Tuesday, 28 May 2024

Lake County arts community mourns loss of Holman

The incomparable Joan Holman. Photo by Bert Hutt.

LAKE COUNTY – One of the stalwarts of the Lake County Arts community has passed away.

Joan Holman – a native of England, a survivor of the London Blitz during World War II, a world traveler and grand dame of local theater – died June 5. She was 93.

Holman is remembered for her many contributions to the arts, including service as an officer or board member to Clear Lake Performing Arts and the Lake County Arts Council.

She also was active in little theater here, starring most recently with fellow actor Bert Hutt in “The Gin Game,” which she performed convincingly at the Big Valley Grange Hall in celebration of her 90th birthday.

Among her other accomplishments was fine photography, which she pursued during the travels that took her to many parts of the world. Her photos won awards in numerous art competitions, including those of the Lake County Fair where they earned recognition year after year.

Her colorful history helped her to achieve most of the goals she had set for herself during her long and eventful life.

Born in the town of Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, England, in the middle of World War 1, she was raised by a single working "mum" when her father died shortly after her birth, and was passed around among various relatives until the age of 8, when she was entered into boarding school. There she excelled in music and writing, winning a scholarship to a prestigious girl's school in Salisbury where she attended concerts and recitals in that city's famed Salisbury Cathedral.

In 1937 she began her career in journalism, soon rising to women's editor of the Home Counties Newspapers in nearby Luten. In 1939 she learned to fly as a licensed member of the Civil Air Guard.

Then in 1940 she moved to London as a magazine writer, just in time to endure the Blitz bombings which she called “terrifying, but in some ways stimulating.”

By the following year she was in South Africa simultaneously training pilots while also serving as editor of the Pretoria News. She later worked as a reporter for the Johannesburg Star, the country's biggest newspaper.

After a stint with England's British Broadcasting Co. she moved to Washington D.C. Where she found work as a "lonely hearts" columnist as well as doing on-air work at a local good music radio station. At the same time, she was aggressively pursuing her interests in theater.

In 1951 she was hired as a reporter by the San Francisco Chronicle and was also married, but was widowed seven years later.

Then in 1961 she met and married Lee Holman and also moved across the bay to the Oakland Tribune where she worked for 14 years before retiring and moving to Lake County. Her second husband died in 1991.

Holman said that involvement in community activities and maintenance of close relationships with her neighbors and the many members of the Lake County arts community, served to keep her going.

And keep going she did, remaining active as, among other things, the announcer at CLPA concerts, almost until her final days.

John Ross, a board member of the Lake County Arts Council, acknowledged the many contributions Holman had made to his organization, including her championship of the Soper-Reese Community Theater.

Clear Lake Performing Arts President Paul Brewer also noted the support she had given their organization over the years including a stint as president.

“She was definitely one of a kind, and she will be greatly missed,” he said.

Family members said there would be a remembrance service to be held in July. Details will be provided soon.

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