“Dr. Holmes, a man of sterling character, total commitment to principle, unselfishness and loyalty. There is only one Ray Holmes. The world could do with more.”
When Dr. Ray Holmes’ youngest daughter Genevieve was a little girl, he’d cover the polka dots on her doll’s carriage with Smarties. Then he’d exclaim, “Look what popped out of your carriage.” She’d chuckle with delight.
She’s grown now and the 28 year-old mother of two boys, Brendan, 2, and a new baby, Alexander, upon whom their grandfather lavishes the same kind of frolicsome affection.
He’s just built them a music house with a slot for a chimney; when a coin is dropped inside, out pops the tune “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Now it’s “Brendan who chuckles with delight.
What Brendan hasn’t noticed though is the sign on the house: ’My Mother Chose Life’. It’s a credo that his grandpa believes in; he’s even gone to jail to uphold the principle behind it.
Genevieve says her father knows how to identify with a child’s mind and that’s why he has such fun with children. But he also knows how to identify with a child’s soul, and that’s why he’s been such a dedicated pro-life activist for the last 20 years.
He can’t bear the idea of destroying God’s unborn children and he’s passed on his pro-life convictions to his seven children and twenty grandchildren. All three generations have taken up the pro-life torch.
It’s all in the family.
Action not talk
CLC President Jim Hughes says Dr. Holmes has been one of the most energetic and effective pro-life activists in Toronto over the last two decades. His work is often behind the scenes. “At a time in his life when he has every reason to rest, his approach is ‘you haven’t done enough until you can’t do any more’. He’s an inspiration to his peers.”
Dr. Holmes is a 73 year old retired dentist, who practiced for 37 years in Toronto. When he took down his shingle, he brought home his dental chair and instruments. Some say he still does dental work, quietly, for special people. He believes in action, not talk. That’s probably why he’s so reluctant to discuss his pro-life contribution.
One wonders why a dentist, who decorated his office walls with Life magazine posters of the unborn child when he practiced, is so concerned about abortion.
He answers with Life magazine posters of the unborn child when he practiced, is so concerned about abortion.
He answers that the teachings of his Catholic faith and some life experiences have prodded him to think deeply about the issue. He’s always known that it was intellectually and theologically wrong and the popes have always condemned it. As a devout Catholic he’s made yearly retreats for the last 50 years and he feels the spiritual agony of such a destructive act on mothers and their innocent children.
He grew up in a religious home in the northern Ontario town of Fort Francis. His father was a woodlands supervisor and often away. His spirited mother raised the children and he recalls that she sang a lot and prayed the Rosary nightly—one decade for each of her five children.
When he was three he had polio. Although he recovered well, he was left with a troublesome foot which has always given him pain. “Having polio was the best thing that happened to me,” he says. Unable to participate in sports, he was often socially excluded from his friends “during some unhappy days of an otherwise happy childhood.” As a result he became more sensitive to the pain of others and more philosophical about life and learned to play the harmonica and the saxophone to compensate for “being an outsider.”
After high school he studied dentistry at the University of Toronto, where Providence rewarded him kindly. At a church social he met 17-year-old Rita, “who felt like a feather in my arms as I danced with her.” That night he wrote his mother that he had met the girl he would marry. His mother kept the letter and gave it to the couple after their wedding three years later.
That was 49 years ago.
Shadow of abortion
Dr. Holmes remembers the first time he heard about an abortion.
He had sold his suburban Toronto home and bought a farm north of Toronto where he moved his family. Mike, an electrician he had hired, was excellent with the Holmes’ boys and once Dr. Holmes said, “Mike, you should have had a son.” Quietly, Mike re-plied that his wife had aborted their last baby. She was told at the time, “That was your boy.” Dr. Holmes was shocked and he never forgot Mike.
Dr. and Mrs. Holmes have seven children: Laurie, Cathy, Jimmy, David, Billy, Honey and Genevieve. They adopted Billy when Mrs. Holmes was a board member of Peel Children’s Aid and someone told her that the baby needed a Catholic home – in a hurry. Then two years later they adopted Honey and five years after that Mrs. Holmes gave birth to Genevieve.
Years later, Laurie, their oldest daughter, was a nurse working in the operating room of a downtown Toronto hospital. She was horrified to find out they did abortions there and told her parents she had even heard a baby cry. Soon afterwards she left the hospital.
Today, she is married with four children and heads Birthright in Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives.
Shaken after Laurie’s experience, Dr. Holmes wondered what he could do. Not long afterward, in the early 1970s, he and his wife were invited to a fund-raising dinner to launch a new political pro-life group called Campaign Life. All guests were asked to recruit local parishioners to the pro-life cause and to educate them about abortion. Dr. Holmes prevailed upon his golf and bridge partner, the parish priest at St. Mary’s, to organize an annual pro-life dinner dance. Eventually it grew to include the Brampton Right to Life group which he helped to start several years ago.
Rhonda Wood, a young mother who now heads the group, says Dr. Holmes taught her about pro-life work by his example and by patiently answering her questions – often over a glass of wine – and by supplying her with pro-life material and cassettes. Now she’s doing pro-life presentations in schools, “something I never thought I’d be able to do.”
She credits him with deepening her faith and pointing out the importance of opposing abortion.
At home Genevieve says, “My dad feels the burden of abortion on his heart and my mother supports him because she understands the agony of the pro-life movement.” Their home is a resource of pro-life reading materials and often guests are treated to a pro-life mini-lecture given by Dr. Holmes in good faith and good fun.
During the last 20 years Dr. Holmes has also been a busy organizer and contributor: attending political pro-life strategy meetings and conferences; lobbying politicians; helping Ontario’s Family Coalition Party; fundraising, picketing hospitals and Morgentaler’s Toronto abortuary; and, finally at age 71, staying in jail during the pre-trial period following an August 1989 Operation Rescue at Morgentaler’s.
The Holmes family record suggests that Ray has passed on the pro-life torch to his children and grandchildren, Laurie is active in Phoenix, and Cathy, married with five children in Boston, has organized a youth pro-life group. Their daughters Angela and Mary Ellen participated in the annual March for Life rally in Washington last January.
Closer to home, Jimmy is active in Business for Life and two of his teenaged children, Danny and Melissa, have written essays on abortion in high school. David, a fire fighter, twice decorated by the Governor General, has joined his dad in Operation Rescue and on picket lines. Genevieve has been active in pro-life education since high school and 1989 formed a parish group in Kingston when her father was in jail. Later she wrote a moving account of her father’s jail experience and that of the family for The Interim (December
Dr. Holmes cellmate and soul mate in jail was Father Ted Colleton (then 76) who recalls a conversation they had.
“Ray” he said, “you have a wife and family, I have neither. Why don’t you sign that document promising not to return to the abortuary until our trial date and you will be released to-morrow.”
Dr. Holmes replied, “Father as long as you are here, I shall be here.”
Says Father Ted, “These words sum up the character of Dr. Holmes, a man of sterling character, total commitment to principle, unselfishness and loyalty. There is only one Ray Holmes. The world could do with more.”
Happy Fathers’ Day, Dr. Holmes.