Daughter of gold mining and adventure seeking pioneers, M. Florence Allen Holmes, 95, passed into heaven in the early morning light of Sunday, May 19, 2013. She will be dearly missed and lovingly remembered always.
Florence was born in Haines, the second of five children, to P.B. (Doc) Allen and Ella Anastasia Carroll Allen, on Sept. 27, 1917.
She was raised on her parents' homestead, on Sullivan Island, and when she and her siblings were old enough, they attended school in Haines. She was named Mildred Florence, but became known simply as Florence because there were too many other Mildreds in her first-grade class.
She loved her youthful years in Haines, and her eyes took on a special shine when she talked of those early times, of picking the sweetest, Haines-sized blueberries, of the Fourth of July races (which her mom consistently won in her division), of her dad's entrepreneurial enterprises (dairy farming, lumber, organic gardening, International Harvester dealer), and of her high school women's basketball team.
Throughout her adult life, she relished any opportunity to return to Haines. She enjoyed a family reunion there in summer 1964, to honor her parents on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary, and a special trip in 2000 when she and 100 percent of the members of her 1935 senior class (all three of them) reunited to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their high school graduation. Haines residents kindly paid tribute to the returning graduates with a banquet, a special welcoming banner across the main street, proclamations, and Favorite Daughter celebrity status.
After graduation, and at only 17 years of age, Florence left Haines, traveling by boat and train, to reach Fairbanks so she could attend the University of Alaska. Travel back to Haines took too long and it cost too much for a young woman putting herself through college in those days, so she stayed in Fairbanks until 1939, when she earned her bachelor's degree in education degree.
She worked many jobs during her college years and always credited Dr. Charles Bunnell for resolutely finding employment for students so they could afford to stay at the university. One summer, she worked as a cook for Frederika Wallen at Rika's Roadhouse in Delta, and the anecdotes she told of her adventures there became the basis of many inside family jokes.
Florence completed her student teaching requirements under the guidance of the late Rosamond Weller and was awarded her first teaching contract in Wasilla by Marie Drake. During her 27-year career as an educator, Florence and her husband, Orval, taught in Flat, Dillingham, Homer, Anchorage, Texas and Fairbanks. She highly prized education, consistently promoted its value, and proudly maintained a retired, lifetime Alaska teaching certificate. It was often said Florence had the patience and the skills to teach any student to read. She loved reading, especially biographies and stories about Alaska, and it is a tribute to her memory that she shared this invaluable gift with many fortunate students, including her own children.
Florence married her college sweetheart, a tall, red-headed Canadian, Orval Winston Holmes Sr., on May 18, 1940, in the little Presbyterian Church that is now at Pioneer Park. They honeymooned at Harding Lake and "the lake," especially Orval Jr.'s and Laurel's, cabin, became a special place for her. Orval Sr. and Florence raised four children in Alaska and Texas.
They enjoyed trans-continental camping trips, visiting friends and relatives, seeing new sites, card games with friends, picnics and family trips to swim in the ocean before Orval's passing on Dec. 27, 1980. After this loss, Florence modeled exemplary courage and tenacity while demonstrating the ability to create a new chapter of life for herself and for her family. She successfully lived her personal creed, "Life is what you make it."
An elegant and lovely lady, Florence was renowned for her talent as a gracious hostess, for her skill with a bridge hand and for her uncanny knack for always being able to "find a fourth" for card games.
Refined manners were imperative to Florence and she taught her children to have refreshments on hand to offer guests, to have a place for each guest to sit, to welcome guests and to say farewell at the door, to write cards and thank you notes, and to iron a nice crease in your trousers.
She loved her family, humor, storytelling, genealogy, the color pink, and all things Alaskan and Irish. Her laughter brought a sparkle to her Irish blue eyes, which so resembled her cherished mother's.
Florence enjoyed her membership in Delta Kappa Gamma, Beta Chapter, P.E.O., Chapter B Sisterhood, the Pioneers of Alaska Auxiliary, the First Presbyterian Church and the Fairbanks Garden Club. She made many dear and lasting friends among the members of these groups.
Florence was preceded in death by her beloved parents, P.B. (Doc) and Ella Anastasia Carroll Allen; her husband, Orval Winston Holmes Sr.; sisters, Ellen Ruby Allen McCoy, Cletus Colleen Allen and Carroll Faye Allen Munson; brother, Robert Oran Allen; grandson, Joel Brevard Davidson; sisters-in-law and brothers-in law, George McCoy, Russell Langworth Holmes, Ena Holmes Pevitt and James Pevitt, Gladys Viola Holmes Corcoran and Wilfred Corcoran; her husband's parents, Adam and Arabella Maud Holmes; and his grandmother, Margaret Henry; son-in-law, James Addison Clifton, III; and nephew-in-law, Ted McHenry.
Remaining to cherish her memory are her children and their spouses, Eleanor Carroll Holmes Houts and husband, Percy William Houts; Orval Winston Holmes Jr., and wife, Laurel Joan Baggen Holmes; Colleen Margaret Holmes Johnston and husband, Robert William Johnston, and Russell Allen Holmes; her grandsons, Eric Winston Holmes and his wife, Toni Marie Elaine de la Luz Abbey, and his mother, Marina Colette Downes Marber; Cameron Theodore Washburn and his children, Kierra Taylor, Brayden Thomas, and Addison Tess; and Jeremy Davidson and his daughter, Kaylee Renee; her brother-in-law, Chuck Munson and his children; her nephews and nieces, Mike and Meri Munson and family, Leah, Miranda, Cassandra, and Megan; Vicki Munson Pfeifer and John Pfiefer; Nancy Munson Hatzenbihler and John Hatzenbihler and family, Sarah and Susan; Alice and Mike Counts and family, Wes and Renee; Ruth McCoy McHenry and Cliff Eames; Bernadette and Dale Fay and family, Jennifer, Jessica, and Brian; Kathleen and Ron Stewart; James and Anne Corcoran and family, Charlene and Nicholas; Michael Corcoran and daughter, Erin; and Phyllis and Ken Ito and family, Kim, Roberta, Mark, Tina, Tim, and Sara; and special "grands" and great-grands, Michael Brent, Shannon, and Brent Michael Johnston, Michelle Rene and David Haney, Judy Michelle Johnston and Kaylee Ann Knapp, and Mitchell Robert and Paula Campbell Johnston, Judith Pauline, James Robert and Stacy Robinson Johnston; first cousins, the Rev. Emmitt H. Carroll, SJ; the Rev. Alfred Carroll, SJ, Joanne and Donal Sullivan and their children, Ann, James, Michael, and John; and sister Ellen Ward.
A celebration of Florence's life will be held at
2 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, 2013, at the Fairbanks Pioneers' Home, 2221 Eagan Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Florence Holmes Memorial Scholarship Fund would be appreciated, if it is your desire to remember her in this way.
Donations and condolences can be mailed to Eleanor Houts, P.O. Box 81944, Fairbanks, AK 99708.
Arrangements are entrusted to Fairbanks Funeral Home.