James Anthony Holland passed away peacefully Tuesday, March 9, 2021, at his home in Gladstone, Oregon, at the age of 95.
Born February 26, 1926, in Ortonville, Minnesota to William Patrick Holland and Mary Adelaide (Hoch) Holland, Jim’s life was shaped by his imagination, his spirit of adventure, his love of family, his faith, and his passion for flying.
Jim was born to fly. At the age of five he was lifted aloft for the first time in a Barnstormer’s biplane above the town of Elkton, South Dakota, where he lived with his family. This sparked his life-long passion for flight. A few year’s later, along with his sister Mary, he would climb to the top of the Elkton water tower and set paper airplanes soaring in the air, already exploring the beauty and mystery of flight.
Jim would dream of flying for ten more years. In the meantime he practiced balance and speed.
Always in control, he thrilled visiting cousins with high-speed rides on the handlebars of his bike.
At age eighteen Jim volunteered with the Army Air Corps, which assigned him to Okinawa and the skies of the Pacific in the last months of the war effort. With the end of World War II, Jim returned home, and using the GI Bill enrolled in flight school. So began a career in flying, which he enjoyed well into his eighties, becoming a proud member of the Flying Octogenarians.
Jim never used the term, airplane, but rather, ‘aircraft.’ And there were many aircraft in his life. The biplane was the first and the last was the glider. Between the biplane and the glider came the first aircraft he ever owned, a single-engine Cessna he affectionately called The Silver Bird, a Lake Amphibious Seaplane, a Britten-Norman Islander, a light utility aircraft, the de Havilland Twin Otter, a STOL (short takeoff and landing) bush aircraft, all of which he respected and mastered.
Jim’s career took him and his wife Farida to Indonesia where he contracted as a ‘bush pilot,’ flying aircraft for several different companies, including International Nickel and the Bechtel Corporation. These assignments were often dangerous, requiring landing and takeoffs in jungle terrain. One of the great challenges and adventures for Jim was ferrying a de Havilland Twin Otter from Canada to Indonesia, a journey over open seas, deserts, and jungle.
If Jim’s experience with flight began with barnstorming, his young nieces and nephews began their flight experience with their beloved Uncle Jim. Two at a time he would take them up in the Silver Bird or a borrowed Cessna. Once everyone was buckled in and safely in the air, they experienced a spectacular view with Uncle Jim as pilot and enthusiastic tour guide, pointing out tiny landmarks. This was Jim’s gift to them: seeing the earth from a new perspective.
Jim could not resist the role of storyteller, recounting his experiences in great detail - with strings of and’s. Met by knowing smiles, he would continue with a twinkle in his eye: “Now, to make a short story longer . . .”
Jim’s story is not only about his love of flying and the many different aircraft he had flown but about the people and places he came to know. Both he and Farida cultivated rich friendships during their many years in Southeast Asia and maintained these friendships long after they had returned stateside.
After his last contract with Bechtel Corporation in Papua, New Guinea, Jim and Farida settled in Gladstone, Oregon, where they created new friendships and became active in their parish, St. John the Baptist. Just as they had enjoyed a fulfilling social life during their years abroad, they embraced gatherings and celebrations with family and extended family and friends in Gladstone.
Once stateside, Jim turned to another area of aviation: flight instructor for single engine aircraft.
Jim, ever expanding his aviation repertoire, eventually became a certified glider instructor, the last frontier of his flying experience. Jim, a generous, caring man volunteered with the Civil Air Patrol, flying search and rescue missions and teaching a next generation of volunteers how to fly.
Well respected in aviation circles, Jim enjoyed friendships that lead to fulfilling new dreams. Invited to crew on the return voyage of a Transpac racing yacht from Hawaii to Oregon, Jim added an unexpected adventure to his life. Jim also received another personal invitation, this one from NASA to witness a space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral.
It is fitting that in his later years Jim was invited to take The Honor Flight to Washington D.C. with other World War II veterans to visit the memorials dedicated to honoring those who served during wartime.
Their deep faith took Jim and Farida on pilgrimages to Lourdes, Fatima, Santiago de Compostela, and Rome. Pilgrimage, perhaps of another sort, was their trip to County Mayo, Ireland, to seek out the ancestral home of Jim’s grandfather, James Cornelius Holland, for whom he was named. Jim, who had a keen interest in genealogy, visited old parish churches for baptismal records, eventually compiling a chart for the family.
Proud of his Irish heritage, Jim, along with his older brother Lambert, shared a life-long love of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Both Jim and Farida met family on several occasions for exhilarating football weekends, always with the first priority, a visitation on campus to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Jim’s was a full life. From the early days as young man riding an Indian Motorcycle across country, to an accomplished aviator, flying multi-engine aircrafts, and ultimately to a pilot soaring solo in gliders, Jim stayed true to his passion and spirit.
Blessed with a loving, devoted wife, a loving, admiring family, many friends, abiding faith, and passion that sustained him his entire life, Jim always felt and expressed a deep sense of gratitude. His smile, his laughter, and his stories endure with those who knew and loved him. James Holland was a very good man.
Jim is survived by his wife, Farida Holland. He is also survived by in-laws; many nieces and nephews; grandnieces; a grandnephew; great-grandnieces; and a great-grandnephew.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William Patrick and Mary Adelaide Holland; sister, Mary Lang; and brother, Dr. Lambert Holland.
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