SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – James Holmes was a well-known community leader, remembered fondly as “Coach” to many throughout Chatham County because of his years of mentoring and coaching in youth sports.
“He was a coach to many in terms of sports, but to his family, he was our personal coach,” said Sandra Simmons, Holmes’ niece.
“I just want my uncle to know how proud I was to be one of his nieces,” she said. “I miss him calling me ‘Kid.'”
Simmons spoke with WSAV on the 500 block of East Broad Street at Mother Matilda Beasley Park. It’s an area where Holmes grew up, went to church, and as a leader, helped to preserve the park.
“This is who he is, his footprints are all over East Broad,” said Simmons.
That’s why Simmons says this park is a fitting place for a permanent memorial to Coach Holmes. On Saturday at noon, they will hold an event at the park to unveil a mural painted by local artists Scott Stanton, also known as Panhandle Slim.
“The mural will be a way to say to him that, ‘we still see you, we still love you,’ and that he will never be forgotten,” said Simmons.
Coach Holmes died of COVID in August after being in the hospital without any family being able to see him.
“Our family wanted to be at his bedside,” Simmons said. “So it was very hard because there was no official goodbye.”
Simmons says since January, she has been working on what she can do to help move “through the pain of COVID.”
It evolved into a mural being done and selecting the East Broad area as a site for a permanent memorial.
“We want to celebrate his life in this mural, and I hope it will remind the community, as well as my family, that my uncle was about business when he started something,” said Simmons. “So if you want to remember him in a good way, finish what you start.”
Simmons says she continues to miss her uncle every day and knows there are tens of thousands of families across the country who are dealing with grief as well.
“I just want to say to all of the families throughout the nation, it’s OK to still cry,” she said.
There are so many things she can recall of her uncle.
“He was the life of the family reunion, no doubt. He would get a dance going on the floor immediately,” she said through tears.
Her family wants Holmes to always be remembered and hope that happens each and every time someone drives by the mural.
Simmons says in honor of Coach, wear his favorite tennis shoes if you have a pair.
“In remembrance of him, if you’ve got a pair of Chucks lace up and come on out,” she said.
The event is Saturday, May 1, at the park at 500 East Broad Street, and begins at noon.