Audrey Finlayson Cannamela

audrey cannamela
On Monday, April 10, 2023, Audrey Claire Finlayson Cannamela of Reston, VA, and long-term Executive Director of the non-profit Foundation for Contemporary Mental Health of Washington, DC passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was a beloved 45-year partner of Paul Velde, mother of Alexandra Christine Cannamela and Damian Christopher Cannamela, grandmother of Siris Rain Cannamela, stepsister of Anne Marie Beck, and friend of stepsons Breien and John Velde and their families. She was preceded in death by her mother/stepfather Caroline and Claus Beck of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and father/stepmother Oarl and Jeanette Finlayson of Orlando Florida.

Audrey was an independent, dedicated, adventurous person who cared deeply about individuals, diversity, and human rights. In the early sixties, she was among the nation's first participants in the evolving VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Program under Sargent Shriver, completing over two years of community service in Adams Morgan and Baltimore, Maryland. She subsequently, spent a year of travel and work in Europe and North Africa where her passion for cultural adventure was ignited.

Throughout her life, she traveled whenever she could to 22 countries. India was admittedly her favorite place to be but she never visited a country she didn't like nor was introduced to a cuisine she didn't enjoy.

After marrying and having two children, she and her family became what was known at the time as

"Urban Homesteaders" in Baltimore Maryland, where they paid only $1.00 for a vacant house in the inner city, and rehabilitated it with a low-interest loan from the city.

Audrey then began her professional career in Continuing Medical Education at The University of Maryland in Baltimore and later joined The Psychiatric Institute Foundation in the District of Columbia in 1978 as Director of Continuing and Community Education in Mental Health. She was committed to growing along with the organization as it changed its focus over time to address the area's ongoing drug dependency crisis and expanded need for outpatient treatment.

After divorcing, she met and fell in love with her partner, Paul Velde and moved to Reston. Despite her interesting life and the demands of her career, her extended family and, most-of-all, her children were always at the primary core of her life and heart. She enjoyed life immensely, especially its surprising twists and turns and unexpected moments of humor. She firmly believed she fulfilled her destiny with the help of God and the many people (and animals) placed in her path along the way for whom she is eternally grateful..

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Memories Timeline


  1. i worked with Audrey for over 30 years at the Foundation, one of my fondest memories of Audrey is how much she loved the children at out facility and would always stop and play with the babies or talk to the little ones, We had a Toy Drive and every year Audrey would make a personal donation to our Toy Drive , I remember how she couldn’t wait to share with me the wonderful news of her Grandson and how her eyes lit up while talking about him on his little tractor and helping his dad. I will always think of her and her kindness and how I was able to talk to her a couple of weeks ago and let her know that i loved her and appreciated everything she did throughout the years. Lovingly submitted Carla B

  2. Audrey was so lovely, pleasant and delightful to spend time with. Although our time spent together was in the professional realm, she was quite expressive in her sharing and I enjoyed those times immensely. She was special!

  3. I will always cherish the short time that I knew you. You were a wonderful person who always showed your kindness to everyone. Gone to soon!!!!

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