As the Gingerbread Festival's lighted Christmas parade travels through downtown Grove on Saturday, F.A. Holmes will be sitting in a place of honor.
The 101-year-old Grove man will serve as the grand marshal for this year's parade, set for 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 9, in Grove.
Holmes said he plans to ride in a Thunderbird convertible at the start of the parade.
“I think it’s an honor," Holmes said, joking he hasn't attended a parade in quite some time.
Holmes, at the age of 101, he is one of the oldest men in Grove. He turns 102 in January 2018.
Holmes was born in 1916 as the middle child with two sisters and two brothers.
His grandfather William McLaughin taught him to read by the age of 3. He attended a one room country school until the eighth grade.
“I always like school and I learned by listening," Holmes said.
He went on to attend college at Kansas State in Manhattan, where the soon to be Carroll Holmes caught his eye.
She lived across the street from him and they never had a date until the last day of school.
He had to work eight hours a day to get through college which he attended from 1931 until 1941.
Holmes finished his master’s degree and became an entomologist.
After finishing college, Holmes was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 while his wife worked to complete her degree.
Holmes became a medic in the army, because “I just asked for it because I was interested in that thing.”
After finishing the six week basic boot camp, Holmes was sent to Hawaii and then attended OCS or Officer Candidates School to earn his commission as a second lieutenant.
“I went to the Sanitary Core with the 211th Malaria Survey unit as a parasitologist to study parasites," Holmes said, deploying to various places in the South Pacific including New Guinea where his unit worked to control outbreaks of malaria.
“Mosquitoes don’t fly more than a mile so we would sample water and if we found mosquitoes that carried malaria we would have the area sprayed," he said. “We really cut the malaria problem down in New Guinea.”
Holmes took part in the Battle of the Philippines on Oct. 19, 1944 during the Leyte invasion led by General Douglas MacArthur.
“There was a parasite problem in the water there, we had to test the water to determine if the engineers had to wear wet suits to build bridges," he said.
Eventually his unit began to prepare for the invasion of Japan and transitioned to controlling plague outbreaks.
“Bubonic plague was a big problem which is why we changed to a plague control unit,” said Holmes.
After leaving the army he returned home to his wife who was working for the USDA as a food inspector.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do out of the Army," Holmes said. “It was four days till I was tired of doing nothing.”
He eventually landed a job with DuPont in its agricultural chemical division where he worked from March 1, 1946 until December 31, 1981.
“The job didn’t have much in the field of entomology so I got into vegetation management work with the railroads, utilities and highway management departments," Holmes said.
Holmes moved around a lot with his job mainly in the western half of the United States living in Utah, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, before spending the last 20 year with DuPont in California.
Holmes moved to Grove in 1990 and has lived here 27 years first in Buffalo Shores south, and now at Grandwood Assisted Living.
He regularly attends First United Methodist Church and is still driving at the age of 101.
“I still drive around town except when I drive out of town," Holmes said. "I was 98 when I quit driving the motorhome and 99 when I quit golf.”
Holmes is well loved by those he lives with and those who work at Grandwood, with many saying “he is a joy to talk to.”
He is still active and when asked about his secret to longevity he just laughs.
"I don’t know how long I’ll live, either the good Lord isn’t ready for me yet, but I just haven’t died," Holmes said.
A full schedule of events, including an ugly sweater contest, holiday music and a living nativity, will take place Saturday, Dec. 9, as part of the first, Gingerbread Festival in downtown Grove.
The event, which culminates with the annual lighted parade at 6 p.m., will begin at 8 a.m., with the annual Jingle Bell Run.
Additional activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., on the Grove Community Center lawn. Other events are taking place during the day at participating businesses throughout the community.
Jingle Bell 5K Fun Run
The Jingle Bell 5K Fun Run will take place beginning at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, at the Grove Community Center.
Participants are encouraged to wear “christmas attire” or come dressed as their favorite holiday characters. Prizes will be given out for the best times in the various age groups and the best costumes in each age group.
This is a non-sanctioned, timed race.
Registrations after Nov. 28 will cost $30, and be available up until 7:30 a.m. on the day of the race. However t-shirts will not be available for those participants.
Ugly Sweater Contest
Dig out those "ugly" Christmas sweaters for a chance to win prizes in the first Ugly Sweater Christmas Contest set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, on the festival stage.
Registration takes place between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m., with the contest at 1 p.m. There's no charge to enter the the contest. The winner will receive $20 in chamber bucks, which are redeemable at participating Grove area merchants.
For more information, persons interested may call the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce at 918-786-9079.
Grove's Gingerbread Festival
Schedule of events
All events take place at the Grove Community Center, 104 West Third, Grove, unless otherwise noted.
8 a.m. - Jingle Bell 5K / Fun Run
10 a.m. - Opening Ceremony - Festival Stage
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Food Trucks
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Oasis Animal Therapy Display
10:15 a.m. - 5K Winners
10:30 a.m. - Baker Martial Arts Demonstration
11 a.m. - Story Time sponsored by the Grove Public Library
Noon - Elk River Baptist Church Praise Team
1 p.m. - Ugly Sweater Contest
1 to 2 p.m. - Kids visit with Santa
2 to 3:45 p.m. - The Grapevines
10 a.m. to noon - Pictures with Santa - The Party Station
1 to 3 p.m. - Kids Coloring Program - Brush and Palett Club
3 p.m. - Cookie decorating with Pastry Chef - 1909
6 p.m. - Grove’s Lighted Christmas Parade - South Main to West Third Street.