Jon Thomas Holder passed away peacefully on August 1, 2020 in Austin following a long and patient battle with Lewy Body Dementia/Parkinson’s disease. He was 79 years young.
Jon was born in the fall of 1940 in Port Arthur, Texas. He spent his early years with his parents Gladys Rose (DuBose) Holder and Drew Clifton Holder in Diboll where his dad owned and operated a country store and his mom was a school teacher. As a boy, Jon enjoyed exploring the beautiful East Texas piney woods and tinkering with electronics in his attic. Jon started a TV repair business in high school and went around with his toolbox servicing the community’s televisions and radios. This is where his love and talent for fixing things began - skills and passions he passed along to his sons and grandchildren.
Jon graduated from Lufkin High School in 1959, and received a Bachelor's Degree in Natural Sciences from Lamar Tech in Beaumont, where he met his future wife Linda Jean (Leaverton) Holder. Jon & Linda moved to Urbana Illinois to attend graduate school at the University of Illinois, and they married on December 28, 1962. Jon and Linda both received Master's Degrees from the University of Illinois while raising their two sons, Jon Kyle Holder and Kevin Todd Holder. The Holder family enjoyed countless weekends camping and motorcycle riding around the crystal lakes near Kikapoo State Park near Danville, Illinois. The boys have fond memories of working on everything from dirt bikes to car engines mentored by their dad.
Jon went on to receive a PhD in Physics from the University of Illinios in 1968, and entered into Post Doctorate studies in the first Geophysics Department in the country. He was one of the first professors in this new Geophysics Department at the University of Illinois, and held that position over the years before the family moved to Austin in 1981. After working as a Geophysicist in the private sector for several years, Jon worked through retirement at the JJ Pickle Research Facility at the University of Texas at Austin. He enjoyed countless research projects and his work was often published in the geophysics community that he had helped to establish. Jon always loved mentoring graduate students, and there are many a grateful soul out there that would not have made it through their education without his caring assistance.
Jon was known for his endless curiosity and inventiveness. He amazed people when he started building computers in his home office before most folks knew what a PC was. Jon also explored his passion for flying airplanes, and flew the family on several trips in a small Cessna 6 seater. Jon would be the first to tell you how lucky he felt to make it to 79 years old, after turning white as a ghost at 8,000 feet within a stones throw of a mountain hidden by thick cloud cover! That may have been the last family outing in the cute little Cessna...
Jon was known as a very patient and kind man. He had a calm and steady presence, and he was always eager to help others. His sons cherish a lifetime of being guided by his can do, do it yourself spirit. He was known for his high quality standard and his motto, “if you’re going to do something, don’t do it half-assed!” and "if you want it done right, do it yourself!" He could make even the tough projects succeed with his common refrain (it’s a) "piece of cake!”
A doting PawPaw, Jon was always up for playing with his grandchildren. When asked if he wanted to attend a soccer game or a dance recital, he always answered
an enthusiastic "you bet!”. He took great delight in their presence. He would spend his later years building playscapes, flying model planes and kites in the park, and walking the Zilker Trail of Lights with his grandchildren. He lived by the motto "work hard, play hard" and he was a great example of taking care of things while leaving time to celebrate with family. Jon loved to sit around a family poker game, sippin’ on a beer and laughing late into the night. He loved music, and some of his favorite artists were Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris. He also developed an appreciation for Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead over the years (thanks to sons). Ironically, Jon waited to knock on heaven’s door just after midnight, and let himself be released on Jerry’s birthday, Aug 1st . Thanks for meeting him at the Big Train Station, Jerry!
He is survived by his wife Linda; sons Kyle and Kevin; daughter-in-laws Michele Renee (McIntyre) Holder, Heidi (Hopkins) Holder, and Catherine (Reed) Holder Prather; grandchildren Alexander Drew Holder, Catelynn Rose Holder and Molly Shannon Holder; and granddaughter-in-law (to be) Kaeli Arhelger.
The family would like to express tremendous gratitude to Jason Brenizer, Lance Goode and the entire staff of Silverleaf Eldercare in Austin. They have created a rare gem of a facility and they took wonderful care of Jon. We are blessed to have found this sanctuary for him in our great time of need. We are forever grateful to SilverLeaf for having the courage and perseverance to offer this remarkable gift to the Community!
A Celebration of Life will be held for Jon at a future date once it is safe for loved ones to travel. Jon's ashes will be sprinkled in all of his favorite places, from East Texas to Austin, and from Illinois to Hawaii! We love you Jon, safe travels wherever you care to roam.
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