Next time there is an open seat beside Fred and Grace Holmes in the dining room at Southridge, I’d suggest you take it. The Holmes’s have certainly led fascinating lives, including long stints abroad doing medical missions in developing countries. Grace was one of only three women in her medical school class; certainly she broke down barriers for those that came after her. Fred researched cancer epidemiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center. They raised six children, five of whom were adopted.
What is most engaging about Fred and Grace, though, is their energy. They carry with them the aura that follows people who are living out their passions; it draws you in, inspires you, and, with luck, you can take a little bit of that energy with you to pursue your own passions.
In 2012, the pair published their first book, Tumbili, under the pen name Anne Miller Johnson, M.D. It is a medical mystery set in Africa, combining two things the Holmes’s know well: medicine and life in Africa. Fred has since gone on to write three more books, a series, about a doctor in the Pacific Northwest, where the Holmes attended medical school.
In addition to his medical degrees and designations, Fred earned his MA in British History from the University of Kansas. For his thesis, he researched medical problems of the Stuart monarchs of England; it was published in the UK as “The Sickly Stuarts.”
The couples’ interest in medical history isn’t limited to the British. They have also done extensive research into medicine during the First World War. The pair teamed with other medical historians to delve into the archives at the WWI museum, pouring through medical records from Base Hospital #28 in Limoges, France. Essays they wrote as part of this research, and more information about Base Hospital #28 are available online.
Spurred by this research, Grace decided to write a book about the role female nurses played in WWI. So the pair took to research across the country, trying to dig up whatever they could on WWI nurses. During their research they stumbled across the name of a nurse in North Dakota. They called a library in the state looking for information about her. After affirming that there were two pages on the nurse in question, the voice on the other end of the phone said, “Would you like the others?”
A one-time president of an American Legion Auxiliary in North Dakota had many years before collected information on 270 women from the state who had served in some capacity during WWI. Fred and Grace quickly took to digitizing the microfilm and sorting through the interviews. When it was over, there were interviews with 225 North Dakota WWI nurses.
“There were a lot of tender stories,” Fred explained. “They (nurses) made a huge impact. They were the last face someone saw as they were dying.”
For French and British soldiers, there was always the possibility of visits from family who lived near enough to get to travel to the hospital. For U.S. servicemen, the nurses filled the role of family.
Grace recently signed a contract with a publisher for “North Dakota Nurses Over There” which will be available in April 2017, on the 100th Anniversary of America’s declaration of war on Germany.
When not writing or researching, Fred and Grace sing in a barbershop quartet with Arlene and Rex Raudenbush called the Gentlefolk. They both have had a life-long interest in music and have been singing in various choirs and groups for most of their lives.
Whether researching, singing, writing or entertaining, Fred and Grace Holmes live full, rich lives. They are a delightful couple and a wonderful addition to Lakeview Village.