In Memory: David Holly
by Donald G. Shomette
"I haunt the waterfront, and, in turn, the waterfront haunts me."
Thus begins one of the most engaging books on Tidewater steamboating ever composed, written by one of the most memorable men I have had the privilege of calling friend. When David Holly began writing Chesapeake Steamboats: Vanished Fleets, the last volume of a quartet of books, he was already midway through the seventh decade of a life of adventure and service.
Though unassuming in appearance, with silver hair and horn-rimmed glasses, Dave was a sort you usually only read about. He was at various times a student, sea captain, spy, scholar, educator, historian, author, husband and father.
He had sailed the seven seas, but his roots were planted deep in the Chesapeake mud. He once told me: "I've visited practically every country on the globe, and nearly all the 50 states, though I never got to China or North Dakota. But I love the Maryland Tidewater the most."
He was born in Baltimore in 1915, in time to witness the twilight of the steamboat. Educated at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland, he graduated with a master's degree just in time for World War II and soon found himself in the U.S. Navy. Dave captained a warship in the Pacific, fighting for his country in the waters of the Aleutians, New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa.
Somehow, he survived it all, married Carolyn King on June 15, 1949, and started a family that grew to three sons.
Then, in 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea. Dave was flung into the thick of it. During the darkest days of combat, he was the de facto commander of the Republic of Korea Navy. He modestly recalled that command as "little more than a few run-down minesweepers and auxiliaries." As intelligence officer for Generals Ridgeway, Clark and Taylor, Dave was often deployed behind enemy lines with Korean Marines.
Dave possessed that rare commodity, true heroism. For his services he was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star and several Presidential Citations. South Korean President Singman Rhee personally awarded him the Korean Order of Merit. Dave capped his career as Naval Attaché for the U.S. Embassy in London.
In 1964 he finally retired. Not one to rest on his laurels, however, he earned a Ph.D. from American University and began a second career as an educator, subsequently serving as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, associate professor of international law and relations at American University and professor and chairman of the government and foreign affairs department at Hampden-Sydney College.
But Dave had a hankering to write about what he loved most, steamboats, to save their memory and heritage.
"Whatever contribution I can make toward ensuring that these boats and the life they represented will not be forgotten is worth the endeavor," he wrote. Thus began his third career, as historian and author. Exodus 1947; Steamboat on the Chesapeake: Emma Giles and the Tolchester Line; Tidewater by Steamboat and Chesapeake Steamboats: Vanished Fleets were his monumental contributions.
Dave Holly, my long-time friend and colleague, died after a long illness on Friday, Feb. 12. His memory and legacy will continue to haunt our waterfronts.
Good-bye old friend.
| Issue 7 |
VolumeVII Number 7
February 18-24, 1999
New Bay Times
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