Having just had a lovely chat with my sister-in-law, I am making some edits to this post :-)JohnWinchester Holman and Katherine Pearl Seeley. His younger brother, William Winchester would become my father-in-law. I met Uncle John in 1987 when my husband and I traveled to California with our oldest daughter who was then 2 years old. My impression of John at that time was that he once must have been a rather imposing gentleman. At 82, John was living in one room in what I remember to be a retirement home. After our meeting, I remember feeling quite sad for him – his shirt was stained and rumpled, his room had a small cooking area which was not in great shapes – it just seemed to me to be to be a lonely life. As the years passed, I have learned more about Uncle John. “Sad” is not an adjective that most family members use when describing him. (Actually my sister-in-law did use that adjective during our conversation today! So I guess my instincts were right on.)
There are several stories, often shared at family functions, illustrating John’s boisterous, off-putting manner. Apparently, John was not one to keep his opinions to himself and this often caused some tension within the family. I won’t share those stories here as it is probably not appropriate to do so. Plus, I can’t really remember all the details!
So much for the introduction – here is the synopsis of the life of John Winchester Holman, Jr., my husband’s uncle. Please note that much of the information here has come from Our Archipelago, the family history book written by John's brother, William (Bill) Holman and his wife, Dorothy as a Christmas present to the family in 1976.
As a young boy, John earned money (15 cents!) folding circulars on Saturday mornings at hisMonadnock Building in Chicago, once the world’s largest office building. As Bill wrote in 1976, “….This was followed by a swim and an ice-cold shower, that his father insisted, "...will make a man out of you."
After graduating from high school, John worked at the Chicago Stockyards for Swift & Co. (Read more about the Swift & Co. connection here) He was described as well built, handsome, with black curly hair. He was also a good athlete, having become a strong swimmer.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, he was a member of the Chi Psi fraternity (his younger brother, Bill was also a member in 1929-30), the Masonic Lodge and the High 12. John began his career as a salesman for Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance. He was an Assistant Manager of Kresge's Department Stores and then an advertising representative for McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
|1953 - John with nephew Bill|
|1953 - Vivian on far right, with sister-in-law Jeanne,|
niece Peggy and nephew John.
Following their wedding, John and Vivian moved to 431 Oakdale Avenue (Chicago) almost directly across the street from the apartment where his parents had lived 35 years earlier. From there, he moved his family to Philadelphia having been transferred there by McGraw-Hill.
He served in the military in as part of the ROTC. The day after Pearl Harbor John asked to have his commission re-instated. However- he was told that he was "too old." After some "networking" including writing a letter to the Secretary of War, John was appointed to the Provost Marshal division. One of his assignments during this time was to train officer candidates in Battle Creek, Michigan. According to Bill, “…this distressed him since he had not volunteered to be a school teacher.” John was finally given command of a “rag-tag” group of soldiers which shipped out to India and then the Szechwan Province in China. As Provost Marshal of Szechwan Province, John sought out advice on how best to manage the large area. After commandeering a large mansion, the end result was that his men were “…known as men of real importance…”
After WWII John and Vivian moved back to Chicago where he worked in the investment business and was associated with Tegtemeyer & Co. His obituary listed his occupation as “real estate broker.”
John and Vivian moved to New Mexico, where, according to Jeanne (note written in photo album) their home was a "Xmas tradition." (I also learned today that John and Vivian had beautiful homes)
In 1951, John applied for membership in the New Mexico Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. His membership was approved and John became a charter member of the New Mexico Society. This effort has been a fabulous resource for me in my genealogical quests. From John’s application, I have been able to trace the family back to Revolutionary War days and thus have filled in a number of blanks on our family tree.
After having lived in Hawaii for a few years, John and Vivian moved to Carmel, California in the mid-1960s, where they spent many happy years living creative and artistic lives until Vivian’s death in 1976. (Today's conversation explained why John seemed to be in such a sad state when we visited in 1987. After his wife's death, a trust was set up to provide for John. The amount could not have been very much, as, at one point, his brother contacted the trust in an attempt to secure additional funds for him.)
|Vivian, John and nephew Scott - Tarrytown NY - mid-1960s|
John Winchester Holman, Jr. died of cancer on October 6, 1989 in Monterey, California. According to John’s obituary, he had a stepdaughter named Genevieve, but there was no mention of Ann, leading one to believe that Ann had passed away before 1989. The only connection I can make to a “Genevieve” is that Vivian’s parents were Olaf Tevander and the former Genevieve Anderson. However, both died in the 1950s which means the “Genevieve” mentioned in the obituary could not be the same person. (My sister-in-law suggested that Genevieve and Ann may be the same person, "Ann" being the nickname. That makes quite a bit of sense as she has no recollection of any other children.)
By the way, a project on the horizon (after retirement!!!) will be to update Bill Holman's work. He and Dorothy wrote Our Archipelago almost 30 years ago - a lot has happened in the Holman family since then!