Obituary of John Myron Holland
John Myron Holland of Kamuela, Hawaii, died peacefully in his wife’s arms on September 28, 2017. His sparkle and wit remained, even as his body declined. Anyone who had the good fortune of hearing John’s stories understood that he had a rich and varied life. Born March 26, 1928, in Fredonia, Kansas to Hugh and Estella Holland, he grew up helping with his mother’s chicken farm and in his father’s leather shop.
John committed himself to a life of service which began with his religious studies at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. While at University he met and married Barbara Bradshaw in 1949. He spent his adult life as an educator. First, as Youth Pastor in the Disciples of Christ Church. Over the next several years their family grew as they accepted positions in Wichita, Kansas and Dallas, Texas. During this time John completed a Masters Degree in Religious Education from Phillips University. Always active and involved in outdoor education, John accepted an assignment in Sacramento, California in January, 1959 to be the Youth Minister at First Christian Church. While there, he was asked to help conceive a camp and conference center. Over the next several years the area near Foresthill, California known as The Community of The Great Commission was purchased and developed largely through John’s initiative, efforts and design. Despite early setbacks of fire damage to the purchased land and declining enrollment, the “Community” lives on today as a testament to the values of reflecting with nature and working together. The tumult of the sixties and early seventies profoundly affected John and his family. He and Barbara grew in their separate visions and, though still friends, were unable to remain marriage partners. He left his formal relationship with the church and pursued further schooling, completing a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. During those years, John was the Director of a Drug Crisis Center run through a coffee shop in downtown Oakland.
He subsequently became the Director of the Sexuality Education Program at UCSF, teaching sexuality courses to over 5,000 physicians, pharmacists and therapists. Living in San Francisco as the AIDS epidemic was taking the lives of many, John became an active advocate for sex education and HIV/AIDS and sexual disease prevention. He was also a sex counselor, which he continued until his retirement.
In 1977, John met Catrinka Smirl, as he would happily recount, “at a clothes optional massage school.” They moved in together shortly after and were married in January, 1979. From Oakland, CA they moved to Glen Ellen where Catrinka managed a Presbyterian camp. Then back to Oakland where John helped found and run The Association of Sexologists (TAOS). The call of country living took them from Oakland to a remote 100 acre ranch in Comptche, CA where John planted thousands of trees nearby and gathered chanterelles to sell. Catrinka’s work eventually took them to Nevada City, CA, where they settled for 25 years.
John worked for the Public Health Department as a Sex Educator and HIV/AIDS Educator for multiple rural counties. He worked in jails, schools and churches and was especially proud of the accomplishments of the many young adult peer educators he mentored. A room at the Nevada County Health Department was named after John in his honor. He was an active volunteer for Citizens for Choice and was instrumental in getting the Women’s Health Clinic started in Grass Valley.
The first meeting of John’s men’s group was in the big lodge at Camp Augusta in the early 1980’s. The men still meet regularly, having been together for 35 years through marriages, raising families, illnesses, aging and deaths over the years. John lately continued connection with the men through on-line meetings and visits. The Men’s Group has been a foundational pleasure of deep companionship for John.
Once retired from full-time work, John became a writer. His short stories and poems were enjoyed by all who read or heard him perform them. His stories included vignettes from his life, including growing up in the dust bowl, his years in Foresthill and his experiences as a Hospice Chaplain.
In 2007, John and Catrinka moved to the Big Island of Hawai’i, fulfilling a longtime dream of John’s to be near the tropical beauty and the volcano. Continuing to hone his writing skills, he started a Writer’s Group and eventually wrote Yellowbird, his first published book of fiction, which portrays the possibilities of responsible, healthy, sexual activity in youth.
John was raised to love the land and enjoyed gardening and raising animals wherever he went. Well into his 80’s, John created and tended gardens at the final home he and Catrinka created in Waimea. Volunteering with Mala’ai Garden at Waimea Middle School brought together two of his passions — youth education and closeness to nature. He loved the deep sense of community at Mala’ai.
John was one of those people who was larger than life. Everyone wanted to talk to him, everyone knew him and everyone shined in his presence and laughter. A trip to the farmer’s market took forever because John would “hold court,” not by command, but by demand. Everyone greeted would stop and visit; often to learn from John, but he always learned more, which was his gift — he always taught and he always learned. John was a happy man, content in himself. Known for bringing out the best in others, he took happiness in the happiness of others.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Catherine (Catrinka) Holland of Kamuela: his children and their spouses, Michael and Mary Jane Holland of Ridgefield, Washington; Diane Holland and Terry Pratt of Sacramento, California; Timothy and Leslie Holland of Grass Valley, California; Kris and Sue Holland of Applegate, California and their mother, Barbara Holland of Sacramento, California. His grandchildren: Samantha Holland and partner Delshay Devera of Honokaa, Hawaii; and Miles Holland, his wife Laura Holland of San Diego, California and their sons, his great-grandchildren, Weston and Kellen.
Memorial contributions may be sent to his favorite charities: Southern Poverty Law Center, Westar Institute, and Land Institute. A Memorial Celebration will be held on Friday, November 24th. Ceremony begins at 2:00 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center, 410 South Church Street, Grass Valley, California.
There will also be a time to remember and celebrate John on the Big Island of Hawai’i on Saturday, December 9th. Ceremony begins at 4 p.m. at Holoholokai State Park.
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