Wednesday, 10 September 2014

OBITUARY - HOWARD HOLMES 28/8/1917 – 26/8/2014 (aged 96)

Written by Tony Gayford.  Secretary, Gisborne Masters swimming Club

Howard Holmes. - Master Swimmer since 1984, WW2, POW 4 ½ years, Tailor, Dry- Cleaner, Bird lover, Golfer, Dancer, Orchid Grower, Father, and Husband to Olga. 

I have known Howard since I joined Masters in 1989, when he was a sprightly young 72 year old.

One of the first stories he told me was when he was holed up in Crete, before capture, the platoon leader gave him a watch, and then left.  He still had the watch in 1990, and it turned out that the NCO was the father of a good friend from my school days. 

Howard enjoyed a fit and healthy life, packed with activity.  One would get the impression he wouldn’t sit around reading, or do other sedentary activity for very long.  He would do a swim session, and then golf in the same day and may even fit in a gym session. 

Howard enjoyed a long, active life. I felt that he had cracked the recipe for 90 plus years with his positive attitude and his generous spirit and actions, staying fit and walking a lot, and being a sought after partner at weekly dance sessions.

Sometimes his generosity did not extend to himself – he would be self effacing in conversation, much of it humorous and a bit of a tight wad when faced with paying for “dinners out,” “you can get all you can eat for $5.00 at the RSA”, one of his favourite haunts. 

Howard spent years, through the summer months, driving to orchards collecting and picking carloads of fruit, and then distributing it to his “elderly clients” most of them much younger than himself. 

Howard attended many swim meets, and swam every freestyle event at most, 50m to 1500m. To date, he still holds 13 New Zealand records from 80 to 90 year groups.

He was disappointed to give up in his early 90s, due to leg ulcers and a shoulder injury. He was valuable to our Masters teams, not only for swimming, but his years were a considerable advantage in relays.

A few glimpses of a rare character:  

·       Announcement at Napier Swim Meet:
“Would the person who left a bag with beer in the changing room please collect it from the      office”.  Howard’s secret weapon!

·       The stop at the Whakatane RSA for a “jug” before the meet.
·       The same trip, a bird in a covered cage needed to be fed every hour in the back seat of the car. Expecting some exotic avian, it turned out to be a Mynah!
·       Complaining about his sore shoulder – he injured it while learning a new rock and roll            move.
And some comments from fellow Masters:

From Barry McLean:

 I first met Howard in 1948 – He was one of the best senior swimmers in the Gisborne Swimming

and Surf Club I joined.  Also at that time he was among the best swimmers in Gisborne and Hawkes   Bay.

Always arriving immaculately dressed (he was a tailor and dry-cleaner) he was prepared to start in any freestyle event (50yards up to a mile. in those days) His loping slow arm action belied his speed, and his “eel” turns were both evident in his “Master years”

To settle his nerves before a race he would often “have a couple” and at the “after Meet Function” he would enjoy a couple more.

A character who also was a successful cage bird fancier and orchid grower will be missed for those weekly chats around the pool and fondly remembered.

From Kim Barbara:

I always remember Howard clearing the pool, by putting his togs on the heater in the men’s changing rooms, they caught fire, and everyone had to evacuate.

He then brought a new pair with the words “SPANK: on the rear. This enhanced his “eel turn”.

They had cost him $3.00 from the Red Cross Shop.

This gentle man will be missed by young and old. An inspiration to us all as to why life is worth living to the fullest.

From Edith Markie:

Howard at 65 yrs old was the first Gisborne Master Representative at an international meet, in 1984 at Christchurch. There were 1600 swimmers competing at the first FINA World Meet.

Howard was a modest generous fellow who loved telling stories about himself.

At 85 he presented back, at the NISC in Rotorua all the medals he had won over the years.

RIP   Howard, Swimmers everywhere will remember you.
Fittingly, the only Hymn at his funeral (Which was a large turnout), was:
“Onward Christian Soldiers”
He was one to the end
 The “Last Post ‘‘filled the Church.

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