Thursday, August 4, 2016


by Rose Moore, columnist, Gazette Newspapers of Ohio

(Blogger's note: Today would have been the 91st birthday of the late Fred Holp. Since his Face Book page has not yet disappeared, I wish him happy birthday and share this good-bye which previously ran in my former newspaper column in Gazette Newspapers).

    YEARS AGO through this column, I wrote about a man we kids called Grampa Hope. And there began a sentimental journey...

    In the early 1940s--a time of shorter life spans, when many miracles of modern medicine had not yet been discovered--I was not the only child who had no living grandparents. My mother's parents and my father's father had passed away many years before my birth. Like my older siblings and many children whose grandparents were no longer living, I would look around my neighborhood for an unofficial grandparent, and he was Grampa Hope.

     We found him in a purely accidental way, in the twilight of World War II, when our makeshift kid-parades had distinctly military flavor. With pots and pans for drums, and bowls atop our heads for soldier hats, and homemade army "tanks" with cardboard, wheels and other bits of cast-off junk, we dragged our friends and siblings and our pets along in these grand marches, and we made a lot of noise.     It was a summer day in the midst of just such a "Little Rascals" brouhaha, when we spotted Grampa Hope sitting on his porch in an old wood rocking chair, near a shallow set of steps where sunshine met the shade. He didn't flinch when our raggle-taggle little bunch of rowdies approached him in their military gear.
    He smiled, and the smile reached his eyes and crinkled to his ears, and we knew that we were welcome. We broke our march and crowded near him on the steps, bombarding him with our excitement-of-the-day. From that point on, Grampa Hope was ours.
    Looking back from later years, I recognized his frailness. He was bent and thin; his veins showed clearly through his skin; his gnarled hands rested on the wooden cane on which he leaned as he rocked. Yet we kids never sensed that our exuberance might tire him.
    We talked; he listened. He answered silly questions patiently, and often told us tales of what the world was like when he was young. On cicada dog-day afternoons, his voice would blend with insect music until it was hard for us to stay awake. If truth be told, we sometimes dozed and woke to find he had quietly retreated and left us with our dreams.
    A calmness seemed to coat us as we touched base with this Ancient of Our Hearts, whose amiable spirit connected us to the era of our parents' parents we had never met. Did "Grampa Hope" have children or grandchildren of his own? We never asked; it didn't matter; Grampa Hope had us, and we had him.

    "GRAMPA HOPE" IS still the perfect name for him, at least to me. But until a reader of my column told me that Grampa Hope was actually Christopher Holp, as indicated in an old Painesville City directory. I passed that information to my readers, and like a bit of magic, responses filtered in from my old neighborhood and far beyond. And here's the truly magic thing: These responses led me to his sole surviving grandson.

    Patricia Milgate Holp, whose deceased husband Bob had been a grandson of this man, provided the first information which truly began to answer my request: "If Christopher Holp has descendants who might be reading this, I would love to find out more about him."
    She told me he was gone before she married Christopher's son Bob. "But I know my husband felt very attached to him," she said.."There were always such wonderful stories about him. He was well beloved by the entire family and so special to all of his 'real' grandchildren as well."
    A bit at a time I learned more. I heard of tragedy in Christopher Holp's life. His wife had died after her clothing caught fire from a cook stove. She had impulsively run for the creek to douse the fire, and that is where her husband Christopher found his beloved Dorothea when he came home from work.
    I learned that Christopher was born as Christoph Holpp in 1863 in Reichenbach, Germany. He came to this country with his father Christian, mother Eva Rosina, older sister Rosina Margaratha and younger brother Gottlieb. They settled in Cleveland for a time. When Christopher was older, he moved to Girdled Road in Leroy Township in Lake County, where he bought land for farming. He married Dorothea Kristina Pederson in 1891. Dora, as she was known, was from Denmark. They had three children---Harry who died when one year old; Alfred Johnson, a nephew they adopted when his mother died in childbirth; and Fredrik Gottlieb, the Fred Sr. who lived in Painesville for many years.

    WHEN FIRST I WROTE of Grampa Hope, I did not yet know of Fred Holp Jr. of California, the one surviving grandson. Later when I was given Fred's address, I mailed him a copy of the column. Fred called as soon as he received it, telling me how happy he was to have had his grandfather return to him through my column.

    Over time, I learned even more from Fred, who still possessed one of the two original packing trunks that had come with the Holpps on their journey here from Germany. He shared memories of his grandfather from the 1930s and 40s, before Fred went into the military.
     He spoke of how he and his grandfather enjoyed their favorite mustard sandwiches together, and how his grandfather always kept a good supply of small hard-candy on hand for his grand children's visits. He shared with me his memory of the smell of the old coal-oil cooking stove his grandfather cooked on, and the smell of bacon and eggs, which his grandfather often cooked...
    "In the late 1930s," Fred recalled, "Grandfather sold sets of horse harnesses so Dad could buy Bob and me a pony. We lived on Overlook Road at the time and sometimes rode the pony over to my grandfather's place from there... Mother and Dad would have Grandfather over for our Sunday evening meal, chicken and dumplings... In the early 1940s, my brother Bob and I bought Grandfather his first floor-type radio...
    "He always enjoyed seeing Bob and me in our high school band uniforms... He helped Mom and Dad buy new bikes for us from Sears at Painesville Square... I remember asking him to teach us some how to read some German words, but he didn't want to. He was all-American, he said."
    Fred mailed to me a photo of a wall at his home, decorated with such things as his Grampa's rifle and cane and a double-frame photo of Fred and his grandfather. He described vintage family photos and genealogical charts; and copies of his great grandparents' 1867 passport papers to America' and a list of the Holp (Holpp) family members interred in Painesville's historic Evergreen Cemetery... and more.
    When Grandson Fred was in the Navy, Christopher sent him a touching pencilled note dated Feb. 24, 1945, and Fred said he has always kept that note. The child-like scrawl seemed to indicate an aging Christopher was having trouble with his hands and eyesight as he wrote: "Mr Dear Fredie, How are you? I think of you every day. I long to see you, be of good cheer, the Lord will take care of you and bring you home. Gram Pa."
    Fred told me he did return home safely that year, but by that time his grandfather Christopher Holp was gone from the world. I sensed the sadness in Fred's words. I told him that when I had heard that "Grampa Hope" had died, I got comfort from imagining him in Heaven, talking with my own grandparents.
     Soon after that conversation with Fred, a manila envelope arrived at my home, and the space for the return address bore the words: "From Heaven from Grampa Hope. I still remember you." Inside the envelope was a copy of a faded photo of Grampa Hope, obviously sent by his grandson Fred. The California postmark was the giveaway. When I called Fred to thank him, he laughed as he assured me, "It was my grandfather's idea!"

    GRAMPA HOPE'S MEMORY remains intact with me. And now his grandson Fred---loved in his own right by family and friends---is also mingled with that memory. I kept in touch with Fred by phone, by mail and by face book; and my husband Bob and I were his invited guests at a multi-class Harvey High School reunion group (our mutual alma mater, though in different generations).

    In March, his family informed me that Fred had passed away peacefully at his home in California, at the age of 89, and in April a service will be held in California for him. A second memorial will be held in Lake County around the time of Fred Holp's August 4 birthday.

    And so, goodbye to you, my friend Fred Holp.  I wish Godspeed to you as you join the amiable colony of Holps who are gathered in the Lord's Hereafter.


(You can direct your commentary to columnist and blogger Rose Moore at