ELIZABETHTON — John Bell Holder died peacefully on Tuesday afternoon, December 6, surrounded by family and friends in Elizabethton, Tennessee.
Born on August 27, 1924, in Stoney Creek (Carter County, Tennessee), Mr. Holder was a decorated veteran of World War II, an avid sportsman, a gospel music singer, a faithful church leader, husband and father. He had been in failing health for a number of years and was a resident of Hermitage Nursing Home in Elizabethton.
Mr. Holder was married to Ruth Scott Holder, also of Elizabethton, a longtime and beloved nurse in the community, who died in 2006. He was the father of three children: John Curtis, “Jackie,” Holder, New York, who died in 1985; Diane Holly Houser, of Elizabethton, married to Michael Houser, both of Elizabethton; and, Father Timothy Holder, Toms River, New Jersey.
Mr. Holder was the youngest of eight children born to Alice Wilson and Curtis Holder, who lived in Stoney Creek where the family was raised: Nadine Holder Hart, Pearl Holder Cole, Selmer Holder, Crusie Holder, Louie Holder, Burl Holder and Sydney Holder.
Joining the United States Navy as a seventeen year-old Unaka High School graduate, Stoney Creek, Mr. Holder served with distinction in three continents of war: Europe (Eastern and Western); Northern Africa (Egypt); and, in Asia (primarily in Japan). He was the recipient of numerous commendations and honors, including a Commendation for Bravery and Heroism off the coast of Tokyo where, as chief radioman, he maintained vital communications during the bombing and sinking of his ship. Wounding the young sailor, these communications saved lives and naval craft. Mr. Holder was cited for his service in 1997 by the Honorable John Dalton, Secretary of the Navy in the Clinton Administration.
Following the War, Mr. Holder lived in New York City, where he played basketball on a scholarship from Fordham University. His marriage to a young Sicilian-American woman having failed, he moved home to Tennessee where he began his family and was a sportswriter for the Elizabethton Star.
He attended First Freewill Baptist Church in Elizabethton for most of his life. He was a member of the choir, youth and Vacation Bible School director. Many knew and appreciated Mr. Holder as a bass-singer for the Melody Men Gospel Quartet in the 1950s and ’60s; and, the Atonement Quartet in the 1970s and ’80s. Mr. Holder sang on numerous albums and appeared in churches and singing conventions throughout the Southeast.
Mr. Holder worked as Admissions Administrator for the Veterans Administration at Mountain Home through the 1970s. He was active in sports as a “TSSAA” (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) basketball referee and a well-known baseball umpire. A former boxer, Mr. Holder followed sports locally, regionally and nationally all of his life. The Elizabethton Board of Parks and Recreation and the Elizabethton City Council honored Mr. Holder for his years of service to the children and young people of the community.
Mr. Holder’s great-grandson, Sage Geagley, Elizabethton, will read his great-grandfather’s Commendation from the United States Navy at Friday services. Also attending memorial services will be his grandchildren, Chris and Matthew Geagley along with their children, Sage, Karter and Katie, and, Susie and Jonathan Houser. Family members will serve as pallbearers. They are Jonathan Houser, Matthew Geagley, Sage Geagley, Micheal Scott, Steve Scott, David Scott, Johnny Holder, Grady Holder and Tim Holder.
In lieu of flowers, gifts are invited to: the “John Holder Memorial Relief Fund” in care of First Church of God, 609 North Lynn Avenue, Elizabethton, Tennessee 37643 for relief of the poor and needy.
The funeral service will be conducted by Pastor Bob Shupe at the First Church of God, 609 North Lynn Avenue in Elizabethton on Friday, December 9. Visitation will begin at 11:00 a.m. in the church sanctuary; services at noon; and, burial with military honors at Mountain Home National Cemetery following. The family then welcomes everyone to a reception at the Church.
Condolences may be sent to the family electronically by visiting www.tetrickfuneralhome.com and by signing the guest book, or by fax (423) 542-9499.
Tetrick Funeral Home, Elizabethton is serving the family. Office (423) 542-2232; Obituary line 543-4917.