Deacon John Holmes, a Korean War veteran, died Nov. 2, 2012 in Palm Coast, Fla., at the age of 82.
Deacon Holmes was born in Ithaca in 1930 but grew up in Elmira, where he graduated from Elmira Free Academy in 1948. He later was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War. After returning to the United States he attended Mohawk Valley Technical Institute, which later became known as Mohawk Valley Community College. He graduated with an associate’s in applied science degree in 1955.
He worked for several years as a buyer for Edwards department store before moving on to Xerox Corp., where he worked as a personnel manager for more than 20 years. He married his wife, Norma, in 1956.
"We had 56 years together. We just had a great life together," Norma Holmes said.
In the 1980s one of the Holmes’ friends, Michael Campanelli, entered the Diocese of Rochester’s deacon-formation program and was ordained a deacon in 1986. Deacon Campanelli’s wife, Gilda, encouraged Deacon Holmes to do the same, Norma Holmes recalled.
"She’s the reason that John became a deacon," she said.
Deacon Robert McCormick, chaplain at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, went through the deacon-formation program with Deacon Holmes in the 1980s.
"He was a very intelligent and hard worker, but also maintained a sense of humor during his training. He was very proud of his heritage and his faith," Deacon McCormick said of his former classmate.
Deacon Holmes also was very proud of his family and frequently talked about his family members, added Deacon McCormick, who also serves at Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Hornell.
Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark ordained Deacon Holmes June 5, 1988, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. He then served at St. Bridget Parish in Rochester from 1988-91 and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Hamlin from 1991-97. He also served as diocesan director of deacon personnel from 1992-97. In 1997 he and his wife moved to Florida.
"John wanted to come down here because of the weather. He wanted to fish and camp and enjoy the weather," Norma Holmes said, noting that her husband was able to do all of those things. "We enjoyed ourselves to the fullest."
Deacon Holmes also enjoyed serving two parishes in the Diocese of St. Augustine, she added. He ministered at St. Pius V Parish in Jacksonville for a few years before moving to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Palm Coast. He led Bible-study groups, trained altar servers, worked with the Black Catholic Guild and regularly held Communion services at area nursing homes. Deacon Holmes brought many gifts to his ministry, Norma Holmes said.
"He had a funny personality, but he was always a low-key, laid-back person. He was the coolest dude I ever met. He could relate to anyone," she said.
Deacon Holmes loved preaching and often preached about black Catholics during the months of November and February, which are observed as Black Catholic History Month and Black History Month, respectively.
"That was his favorite thing to do. He loved working on those sermons and raising people’s awareness of black Catholics," Norma Holmes said.
He retired in 2009 after about five years at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, she added.
Deacon Holmes’ family held a small, private funeral Nov. 8, 2012. Interment will be in a military cemetery in Elmira.
In addition to his wife, Deacon Holmes is survived by his son, Aric Holmes; sister-in-law, Leslie Blandford; niece, Jamie Cade; and several grandchildren.