POULSBO — If he didn’t believe in the kindness of strangers before, Poulsbo resident Bob Holmes sure does now.
After losing his wife Connie in November, Holmes spent nearly two agonizing months trying to scrape together the funds to claim her ashes. A funeral home had been nice enough to hold the remains until Holmes could come up with the money, however with limited Social Security and only part-time work, Holmes worried he’d never be able to reach the goal.
But over the Christmas holiday, Holmes got an unexpected gift from the North Kitsap community he said he’ll never forget. Connie’s ashes were delivered to him on Dec. 31.
“We started the new year off together and when somebody says ‘Happy New Year’ I can’t say anything but ‘It sure is,’” Holmes remarked with tears, this time of joy, welling in his eyes.
Holmes said he’s grateful to the many people who helped him in his time of need. First, he said he’s thankful for Bob Middlebrook of Soundworks, who helped him find part-time employment that allowed him to work but to also visit with his wife frequently while she was ailing. Connie died of complications from an aneurysm but during her last 90 days of life in the hospital, Bob said he was able to visit her every day.
Financial and emotional assistance also came from the officers and staff members of Poulsbo’s Frontier Bank in Poulsbo Village, where a memorial fund for Connie Holmes was set up. Bob Holmes said he was moved to find out on Christmas Eve that the staff members had taken up a collection toward the fund and they also told him that two years prior they had “adopted” the couple. One of the bank’s officers even hand-delivered Connie’s ashes to Bob Holmes’ apartment.
“All the officers and the tellers there, for the last two years they’ve treated me so good,” said Bob Holmes, noting that while she was still alive he once took his wife over to the bank in her wheelchair so she could meet all of the nice people who sometimes called their home to check on Connie. “I have probably the worst account there but they treat me better than people who have all the money in the world.”
Lastly, Holmes said he was simply blown away by the generosity of community members from across the Kitsap Peninsula who heard about his plight and donated to the Connie Holmes memorial fund. Holmes said he received more money than he needed to retrieve his wife’s remains, however he said there were doctor and ambulance bills from his wife’s last 90 days of life that their insurance had refused to pay. He has used any excess funds to clear up that debt as well.
“The memorial account is still there and it is still being used for and about Connie,” Holmes said.
Connie Holmes is now back at home with her husband, who intends to have her buried with him in a local veteran’s cemetery after his death. Bob Holmes said his wife’s ashes have a special place in his apartment on a table next to a photo of her and her great-granddaughter and he finds it comforting to be able to talk to her sometimes. He said if he had the strength and the eyesight left he’d like to write a card to each and every person who made a donation to his wife’s fund, but he hopes that the message gets to them that they’ve given him a present more precious than gold.
“Christmas is over but, boy, the Christmas spirit in Kitsap County sure wasn’t over,” Holmes added.