Editor’s Note: On April 2, current and past newspaper employees joined community members at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Dunes Catholic Church to honor the life of Paul Holman, long-time publisher of the Siuslaw News. His son Matt Holman gave a longer, more intimate form of the following eulogy, which commemorated Paul as a brave and brilliant man who served his community through the U.S. Air Force, the newspaper, the Florence City Council and more.
Paul Holman was a fighter who, right or wrong, was never afraid to engage in debate. Ernest Hemingway wrote at the end of “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.” That, I think, matches my dad’s mentality.
Whether interviewing a U.S. congressman for the Siuslaw News, making a case related to an obscure zoning law before the Florence City Council, or engaging other business leaders on a cause he believed in, he was never afraid to take a stand or defend his position.
Paul was the calm and unflappable pilot that I idolized as a young boy. The one who flew massive C-130 cargo planes loaded with ammunition into Vietnam and whose largest infraction as a pilot came because his plane had once been struck by lightning and he chose to turn around and fly back through the same thunderstorms … because it was the fastest and most direct route to get back home to see my mom in California.
Paul was a persistent and resilient newspaper publisher. While flying slow and target-shaped albatrosses in wartime may seem stressful, it was only a warm-up for getting a weekly newspaper out every Wednesday for 20 years. The start of the week in our household was forever filled with tension until the paper was “put to bed” on Tuesday night and we could all breathe a sigh of relief.
Some of my fondest memories were getting to attend Oregon Newspaper Publishers conferences with my parents. The attendees were fascinating, a salty fraternity of small-town gunslingers, each with that subtle sense of pride and exhaustion in their role in ensuring that the news and unique stories of their communities were given voice and celebrated.
In similar fashion, my dad took the Siuslaw News’ motto of being “the voice of western Lane County” seriously. While I don’t think he started out thinking that newspaper publishing was his calling in life, he found deep satisfaction in it, even if it was sometimes a love/hate relationship.
While my dad may not have always been the most emotive or sentimental person, there is no doubt that his life’s course was fueled by several great loves:
The love of a father who was a steady constant in Tracy and my own lives, imparting values he felt strongly in while leaving space for us to chart our own journeys.
The love of a husband who was blessed with 43 years with my mom, and was utterly devastated when he lost her in 2016. The love letters he wrote to my mom are testament to a man smitten from the moment he met her at a house party while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, the cocky young pilot trying to woo the southern belle by offering her a ride in his brand new Porsche.
His greatest pursuit became his indispensable partner, with whom we raised a family, built a business, consulted regularly when he had writers block in drafting a weekly editorial, and enjoyed his sunset years traveling the west by motorcycle and motorhome and getting to see the births of the grandchildren whom they both adored.
The love for this community, a place that he dedicated the majority of his life’s energy to building up and promoting as “god’s country” to anyone who would listen. He took great pride and joy in in seeing the hospital, the library, the events center, new schools and other institutions built over the years that expanded and strengthened the fabric of this community. It was the primary reason he refused the many attempts Tracy and I made to talk him into moving closer to us. Like a good journalist, this was his beat, and he was insistent on writing the ending to his own story here in the place where so much of it took place.
Now, I don’t want to make my dad out to be a saint here. He had a temper. He could hold grudges. He was imperfect. Some of you out there might have occasionally found yourselves crosswise with Paul. It’s O.K. I did too. But whatever ups or downs each of us may have had with my dad over the years, I think, I hope, we can all agree that he made this community a little better than he found it and he made many of us are far better men and women along the way. I know that is true for me.
So, despite the sadness of this day, I take great solace not only in the fact that he lived a life of purpose and leaves behind a powerful legacy, but that he is going to rest beside my mom, love letters in tow. And in addition to those letters, we put a spare key to his beloved 1972 Porsche 911 with him in the casket, because it makes me smile just a bit to think of my mom, my dad, and that little white Porsche back together again, speeding off into the sunset.