Eulogy for Donald Holt

Donald Holt born September 6th 1930, died May 26th 2008

Written and read by Jason Holt at Medway Crematorium, Maidstone, Kent, England, 11am June 9th 2008.

Music: Entrance - Erik Satie, Gymnopedie No.1, piano solo.
Music: Exit - Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo, Ave Maria.

On September 6th 1930 our Queen Elizabeth was 3 years old and Adolf Hitlerís Nazi party had just won the German general election. On this day a baby boy was born to Charlotte and Alfred Holt. The third of 5 children, they named him Donald. For the next 9 years he played in streets with no cars, where no supermarket existed and the first planes he remembered seeing were trying to shoot each other down. Many of you from his generation will remember August 1940. Many from my generation read the books and watched the films but, my dad lived it in the excitement of a 9 year old looking forward to his 10th birthday.

Later in life my dad wrote a short essay based on his experience of one day in August 1940 and you can find it archived at Gravesend Library.

In 1941 at the age of 11 my dad was given a present that any young boy most wants. He was told that he did not have to go to school for fear that such a concentration of children in one place would surely invite disaster. At 14 after two and a half years of home-schooling he officially left Colyer road school with no recognised qualifications and he proceeded to the local paper mill.

After his national service he found he could not return to the enclosed surroundings of the paper mill and instead worked in different building jobs until 1959 when he married Margaret Mary Emma Letchford of Station Street Northfleet, His general trade of builder continued until 1962 when he left the building company that had been employing him and with £600 he started working on his own.

And so to May 20th 1966 when a long awaited child was born. I was named Jason mainly because there were already too many Charles, Alfreds and Dereks in the family. I have no memory of the late sixties and early seventies but, there were many photos largely taken in English coastal resorts. We holidayed in Bournemouth, Weymouth, Torquay and Folkestone with a couple of trips to Italy and Spain so my dad and his brother could practice speaking foreign languages very badly.

At home, dad was building various extensions onto our house. The garden seemed to get smaller but more colourful. I helped my dad with his work even though I displayed little aptitude for building anything. What I got was blisters and broken toenails. I watched this wiry sunburned figure build hundreds of square feet of walls and tile countless square feet of roofs. Every summer, wooden window frames littered the garden and my dad seemed not to be content unless he was up a ladder in the sunshine.

He was the classic builder with the tanned back and the thin white legs. The phone never seemed to stop with people asking if he could fix this or fix that. People trusted my dad and I can tell you itís a tough commodity to find. One Christmas I really wanted an air rifle but mum and dad got a snooker table instead and my dad converted the loft to put it in. I gave him socks, old spice and cigars at Christmas.

He taught me how to drive a car, his 25th wedding anniversary came and went as did my 21st birthday, five prime ministers came and went. From the Earl Grey he made countless sponsored walks for charity and nobody would bet against him not winning the meat raffle. At the end of it all in the nineties my dad began talking of retirement to take the load off of his bad back. I could still pull a surprise or two on him. A birthday present in September 1990 was a helicopter ride with a professional pilot. A year later it was my honour and privilege to take my dad on a helicopter trip this time with me as the pilot. We flew to Gravesend where he got to see his hometown for the first time from 1000 feet up in the air.

Of course by now, he had picked up a few interests and not just a pint or two of mild and bitter at the Earl Grey. He was a good artist with water colours. A master of the origami swan. Heíd attended a cookery course for a bit of fun and learned how to use a computer with help from his friends. Donald Holt became Donjo to a new group of friends at his Tai Chi classes.

Our lives took different avenues when in 1995 I left England and began working in China and yet here the surprise was on me.

Having invited my parents out to Beijing I really never thought that they would accept the invitation but, they did and so their first taste of plane travel was a 5000 mile trip to China. I remember that he was immensely proud to say to his fellow tourists in Beijing that their son was working here and would be showing them around.

On June 5th 1998 another milestone was passed with the arrival of Adam Holt born in Prague. My dadís first grandchild. I expect he was wondering if he would have any as I didnít seem to be settling down anywhere. On August 11th 2000 a second grandson, Michael was born in more dramatic circumstances.

By now my dad was interested in reading stories of true crimes and unsolved mysteries. The discovery channel was on almost as much as the BBC. He became very interested in Geneaology and combining this with his new found computer skills, spent many hours researching the family history as far back as 1837 and the history of Gravesend even further back. In 2005 he took great pride in adding Maria Ellen Holt to the family tree, his granddaughter having been born in the early hours of August 25th.

At the finish here was, in the words of his friends, a character. A man who started out life in a different era, a different Century. He was not a privileged child but, he made the best of his chances and thatís all you can ask.

My children and their children will learn of a man who was born in England in the county of Kent. A man who grew up to be a soldier, a builder, a husband, a dad and a granddad. A generous man. A man who lived his life and died a few minutes away from where he was born.

My dad, Donald Holt, born of Charlotte and Alfred Holt on September 6th 1930 lived for 77 years 8 months and 20 days. I ask you now to join with his family and friends to celebrate his life and speak of happier times.

Goodbye mate "you turned out alright".