Wednesday, October 26, 2016

TOP STORY >> Dr. Holmes’ legacy on display

Leader staff writer

For more than 60 years, Dr. Byron Eugene “Gene” Holmes was an important part of the Lonoke community. First as a doctor, but he also donated his time and intellect to making the small town a better place to live and work.

Holmes died on Oct. 2 at the age of 90.

In addition to a medical office on 305 Southwest Front St. in Lonoke, he was the kind of old-fashioned doctor who made house calls.

According to his children, their father improved the community’s quality of life through his public service that included 21 years as a school board member and a 25 years as a city alderman.

Holmes was a member of the Lonoke County Medical Society, Arkansas Medical Society and the American Medical Association.

At some point in his career, he was Lonoke County health officer and county coroner, and he was a church elder at First Presbyterian Church.

In 1982, Holmes was named Lonoke’s Man of the Year, and 20 years later he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce. That same year, he received a Presidential Citation for his community service.

Now the city is further paying tribute to Holmes’ contributions with his own display room at the Lonoke County Museum and Research Center.

“We tried to make it just like walking into his office,” says Sherryl Miller, Lonoke County Museum director about their newly opened permanent Dr. Holmes Exhibit.

It includes numerous pieces from Holmes’ office, including examining tables, scales, cabinets and equipment.

This, Miller says, pointing to a large bag, its bottom wider than the top, was the bag Holmes carried when making house calls, Miller says.

“It’s my favorite,” she adds.

She also points out a microscope — it’s one of four on display — that came from Holmes’ collection.

In addition to his own instruments, he had collected a number of pieces from other physicians through the years, Miller says.

Holmes’ children donated the pieces to the museum, and his son, Lee Holmes of Fayetteville, has seen the exhibit.

He said he liked what he saw, and he and his siblings felt the museum was the “right place” to donate the mementoes to.

“It was nice to see his equipment on display. The museum was the right place…It’s like stepping back in time,” Lee Holmes says.

Holmes’ namesake, Byron E. Holmes Jr. of Forrest City, says about his father, “He was a big community supporter and gave to it in so many ways.”

Like Holmes’ contributions, his children felt the exhibit should remain part of the community and help educate future generations.

“It’s a good exhibit and museums are a fantastic way of keeping the past alive,” Bryon E. Holmes Jr. says.

His daughter, Amelia Muse of Lonoke, is also delighted with the exhibit.

“There are things he had since the beginning of his practice, which he started in 1950 and retired in 2011 at the age of 86, and “We wanted the community to see it.”

She says there are a few more pieces the family plans to donate to the museum.

“He was a big part of Lonoke and everyone loved him…People would always remember going to him as a child,” she recalls. Muse says about the exhibit, “They did a great job.”

The museum is staffed entirely by volunteers and operates on about $500 a month. It receives no city, county, state or federal funding.

For more information, call the Lonoke County Museum and Research Center at 501-676-6750.

The museum is located at 215 East Front St. in Lonoke. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.