Jim Holland: So Long, Friend

This afternoon we lost Jim Holland, a man of few words but many talents. Jim was a photographer, a graphics artist, a craftsman, and he loved Fort Smith. He could have worked anywhere, but he chose to stay home and raise his family here. He understood — and helped create “quality of place” before any of the rest of us had a clue it was an economic development concept.

He had a wicked sense of humor and was incredibly humble. I remember the day he pulled me aside on a shoot last August to apologize that he might not be available for a November event. It seems earlier that day he’d been diagnosed with liver bile duct cancer. I didn’t know whether to wring his neck for even being on the shoot, or to just hug him.

Something like 1,000 people get this nasty form of cancer every year. M.D. Anderson gave him a treatment plan.

At Christmas, Jim was rushed to surgery because of a bleeding ulcer — the docs don’t think it was related to the cancer — and Jim later joked that it was just his luck to spend all that money fighting a rare form of cancer, only to be nearly done in by a stomach ulcer.

Mary Jane called me a bit ago. As was his nature, Jim “didn’t want anything” special. I think a few of his more rambunctious friends are planning something in his honor, though. Jim and his family have earned heaps of praise — they’re like Jim, though and just don’t accept it very often.  

In honor of Jim, I’ve posted a new banner — Jim took the trolley photo. Of all the photos Jim took of faces during our “Bring It Home” campaign, the image below is is probaby one of my favorites. I think it captures the essence of Jim — and mostly of Fort Smith. Character, integrity, kind, meticulous, rugged, tough, and brassy. With a healthy dose of mischief thrown in — just to keep things interesting.

We’ll know you’ve been here, Jim. Remnants of you surround us.


5 thoughts on “Jim Holland: So Long, Friend

  1. If Fort Smith ever looked real good to someone who was from “off,” as Tracy’s family would say, it was probably because Jim took the pictures they were looking at. I know he helped draw the Marshals in for a closer look.

    Hell, Jim might not have really intended to make us look so good. He just wasn’t capable of producing work that wasn’t excellent. For that we owe him our gratitude.

    I’m so lucky to have known him. We’re so lucky to have had him.

  2. I think maybe Jim said about 75 words to me in all these years. We nodded to each other a lot and waved as we passed most days hauling kids to school. The people I like best aren’t showoffs, they do what they do and squirm when the spotlight is turned on them. Jim wouldn’t like all the fuss being made over him right now.

    His work was brilliant, he always reached for perfection and often grabbed it. Seeing it turn out right was the reward he was looking for, not ribbons or laurels or hardy handshakes. He reminded me of 2 of the great performers I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, Earl Scruggs and Jerry Lee Lewis.

    Both those guys would be playing 90 miles an hour and when they moved it up an octave or made a move no other human could make, one corner of their mouths would curl up slowly….just a little and that’s all the emotion you’d see. That lip curl of satisfaction was for them, not for the crowd….for the umpteenth time they’d done the impossible and it made them feel good. That’s the way Jim worked, and that was as loud as his self-celebration ever got.

    He knew he was good and so did a whole lot of people in Fort Smith and across the country as can be seen by the outpouring of sympathy Mary Jane has been receiving. Life is far from fair, Jim should have lived another 30 years and died a rich old man covered in grandkids. It wasn’t in the cards, so he worked as long as he could, faced each day without complaining and went out like the strong quiet guy he was. I hope I’m that tough when my time comes. I’m glad his pain has passed.

  3. Now that you mention it, Joe, I’ve seen that little curl in the corner of Jim’s mouth. And you’re right. He did relish in doing what couldn’t be done and he did it often. Quietly.

    It’s why, to a person, his artistic peers had so much respect for him.

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