Several of my recent columns have dealt with the deaths of some of my special friends. At my age and considering that most of my friends are older than me it will happen more often in the coming days.
One of those special people is Henry Walter Holt, called Henry Walter by many, in the way of southern double names. He was my closest friend. I can’t remember a time I didn’t know Henry. We went to the same church (St. John’s Episcopal on Green Street) for what seemed like forever.
Our relationship was tied to my mother. When she moved to Fayetteville in 1938 at the age of 18, Henry’s parents, Bill and Hannah Holt, took her under their wing. The Holts loved to travel and, while my Dad was away serving in World War II, my mother was the perfect babysitter for Billy (Bill), Charlie (Charles) and Henry Walter. After the war, she continued to sit for the three Holt brothers and they considered her sort of a nanny. Mother always called the youngest Holt son Henry Walter, as did his mother.
Henry was nine years older than me so, during my younger years. I mostly saw him at church and on the golf course at Highland Country Club where I played and caddied for him and his friends. Despite our age difference, he was nice to me and other younger guys. When I came back to Fayetteville after college and got married, I joined Highland and became fast golfing buddies with Henry and his friends. They would take a young guy like me on their golfing trips. That was the start of our adult friendship, which only deepened over the years.
Here are a few of the many things I could say about Henry, all of which are good.
He was a truly genuine person. People loved that quality in him.
He was a great community leader. During the ‘80s, Henry, my wife and I were back-to-back presidents of the Board of Directors of the YMCA. That was just one of the many ways in which he gave back to the community that he loved. The list of his contributions is too lengthy for this column but it should be noted that his main love was the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. He served on its foundation up until his death.
He could easily have been nicknamed the $2 Bill Man. For years, in the tradition of his father before him, Henry would send $2 bills to local youngsters for Christmas. Both of my sons and then my grandsons, as well as numerous others, received a bank envelope containing a crisp $2 bill around Christmastime each year. Recipients stopped receiving the gifts once they hit college-age. By then, though, Henry had added new and younger children to his list. Last Christmas, he was still sending out $2 bills.
The most important thing in Henry’s life was his love of the Lord. He was involved in a Bible study that started and continued at Highland Country Club for 20 years. He was an early raiser and could be found every morning at his Holt Oil Company office reading his Bible. Next in importance came family, business and community, in that order.
Our lives were intertwined in so many ways. I coached Henry’s two sons in church league basketball 40 years ago, along with my own two sons. I hired one of his sons in an internet business venture that Henry and I had. We shared time together at Wrightsville Beach. His wife, Janet, and my wife have been friends for 45 years. It has been a long, wonderful, fun ride with the Holt family.
Henry died on August 11th after a battle with oral cancer. He was like a brother and I will miss him dearly. When he walked into the arms of the Lord Jesus that Saturday afternoon, he heard those wonderful words for which all Christians wait: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
On a happier note, I want to welcome Giselle Adamson, CityView’s new general manager, and Tyler Sutherland and Samantha Steffen, our two new marketing personnel.