related to travel.
Lu Lu entered the stewardess training field in 1968 and electrified Santa Ana College by founding the first college program to professionally prepare airline attendants. Affectionately called Mother Finley by adoring students for over a decade, Lu Lu impressed as a college instructor who developed hundreds of women for a successful airline career. International carriers visited the campus as a blueprint for their instructional curriculum and Lu Lu eventually trained Saudi Arabian King Fahd’s private all-male flight crew … lesson one: ladies can smoke in America!
In the late 1970s, after non-stop dreaming of summers past wearing out the dance floor at Ducey’s with life partner Buddy Muller and friends, Finley finally returned home full-time to the Mountain Area that she loved so much. Entrepreneur Lu Lu opened a bake-it-yourself pizza shop where locals gathered and her grandchildren received an education on the importance of personal connections. Like most things that Lu Lu touched, the pizza business was a success because she did it her way!
Finley did not feel complete unless giving back to the community. As a twenty-year President of the Board of Directors for the Golden Chain Theatre, Lu Lu taught up-and-coming stars and starlets just how it’s supposed to be done with “both energy and inspiration.”
Finley also championed the Sierra Historical Sites Association as President of the Board where she worked tirelessly to preserve Fresno Flats Park. In recognition for her steadfast service and donation of talent, Lu Lu was elected as the Oakhurst Honorary Mayor in 2005 and named Woman of the Year in 2007 by the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce.
Far from perfect, Lu Lu maintained a lifelong insistence on eating heaping spoonfuls of Best Foods mayonnaise on virtually every food group (notably during her date with Elvis Presley where the couple split a peanut butter, mayo, and banana sandwich), kept the Christmas decorations up in all seasons, and watched Judge Judy at volume 97 in her later years.
Lu Lu’s legacy is carried on by her daughter, Lori Burnett; cherished grandchildren, Terry and Todd Avery, Lacey Weiszbrod and Patrick Perez, Landon Weiszbrod, Aubrey Hurst and Artu Arin, and Austen Hurst; idolized great-grandchildren, Grayson Avery and Aerith Barnes; maverick godchildren, Gwen Ann Williams and Dr. Robert Graham; extended family of the late Buddy Muller; generations of young people who she mentored in aviation and theatre; treasured friends; and a flock of hummingbirds at the top of Deadwood Mountain.
A celebration of Lu Lu’s beautiful and big life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Golden Chain Theatre in Oakhurst.
Lu Lu was born on Jan. 17, 1935 and passed away on Christmas Eve 2018.
Always remember that she loves your face!