Jimmie Rodgers fan bows out in Birmingham, England
By By Carl Fitzgerald/special to The Star
Oct. 6, 2003
He told this reporter some 30 years ago, "I am the greatest fan of your Singing Brakeman,' Jimmie Rodgers, in the entire world." His name was Neville A. Finnemoore, of Birmingham, England.
The plain-spoken Finnemoore made his first trip to the hometown of his hero in about 1969 and said to this reporter, "If you plan to re-organize a memorial celebration to Jimmie Rodgers, then make it a week-long event and call it a festival.'"
He added, "In England, we have entertainment events and we celebrate and have fun for a full week."
Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival co-founder (1972) James Skelton said, "Neville Finnemoore was an international public relations giant for Meridian, Miss., JRMF and the Rodgers legacy.
Many of the festival pioneers in this area agree with Skelton and others that this Rodgers fan was a big factor in the success of JRMF from 1972 on through the next 15 years or so.
There were many friends in Meridian who corresponded with Neville and his wife, Joyce, but his visits ceased pretty soon after the mid or late 1980s.
It is believed, though not confirmed, that Neville and Joyce were not in the best of health for the past few years. A few friends said, "We were still getting Christmas cards from Neville most every Christmas."
Then, a few weeks ago, Meridian friends Don and Ethel Brown, said, "Neville called us and said that he would be in Meridian on Oct. 13." The word spread and all of us were looking forward to seeing Neville.
However, Joyce called Ethel Brown last Wednesday and said that Neville had suffered an apparent brain hemorrhage and died Tuesday night. She said, "Neville was so happy about making the trip to Meridian again, he was upbeat and positive."
He was stricken suddenly and died.
Many JRMF fans will remember that friendly, kind gentleman from England as he stood on the festival stage and touched our hearts with excitement and devotion.
Neville will be missed. Our prayers go out to Joyce and other family members. Skelton said, "Neville Finnemoore loved Jimmie Rodgers with a passion that few Americans could match."