The Wilson High community is mourning the loss of lifelong Bruin Kurt Holmes after he passed away suddenly at his home on Saturday, Dec. 12. He was 62.
Holmes was born and raised in the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach. He attended Lowell Elementary, Rogers Middle and Wilson High schools. He played clarinet as a member of the Bruin marching band. Upon graduation, Holmes stayed on as band director Rolland Sandberg’s aide for more than 10 years while studying towards his teaching credential at Long Beach City College and Cal State Fullerton.
Cindy Mast, a retired Wilson school counselor, who worked with the pepsters and spent many football games in the stands with Holmes, said, “He took time for every student and would do anything to help with positive outcomes. He gave his heart and soul to Wilson.”
Dennis Dockstader, who worked with Holmes when Kurt was the cook and jazz band teacher at Arrowbear Music Camp. echoed that comment with, “He was always sensitive to the needs of the students, and had a warm heart. He always pitched in to help with tough tasks like moving pianos uphill at camp.”
Don Sawday, his music business partner from 2001 to about 2010, said, “Kurt was really like a great big brother.” The two shared not only a love of music but a passion for golf.
He said, “I knew Kurt from Arrowbear Music Camp, We met in 1983. I remember going to the national flute convention in Vegas (yes there is a national flute organization) and we bowed out early to play golf.”
Sawday said Holmes tripled the size of both the Wilson band and the orchestra during his tenure as a music teacher. "He just exponentially grew everything he touched."
“He was a friend and just a good guy who was always there for me, for colleagues and for students,” Wilson athletic director Jeff Evans said. “He would go out of his way to help kids. If they didn’t have lunch, he always had snacks in his classroom for them. He’d open his room at lunch and it was always a happy place. I don’t know a kid who would have anything bad to say about him.”
Holmes started helping Evans grow the Wilson girls’ junior varsity golf team in 2009, and took over the entire golf program last year.
“He was so helpful with the beginners because he had such patience,” Evans said. “There were kids who had never picked up a club and he was willing to go out there and teach them how to chip and putt. He was so happy when they could just complete a round.”
Wilson band director Eric Messerschmidt echoed that sentiment after working with Holmes when he was orchestra director.
“The kids really liked him a lot,” Messerschmidt said. “He just really had a great connection with kids.”
“He adored his family and he cared about his students like they were his family,” Kurt’s brother, Keith Holmes, added. “He always talked about them like they were his kids. They meant the world to him.”
Holmes is survived by his mother Marjorie, brothers Keith and Ken, sister Carol Buckley, brother-in-law Dennis Buckley, sister-in-law Joyce, a lot of nieces and nephews and his cat Sugar.
Cards and condolences for the Holmes family can be sent to 1911 Park St., Huntington Beach, CA 92648 (c/o Keith Holmes). A memorial will be planned for next year when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The Kurt Holmes Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established with the Class of 2021 as the inaugural recipients. Checks should be made payable to Wilson High School ASB with Kurt Holmes Memorial Scholarship on the memo line and sent to Wilson High School ASB, Attention: Student Body Banker 4400 E. 10th St. Long Beach, CA 90804. Or donations can be dropped off at Wilson's 200 Gate on Park Avenue from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday (school days).