The Reverend Dr. Robert M. Holmes, known as Reverend Bob to hundreds of Montanans, died at the age of 80 in the arms of his family and his God Saturday, September 24, 2005.
Rev. Bob was a retired Methodist minister, served St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Helena for many years, and was the author of the popular radio and TV series of one-minute "Lifelifters."
He was a chaplain of the Helena Police Department for 22 years, and Harley-riding chaplain of Rocky Mountain College from 1965-1981. He lent his speaking gifts to the Montana Committee for the Humanities Speaker's Bureau for several years.
Bob was born in 1925, in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, with graduate degrees from Northwestern University, Garrett Theological Seminary and Pacific School of Religion. He was a Navy ensign in WWII, big band leader, vaudeville comic, jazz pianist and arranger, rock climber, model train buff, honorary elder of a band of Lakota Sioux in South Dakota, personal counselor, radio show host, author of two published and two unfinished books, reader at Montana Talking Books Library, and deftly played the musical saw.
Rev. Bob was an outspoken advocate for education, low-income people, single mothers, gays and lesbians, children in poverty, people in prison, the elderly and other people whose voices are not heard by the political system. He wrote, spoke, organized, testified before the legislature, and often stood alone to speak the truth out of his understanding for Jesus' message of compassion.
Yet it was Bob's personal relationships that transformed people. His caring, compassion, attention and personal generosity changed the lives of many people who encountered him. Because of him, people have joined the ministry who otherwise may not have. Because of him, people quit drinking or became better parents who otherwise might not have. Because of him, there are many who believe in their better selves who might not have seen their own inner light if Bob had not seen it first.
Rev. Bob modeled his life after three heroes: Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The attentive compassion of Christ was his model, his strength, and the path he followed to his last breath. He leaves this legacy of love and compassion to all of us.
Polly Holmes, writer, peacemaker, former legislator and vessel of compassion, joined her husband in Paradise on Nov. 25, 2005. Polly was a frequent columnist in several Montana newspapers and was respected even by those who disagreed with her. She challenged oppressive policies and ideas while never judging people. She championed unconditional compassion, and she practiced it throughout her personal and professional life.
Polly was born Pauline Leigh Mudge May 10, 1923, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She learned to fly at age 16, and during WWII she taught Link instrument flying to seasoned pilots. As a screenplay writer for the Methodist Church, she produced filmstrips with Dorothy Harper about issues relevant to church and society, and in 1951 she hired a dashing young announcer named Bob to narrate one of her films. Three months later the two were married, and drove off on a Harley together to begin a career as Methodist minister and wife.
Through the 1950s and 60s Polly wrote plays, taught writing at Rocky Mountain College, counseled troubled teens, wrote a novel and raised three children. She represented Billings in the Montana Legislature from 1970-1980, taking on unpopular issues like prison reform and programs serving people in poverty. She sponsored the first legislation banning smoking in public places, and when opponents all simultaneously lit cigars in the House Chambers, Polly completed her speech wearing a medical mask. She met with political leaders, imprisoned murderers, grieving mothers with the same equanimity and grace. She welcomed teens in trouble, abuse victims and traveling strangers into her home and spread out sleeping bags and popcorn bowls as readily as a tree spreads shade.
In 1981 Polly and Bob moved to Helena to serve St. Paul's United Methodist Church. They shared their home on Trout Creek with families and groups, and continued to actively campaign for peace and justice to their last days. She was awarded the Belle Winestine Award in 1996 by the Montana Women's Lobby. In 2003 she was awarded the ACLU Jeanette Rankin Civil Liberties Award acknowledging her lifelong work. Her happiest hours were buying goofball whatnots at garage sales, going on many camping adventures with her family, traveling the world with Bob, and listening to Bob read Jeeves stories.