Sunday, June 14, 2009

Jerry 'The Freeloader' Holmes

Note to Readers

While all the subscribers who authored columns for StarText were special in their own way, a handful stood out for their extra effort and tireless dedication to helping others. One of those in the latter category was certainly the Jerry Holmes. Jerry, along with Jim Boughton, were both recipients of the highest honor we paid to our columnists, the "EJ Award" (named for Ed Jackson). I can think of no better tribute to Jerry than the following column by StarText columnists Chuck and Terry Mencke. It's reprinted here with their permission.

Your Web Connection
By Chuck and Terry Mencke

Dedicated to helping you untangle the World Wide Web
Volume 2 - Number 10
November 1, 1999

Today's issue will be a little bit different. For those of you who are outside the Star-Telegram or StarText community, this may not be of much interest to you. For those of you who are still within our once close-knit community, it will be. Today's column will focus on the passing of Jerry "Freeloader" Holmes, a dedicated supporter of StarText as well as my mentor. If it wasn't for Jerry's support and encouragement, there would have been no "Startips," "Cruisin' With StarText," and the present "Your Web Connection." Please share in my sense of loss of this very special individual.

Jerry "The Freeloader" Holmes
The Passing of a Friend

On October 12, 1999, the Dallas-Fort Worth online community lost a dedicated supporter and I lost a very dear friend. Jerry had been ill for many years and hadn't been able to write his legendary "Freeloader" column. I found out too late about his passing and the funeral plans in order to attend his funeral, but I have spent many hours the past few days thinking back on all the wonderful hours we spent together online. Jerry was one of those special people who was always there to lend a hand with all of us "newbies." ...

(The following is taken from Jerry's bio.)

In 1984, Jerry's boss started bringing his TRS-80 Model 100 to work and at noon would let Jerry play with StarText. One of the StarText columns [he saw] was Ed Jackson's column and Jerry got hooked. He continued to read StarText at noon for almost a year until he saved up enough money to purchase his own TRS-80 Model I the early part of 1984.

In August of that year he subscribed to StarText. After several months of writing back and forth with Ed Jackson about his column, Ed started talking to Jerry about a column of his own. Rob Yoder, a member of a local computer club which Jerry belonged to, was writing a column on StarText and included a short BASIC (computer language) program at the end of each column. Jerry talked to Rob and he agreed that there was plenty of room for two columns with that format. Thus was born "The Freeloader."

Jerry said that most of his friends were made on StarText through E-mail. (He even discovered the Ed Jackson on StarText was the "Edwin" Jackson he had befriended as a youth, and he credits StarText with restoring that special bond that the two had shared years before.) Typically Jerry received and answered over 100 messages a week and loved every one of them. He claims that the mail is the best part of StarText.

An interesting sidebar to Jerry's story follows...

Thanksgiving wedding: StarText reunites friends after 50 years

By Monica Stavish - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

EULESS - It took half a century, but thanks to the Information Superhighway and quite possibly fate, Jerry Holmes and Monica Hickey will be married on Thanksgiving.

Holmes and Hickey, both in their early 60s, were childhood friends in Cleburne during the Great Depression. Their lives took them in different directions until a mutual friend helped them interface -- through StarText, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's electronic information system.

That was two months ago. Now the exuberant duo have been rushing around getting a marriage license and rings while planning the big day.

"First we're going to have dinner, then watch the Cowboys game, then get married," Holmes said.

They chose to get married on Thanksgiving for a simple reason, Holmes said. "Because we figure we have so much to be thankful for," he said, standing in the middle of an apartment filled with moving boxes. A Euless resident for 15 years, he said he plans to move to his bride's home in the South Hills section of Fort Worth, where she has lived for about 35 years.

The couple's circuitous saga began in the late 1930s, when they were playmates at his grandmother's house. Holmes admits that he had a crush on Hickey.

"I liked her because she was a tomboy and could keep up with me shooting rubber guns," he said. "She was a cute little gal."

Hickey said she felt the same way.

"He said I taught him long division," she said, laughing, "I don't remember that. I remember him as a boy of summer. My neatest memory is when we were 10 and 11. I thought we were getting ready to have our first kiss when our moms came home."

As so often happens with childhood chums, the two went separate ways. Still, they have found many similarities in their lives. She married, had two children and divorced 34 years ago. He married, had two children and divorced nine years ago. Each has two grandchildren.

"We never thought about each other in those years," said Hickey, a substitute teacher.

The couple's seemingly whirlwind courtship was kindled in September. Holmes, a technical support engineer for Microsoft Corp., described the reunion in his StarText column, The Freeloader, this way:

"One of my really good friends was writing a message to me on StarText a while back when this friend of hers came in. She (Hickey) saw my name on the letter and said she used to know someone by that name down in Cleburne when she was a kid. Betty (Quimby), my friend, told her she thought I had spent some time in Cleburne. The friend asked her (Quimby) to ask me what my mother's maiden name was. So Betty asked me. It turned out that her friend was my first crush oh, so many years."

The coincidence is even more startling.

"In 15 years, I've been to her house maybe four times," Hickey said. "So this is really odd that I would be there."

A surprising meeting took place -- fittingly -- as a StarText gathering at which Holmes received the Ed Jackson Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributor.

"Betty brought Martha," Holmes recalled. "She came up. I had a sandwich in one hand and my mouth was full of sandwich. Martha said, 'Unbutton my jacket. Now look at my chest.' She had on a T-shirt that had a picture of herself on it. The picture was taken when she was around 7 years old." Although Hickey still chuckles about her surprise, she said that there is always hope for a second chance.

"In a matter of a moment, something neat can happen that'll change your life," she said.

Holmes said he agrees. After battling bladder cancer for a year, he recently received good news about his condition.

"This all happened at once," he said. "Betty, the award. So you can bet I've got a ticket to the lottery."

Ed Jackson, mentioned in the above article, was StarText's first subscriber columnist. Subscriber columnists were, and still are, a proud tradition within the StarText community. Ed mentored and urged Jerry into writing a column and Jerry mentored and urged me to start writing an online column. Jerry was always there to help me along the way, supporting me when I was thinking about stopping while always being a good friend to everyone online, especially the "newbies." Jerry never failed to answer an email very promptly. He was always there for us and I'm sure he and Ed are up there writing up a storm for an entirely new audience.

Jerry's last column was written September 6, 1996. Due to his progressing health problems, it became very painful for Jerry to sit at the keyboard for any length of time.

For those of you that wonder why Jerry was called "The Freeloader" is was because he provided neat little programs with each column for us to download. For those of you that are of the Internet generation, this is no big deal because you can find programs anywhere on the Net. But, 10 years ago, this wasn't the case. We were all thirsting after any little program we could get our hands on. So now, you know why Jerry was called "The Freeloader."

Jerry I hope you're up there reading this. Thank you for the dedication you had for StarText. Thank you for the friendship you had for all your online friends. We're all better people for knowing someone as wonderful as you. We love you Jerry. The Freeloader is going to be missed, but never forgotten.