There are many kinds of fathers, including the strict, domineering type; the absentee fathers, too busy with work to pay much attention to the kids; the pushy dads, who seek to live out their own unrealized dreams through the persons of their children, and the abusive dads, who strike fear into the hearts of their families.
These types of dads, and others, not only exist in real life, but are stereotypes for many fictional characters.
As a student in school, young Jeff Holmes had to do a lot of reading assignments, and a variety of dads showed up in the books he was assigned. But in his reading, he learned something about his own dad: "He wasn't like the fathers I read about in school."
"I had a dad who collected comics, science fiction novels, and toy monsters," smiled Jeff. "He didn’t just play 'Dungeons & Dragons' – he had to write the damn rules, too! My friends thought my dad was cool or, at the worst, kooky!"
Jeff’s comments came as the four children of John Eric Holmes took turns from the pulpit of the Vermont Hills United Methodist Church, Portland, OR, on Saturday, July 17, eulogizing their father, who had passed away at the age of 80 in late March 2010.
"Each time I arrive at Portland International Airport," said Jeff, "I’ll miss seeing my dad there to pick me up, wearing some ridiculous Japanese comic book T-shirt." He said such apparel used to embarrass him, but he got to where it didn't bother him at all.
"I love him a lot," said Jeff, "and Dad really cared."
Jeff said he could tell a lot of other funny stories, but "being part of the Holmes family is like being part of a private joke. We really are an odd bunch of misfits!"
He did tell one story in detail, though. Eric Holmes never cared much for athletics of any kind and, as a result, didn't know much about sports … or sports equipment. When Jeff turned out for the baseball team at school, he was told that he needed to get a mitt. "So dad took me to the sporting goods store and didn't really know how, or what, to ask for, so he told them I needed a 'catcher’s mitt'. Of course, what he really meant was that I needed a mitt for catching!"
When the store clerk brought out the catcher’s mitt, Jeff was hesitant. It didn't look at all like what the other kids had, and it seemed a lot stiffer than the mitts he'd seen at school. But the clerk assured them both that this was, indeed, a great catcher's mitt and that it would soften up in time.
The purchase turned out fairly well. "When I got to school, I wasn't embarrassed, because the other kids said that it was a really cool mitt."
"He loved us, and just wanted us to be happy," said Jeff.
One of the things Eric Holmes did to show his love, and to help his children on the road to happiness, was to read to them. "He was a better reader than he was a writer," reported Eric's son Chris. "He read to all of his children before bed time every night," Chris said.
Among the books that Eric Holmes read to his children, besides comic books, were stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He read them the Mars stories, the Venus stories, the Pellucidar series and some of the Tarzan books. The Pellucidar stories were their favorite. Burroughs wrote seven of them but young Chris said he wished there had been more. In an interview with this writer several years ago, Eric said that remark was the inspiration for him to write a new Pellucidar story. "And I knew exactly what kind of Pellucidar story he would like," he said.
So, Eric finished the story when Chris was 10, naming the hero Christopher West, in honor of his son. It wasn't until Chris was in high school that the story finally saw print in an Ace Books paperback.
Eric cared not only for his children, and his wife, Sig-Linda, but he seemed to care about everybody. Chris told about being in a comic shop with his dad and Eric found a comic he decided he would buy. "And I said, Dad, the art is terrible!"
"Yeah," said his dad, "but he worked so hard on it!"
Chris said he is not a fan of poems, except when they are poems quoted by his dad.
While Eric was suffering from the effects of the stroke, in the days before he passed away, Chris said his dad kept referring to a poem by Clark Ashton Smith, and he thought that his father wanted it read at his memorial service. He wasn’t sure which poem his dad meant, but settled on "The Hashish Eater" because it was one of the few poems in the book that wasn’t erotic. "It’s a strange poem," he warned the crowd of 160 who came to remember his father, "but it's gonna be okay for the kids!"
Chris then read from the poem, which had line upon line such as:
By that supreme ascendance; sorcerers,
And evil kings, predominantly armed
With scrolls of fulvous dragon-skin whereon
Are worm-like runes of every-twisting flame....
And after several minutes of that, about the time that many of the audience began shifting nervously in their seats, Chris looked up and said, "And it goes on like that for five or six more pages." Then, to audience laughter, he smiled and closed the book.
Eric's daughter, Marie, remembered how he had read to her every night "and brought me doughnuts every Saturday morning."
She credited her father with an ability few master – the ability to change. "He knew and tried to correct his faults. I aspire to be like my father. He was a wonderful man who lived many lifetimes in his 80 years."
Son Tristan remarked on his dad's "wonderful capacity for empathy. When any of us hurt, he hurt right along with us," and when his children had troubles, it was usually tougher on Eric than it was on the kids.
