Paul “Tony” Holmes passed away on Tuesday, Feb. 9, from injuries sustained in a serious fall. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Bonnie Holmes; daughter, Alison Mendes;granddaughter, Aria Mendes; brother, Doug Holmes; uncle, Carl Cooper; aunt, Imogene Shea; and many nephews, nieces, cousins, and extended family members. He was preceded in death by his younger sister, Avy Day. His final days were spent in his home by the Tennessee River with his wife, daughter, sister-in-law, and beloved dog by his side.
Born in Nashville, TN, on March 30, 1939 to Dennis and Fransena Holmes, Tony attended Forrest High School in Chapel Hill, TN, where he enjoyed playing football, basketball, and baseball. After high school, he joined the United States Army, serving his country honorably for three years before continuing his education at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and in 1973 with a master’s degree in College Teaching in Political Science.
His graduate thesis, entitled “The American Party in Tennessee, 1968-1971,” examined the role of third parties in American politics, a topic that he continued to explore in a personal capacity well into his later years. He had a deep appreciation for political discourse and was an avid collector of campaign memorabilia, building an extensive collection of posters, buttons, and signed photographs from individuals across the political spectrum.
Tony worked for the U.S. Public Health Department from 1965 to 1967, investigating and tracing contacts for various diseases.After his graduate work, he joined the Tennessee Valley Authority, working for the agency in various capacities until he retired in 1993.
In retirement he spent much of his time researching and writingon topics of personal interest. He also volunteered with the East Tennessee Historical Society where he assisted with several projects, including the “First Families of Tennessee” program. His enthusiasm for history and genealogy led to a detailed compilation of information on both the Cooper and Holmes family lineage, much to the delight of interested family members.
Tony was known as a gifted storyteller who could enchantanyone with the power of his words. Over the years he authored– among other miscellaneous works – a series of articles in historical journals on early Tennessee River ferries.
An exceedingly gentle and kind man, Tony could befriend anyone he met. As a self-made man who worked hard for what he had, he continuously sought to “pay it forward” and lend a helping hand to those in need. In his humble opinion, humor was the perfect antidote for any ailment, and he was always ready to offer a smile and joke as needed. He was also a cherished companion of children and animals alike, who naturally gravitated to his calm yet playful disposition.
With a twinkle in his eye, Tony could effortlessly captivate those around him with his imagination and undeniable charm. Heleaves behind many family and friends who have been touched and inspired over the years by his generosity, compassion, empathy, intelligence, and quick wit. He was a loving and supportive husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend, and he will be dearly missed by all who were blessed to have known him.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, a celebration of Tony’s life will be held at a future date for all those who remember him fondly.Please consider a contribution in Tony’s memory to one of two causes that were close to his heart in life: the East Tennessee Historical Society (www.easttnhistory.org/tribute-gift) or the Forrest High School Scholarship Fund (donations can be made out to “FHS Scholarship Fund,” c/o Matt Moorehead, P.O. Box 546, Chapel Hill, TN 37034).