By Nelson Santana
December 19, 2018
Loving father, intellectual, brilliant musician, master teacher, spiritual leader, magnanimous person. There are not enough words to describe Mr. Wayne Holmes—more than a personal friend.
Born on September 18, 1952, Wayne Eugene Holmes was a remarkable person who touched and influenced the lives of many individuals from his students to his peers to co-workers, relatives, and just about everyone he encountered. Mr. Holmes wore many hats and served in many roles within his community including those as orchestra leader, pianist, singer, organist, choir director, music educator, writer, arranger, and mentor.
The circumstance in which I met Mr. Holmes is a unique story in itself that deserves its own article, but I will do my best to sum up that magical experience briefly.
I met Mr. Holmes through his wife, Mrs. Darlene Mesón-Holmes, whom I have known for approximately 10 years. Mrs. Holmes is the daughter of Dominican freedom fighter, José Mesón, whom gave his life battling the 31-year dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. Long story short, in 2016, Mrs. Holmes and her husband visited the Dominican Republic. The couple visited the country to attend the yearly commemorative anniversary that honored the lives and legacy of the men and women—like José Mesón—who participated in the fight against the Trujillo regime. Mrs. Mesón-Holmes invited me and I am glad and fortunate that she did. In addition to appearing on national Dominican television while I served as an interpreter for Mrs. Mesón-Holmes, I also had the honor of meeting one of Mesón’s contemporaries and survivor of the expedition against Trujillo, Mayobanex Vargas, and relatives of other women and men who participated in the fight against the dictatorship. This experience left an indelible imprint on me. In addition to the memory of meeting a war hero, dignitaries, brilliant scholars, and being informed by two uncles that they saw me on national television, it will also be in my memory as the trip in which I met Mr. Wayne Holmes.
Mr. Holmes had more talent in one finger than most people in their entire body. Music and sports were dear and near to his heart. Although his musical background extends beyond his birth, his personal love for music can be traced back to when he was a seven-year-old child. Under the tutelage of the late Eduardo Braithwaite, Mr. Holmes excelled, thus becoming one of his mentor’s top classical pianists. As noted by his relatives, “He went from the basement piano lessons to the upstairs Concert Grand Piano.” Mr. Holmes performed in major venues such as the Super Bowl halftime show, Carnegie Hall, Apollo Theater, B.B. King’s, Hard Rock Café, and Canada Jazz Festival, among other venues and events. However, perhaps his greatest joy was performing for God. He served as Musical Director of St. Luke Baptist Church under the Ministry of Bishop Michael and Tasha Baston alongside his son Dana. He worshiped the Lord every Sunday and ensured to share his talent with all others who attended church.
Mr. Holmes’ musical contributions extended beyond the church. He performed alongside musical greats such as Ben E. King, Bette Midler, Isaac Hayes, Cab Calloway, Debbie Boone, Mariah Carey, and Stevie Wonder, among a slew of all-time greats.
One of the biggest treats for me was watching Mr. Holmes perform live. In November of 2016, he and Mrs. Mesón-Holmes invited me to a live performance at B.B. King’s Blues Club for Mrs. Holmes’ birthday. The performance was a tribute show Mr. Holmes performed regularly in honor of the incomparable Ray Charles. Many artists have sung Charles’ songs, yet Mr. Holmes was the only person in the world who had the blessing and authorization from the Ray Charles estate to perform Ray Charles songs as a Ray Charles impersonator. Like most people who witnessed the performance, goosebumps enveloped my skin as Mr. Holmes—as Ray Charles—serenaded us with classics such as “I Got a Woman” (1954) (written by Charles and Renald Richard), “Hit the Road, Jack” (1961) (written by Percy Mayfield), and “Georgia on My Mind” (1930) (written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell).
As a high school student, Mr. Holmes played baseball and basketball, continuing to play both sports through his collegiate years. He graduated from Francis Lewis High School in 1970 and attended Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus for four years. Several years later he was named choir director for the “Anointed Voice,” Long Island University, Westbury Campus, and the Roosevelt High School “Star Choir.”
In 1978, Mr. Holmes wed the love of his life: Darlene. The marriage produced two children: Dana Wontrell and Wanisha Danielle.
In addition to his devotion to God and mastery in music, Mr. Holmes was also there for his community, always giving back. He mentored and counseled many individuals. He involved himself with the Drug & Anti-Gang Prevention, Youth Counselor/Family Services, served as Step & Vocal Coordinator for Freeport School District, Cambria Heights Academy, and Roosevelt High School “S.T.A.R. Choir.” Mr. Holmes may have reached sunset on August 10, but his legacy will remain, especially with his loved ones. On August 18, loved ones, friends, and acquaintances paid their respects with a celebration of Mr. Holmes’ life. We will continue to honor his legacy.