Richard A. Holmes, 95, passed away Sept. 1, 2012, at Hope Hospice House, 2430 Diplomat Parkway, Cape Coral. He was born in the small town of Nunica, Mich., the son of Addison and Grace (McMann) Holmes, Aug. 26, 1917. Upon the untimely death of his mother, at the age of 4, he was placed in the care of his Aunt Artie and Uncle Earl Champion, and raised on their farm in Ottawa/Kent County, Mich. Being a child of the Great Depression, in his teens he left home to seek work and found it and many adventures, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
He joined the Navy in 1936 and in 1937 met his first encounter with warfare aboard the USS Augusta as it headed to Shanghai, China, to take part in the evacuation of American citizens, and the rescue of naval personnel affected by the shelling and sinking of the USS Panay by the Japanese.
During World War II, he crossed the Atlantic in PT1029, which was involved in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy and survived the disastrous invasion of Anzio.
Richard A. Holmes
He returned to the states in early 1944, and while stationed at the Naval Base in Melville, R.I., he met his future wife, Irene Leonard, while visiting in Massachusetts. They were married a year later, immediately after which he reported for duty in Duluth, Minn., where he was part of the commissioning crew of a net-tender at a Lake Superior shipyard and on which he sailed to Boston, then, Melville, via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Waterway. (His wife took the train.)
He was assigned to the Rodman Naval Station, West Bank, in the Panama Canal Zone in 1949. Since the Korean Police Action was heating up, it was advisable to shore up protection of the canal. His wife and two children followed, by PanCanal ship, and enjoyed almost four years in their new environment. His last duty station was at a Naval Station in Green Cove Springs, Fla., which served as a port for decommissioned ships, known as the "Mothball Fleet." His job was to skipper the tugboats, escorting the ships down the St. John's River from Mayport, Fla.
During these years, he and his family had established a home in Orlando, awaiting his final assignment, hopefully, somewhere in Florida. Since Orlando was in the middle of Florida, it wasn't too far to Green Cove, when that assignment came through. In February 1957, he retired from the Navy, and after further schooling in electronics, started his second career, with RCA, as electronics technician, attending to the instrumentation on the Missile Tracking ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. RCA's office was at Cocoa Beach, Fla., and later on Patrick Air Force Base, thus, he moved his family to Merritt Island. His work entailed inspecting the sites at Cape Canaveral. He was there during the Gemini launches and the Apollo program. He decided to take early retirement from RCA. That didn't last long when he heard there was an opening on the USNS Vanguard, which was leaving for Argentina to track Skylab, its instrumentation contracted to Bendix Corp. (His wife followed by air.) When that contract was fulfilled, the Air Force, which was then in charge of the ships, hired him for essentially the same job - checking instrumentation at the Cape, and the ships, and later following the shuttle program.
He retired for the third and last time in November 1986, when he and his wife moved to St. James City on Pine Island. It was in 1964, when they became re-acquainted with their old friends from Panama days. The Johnsons were native Floridians and after Brock's civil service job ended, they returned to Florida. They had taken a trip to Key West, Phyllis' home and Fort Myers where Brock was raised. They found Pine Island Shores, while looking over the island, bought a lot, returned to Orlando and told us about it and thus we became islanders - again. Both Dick and Irene became interested in both St. James Civic Organization and Greater Pine Island Civic. They joined the Friends of the Pine Island Library, Calusa Land Trust and Pine Island FISH, and worked to help them all in their endeavors for many years. Their knowledge of Spanish became useful when called on to help the many Hispanic families employed in agriculture on the island. They took up painting and enjoyed classes, too. Dick became a member of the American Legion, the VFW, and continued his membership the Fleet Reserve Association, though he served as an inactive participant in each.
He was predeceased by his parents; brothers, Jerry of Mich.., Howard of Missouri and Rex of Wisconsin, and also his infant daughter, Linda.
He is survived by his wife, Irene; son, Richard A. Holmes Jr., and family of Anoka, Minn; daughter, Joanne Wheaton' grandsons, Terry Holmes and family of St. Francis, Minn., Fred Wheaton Jr. and family of Jacksonville; David Wheaton, now aboard the USS Vicksburg somewhere in the Middle East, his family, also in Jacksonville; nieces, Arvilla Tuchalski (Neil) and RuthAnn Rogers (Lynne) of Wisconsin and MaryLynne Wilson (John) of Missouri; his nephew, Tom Holmes; and cousin, Roger Holmes of Nunica, Mich., and their families.
A memorial service will be held at the American Legion Club at a later date. Contributions in his name may be made to any of the above mentioned charitable organizations with our thanks.