Oscar Holden dies in Arizona auto accident
EAGLE COUNTY – Back in the day, a new family moving to Vail was a big deal. When Oscar Holden’s family arrived, people really noticed.Holden, who died last month in Arizona, lived in and around Vail for a decade. He came to town as Vail’s first black police officer. A decade later, he was working at the Vail Post Office, then transferred to Arizona, where he worked until his retirement in 1996.News of Holden’s death shook many local residents.”Oscar was a great, great guy,” said Packy Walker. “He was one of the officers that came to a shoot-out at the Lifthouse.”That shoot-out started with Walker and a mate or two firing blanks toward a group of plumbers. The plumbers responded with live ammo. By the time the police arrived, the misunderstanding had been cleared up, and Walker and one of the plumbers were up on the roof, sort of hiding.”They thought we were checking the vents,” Walker said. No one was arrested, but after that, “Oscar would always ask me if I had any ammunition because his son wanted to go hunting,” he said.Vail was a smaller, more close-knit community in the early 1970s. When a family, especially a family with school-age kids, moved to town, it was big news.”Our kids came home from school one day and said there were new kids,” said Vi Brown. “It was very exciting.”Holden’s kids turned out to be a fun group, Brown said. That love of fun came straight from their parents.”We met Oscar and Diana (his wife) a little later,” Brown said. “Diana could play the piano, which was nice. And Oscar was a big, athletic guy. He was fun to have around.”
The son of professional musicians, Holden was a singer, which is what Sheika Gramshammer remembers about him. “He was a great musician,” Gramshammer said. “He was a gentle and caring human being.”Holden was popular with kids, too, both as a cop and, later, as a bus driver for the Eagle County School District.Older kids would sometimes get a ride home from Holden if they were found at parties.”They’d get a little sermon from him, but he wouldn’t bring them in,” Brown said. And when those sermons came from a man more than six feet tall, people tended to listen.But it was his stint as a bus driver that sticks in the memories of Margie Plath and Sandy Bishop.Plath and Holden’s daughter, Lisa, were students at Battle Mountain High School when Holden drove the team to Grand Junction for a track meet the day of the prom. In an e-mail, Plath said:”We were stressing out about the fact that we were going to be late for the prom. Oscar overheard our conversation and never said a word. After the meet was over and we were headed home we were all curious about why Oscar was exiting off the highway at the Wolcott exit. He just smiled and never said a word. “The bus made a right turn off the highway and headed up the snowy-muddy dirt road of Bellyache Ridge. We asked him what he was doing and he finally said, ‘I’ve got to get you home to get ready for prom.’ He proceeded to take me to the very top of Bellyache where I lived.”
When Bishop’s son, Brian, was in third grade in 1974 or so, Holden was supposed to drive the class to Bond to catch a train, then pick the kids up in Glenwood Springs.The trip was supposed to be called off because another driver called in sick. Holden drove the kids anyway.”He made the ultimate executive decision that day to not disappoint a classroom of little kids,” Bishop said in an e-mail. “He probably got in some fine trouble for giving those kids the ride of their lives that spring day. He’ll always be in my best memories of early Vail and what we all did to help each other.”============Oscar Holden1931 – 2005Oscar W.G. Holden of Prescott Valley, Ariz., died Oct. 11, in an automobile accident. He was 74. Born Sept. 10, 1931, in Seattle, Wash., Oscar was the eldest son of professional musicians Oscar W. and Leala B. (Coleman) Holden. He graduated in 1949 from Garfield High School in Seattle and attended Seattle University for two years, where he was on the only college basketball team known to defeat the Harlem Globetrotters.
In 1951, he joined the Army and served in Korea in the engineer corps. In 1973 the family moved to Vail, where he was a police officer. While in Colorado he was also a deputy with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and a well-known school bus driver. He joined the US postal service in 1980 in Vail and transferred to Prescott in 1983, retiring in 1996.Oscar is survived by his wife of 44 years, Diana (Burmester) of Prescott Valley; daughter Lisa (John) Holden-Byrnes and grandsons Donovan and Dawson of Anthem, Ariz.; son Kevin Holden and daughter MarJean (fiancé Paul Guerra) Holden of Los Angeles; sisters Grace Holden, Seattle, Wash., and Leala Holden, Henderson, Nev.; brothers Robert and David (Angie) of Seattle and James (Donatella) of Beijing, China; four generations of nieces and nephews and several cousins; mother-in-law Margaret Burmester of Hampton, Iowa; brother-in-law David (Vicky) Burmester and sons, Hampton, Iowa; sister-in-law Jeanne (Gilbert) Butler and children, Los Alamos, NM. His parents, a half-sister and a brother preceded him in death. Family assistance donations can be made to The Oscar Holden Memorial Fund, WestStar Bank, 34353 Highway 6, Edwards, 81632. Memorial donations can be made in his name to the following organizations: The Jazz Foundation of America, the American Heart Association, PKD Foundation (kidney disease), or Heifer International. ==============Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado