Special Reports

Ida Finley, 89 | A proud woman doing it her way

Ida Finley celebrated her 89th birthday on May 12.

Her daughter-in-law, Kris Finley, visited her that day at Greenbriar Nursing Home in Joplin.

“She was in a good mood,” Finley recalled.

That had been satisfying to see, Finley said, given that Ida in recent years had been enduring advancing complications from Alzheimer’s.

That was the last time Kris saw Ida.

On Friday, she was still looking for her.

The Joplin tornado leveled the Greenbriar facility. Of the 89 residents, nursing home officials have confirmation of 13 who died, said Bill Mitchell, senior vice president of Greenbriar Nursing Center Inc.

That leaves 76 residents whom they consider to be alive in other care facilities, such as nursing homes or hospitals, Mitchell said. However, he added, of those, there are three for whom they are still awaiting confirmation of location.

Ida Finley is one of those, he said.

Kris Finley, meanwhile, has spent the week looking. Monday she went to Joplin’s Memorial Hall, where initial triage had been performed just after the tornado. Thursday afternoon she was back at Memorial Hall, where she was given a list of nursing homes and hospitals across several states.

“I have called Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas,” Finley said. “Nobody has any record of her.”

Technically, Ida is the grandmother of Finley’s husband, Clinton.

“But she adopted my husband because his father was killed when Clinton was 7 years old,” Finley said. “So she was kind of both my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. And my husband was the light of her life because her daughter had died when she was 6 years old.

“She was a pistol, a very proud woman. She didn’t like to ask for help and, matter of fact, would downright refuse it.”

That didn’t stop Clinton, about two years ago, from moving Ida from West Virginia to the Greenbriar facility after she began exhibiting Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Kris Finley lives south of Joplin. But on Sunday night she was in Joplin, working a 16-hour shift as a caregiver.

The tornado passed within perhaps two blocks, Finley said.

“I heard it, I smelled it, I did everything but see it,” she said.

She stayed at the residence until her shift ended at 9 a.m. Monday. Then she began searching for Ida.

On Friday, Finley received a call requesting that Clinton contribute a DNA sample.

“I still don’t know where she is,” Finley said Friday.

“My gut feeling is that she is at the morgue. I don’t like being wrong, but I would definitely be glad to be wrong on this.”


A state list of people unaccounted for since the Joplin tornado includes nine residents of the Greenbriar nursing home: Barbara Anderson, Larry Daniel, Nancy Douthitt, Amanda Eastwood or Pryor, Ida Finley, Viola Green, Dorothy Hartman, Daniel Shirley and Charles Writer.