Emphasizing the degree to which his children would miss him, Tristan said, "If he’d realized how hard it was going to be on us, he might have decided to stay alive instead of dying. It would have hurt him less.
“He was a rather odd duck, but he was a brilliant man.”
When the floor was opened for audience comments, a fellow faculty member said Eric was an "incredible teacher." Long before the invention of power point systems, he noted, Eric would show up hours before he was to teach and, by the time students arrived, he would have the blackboards filled with the outline and notes for his lecture.
A physical therapist who worked with Eric after his stroke noted how he became an "exercise champ" in an effort to win back his abilities. "Before the stroke," she said, "Eric’s idea of exercise was to do one sit-up a day. He would do half of it in the morning when he got out of bed, and the other half at night when he laid down to go to sleep."
John Eric Holmes was born Feb. 16, 1930, in South Dakota, but later lived in Hawaii, where his father was a submarine commander at Pearl Harbor. His dad left the Navy to teach math and write short stories. But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, his father re-entered the Navy to serve his country. It was while a young boy in Hawaii that Eric had the opportunity to meet author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who was also living there at the time. Young Eric obtained Burroughs's signature in a copy of Tarzan and the Leopard Men, a book he kept all his life.
Eric followed his father in the armed services tradition, joining the Marines and fighting two years in Korea.
He studied medicine at UCLA, specializing in neurology, and followed that up with work in Boston City Hospital, research at Yale University, and a return to UCLA for his residency.
Tim Overton-Harris, pastor of the Methodist Church, where Eric attended, noted that Holmes loved his wife, Sig-Linda, so much, that he was willing to move with her in 1982 to Shiprock, N.M., where she worked among the Indians; then to Oxford, England, in 1986, where his wife had another opportunity, and finally to Portland, Oregon, in 1988, where he was happy to grant his wife's wish that he attend church with her, despite the fact that he proclaimed himself to be an atheist. The pastor said Holmes never made an issue of his atheism and one wouldn’t even have known it from anything that Holmes ever had to say at church, where he faithfully attended every Sunday.
A lot of the time over the years, Eric manned the fort at home while Sig-Linda worked, thus gaining that valuable time with the children he loved so much.
While in Portland, Eric taught at Oregon Health and Science University for 15 years.
In addition to the published Mahars of Pellucidar, Eric also wrote a sequel, Red Axe of Pellucidar, which has been informally "published" only in amateur formats. He also wrote "Modred," an authorized and professionally published sequel to the Buck Rogers novel, Armageddon 2419 A.D.
In the years 1977 through 1979, the rules packaged with the game, Dungeons & Dragons, were the rules written by John Eric Holmes.
Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn't the only member of the Burroughs family that Eric met. In the process of negotiations with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. for permission to publish Mahars of Pellucidar, Dr. Holmes became acquainted with ERB's son John Coleman Burroughs and served him for awhile in helping to adjust his Parkinson's disease medication.
Near the end of the memorial service, the pastor announced that Eric’s grandson, Kevin, would read a scripture passage normally used at weddings, but which seemed particularly appropriate for John Eric Holmes – First Corinthians 13, the "love chapter."
Kevin read: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up…."
Concluding, he read, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
"This is all true of Grandpa Eric…except that last part about putting away childish things," smiled Kevin.
And ERB fans everywhere, sitting amongst their own collections of books, comics and toys, might well agree, with a hearty: "Amen!"
showed books written by, or featuring articles by, John Eric Holmes.
In foreground is the memorial program handed out at the service.
In lower row, from right, are “Mahars,” “Modred,” and
the Edgar Rice Burroughs Lifetime Achievement Award that was presented to Holmes by ERB fans.
The large red book in the upper left is Holmes’s copy of Red Axe of Pellucidar,
which has been printed in hardbound only in a limited edition of 15 copies.
following the memorial service for their father, John Eric Holmes.
Bergen is the author of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Reference Price Guide
and also illustrated and published a very limited (15 copy) hardbound edition of
Holmes's second Pellucidar novel, Red Axe of Pellucidar.
Chris was the namesake of the fictional Christopher West, hero of both “Mahars” and “Red Axe.”
along with certificates signifying milestones in his service in the U.S. Marines,
were on display at the reception following the memorial service.
At right is John Martin, author of the accompanying article.
John wore his Lex Barker “Tarzan’s Magic Fountain” necktie for the occasion.
Clark Ashton Smith's poem
John Martin's ERBlist Article on John Eric Holmes
John Coleman Burroughs Website
ERBzine Illustrated Bibliography for the ERB Novels
Program Prepared by the Church for the Service
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