Hundreds Pay Respects to Pat Holden

By Charles Levin
12:00 AM, Nov 28, 2007

Hundreds of Oxnard mourners remembered Pat Holden on Tuesday as a can-do family man and merchant who always looked out for others, championed the working class, never forgot a face and delivered wisdom in everyday aphorisms.

Holden, the father of Oxnard Mayor Tom Holden, died Nov. 19 in Ojai after a short illness. He was 86.

“To say that Pat Holden was an icon would not even begin to give him the respect he needs,” Monsignor Terry Fleming said to a standing-room-only gathering of more than 800 people during a funeral Mass at Santa Clara Church in Oxnard.

Burbank resident Mike Hogan said Holden changed his life by hiring him after a five-year prison sentence. At the time, no one else would give Hogan a job.

It turned out to be a turning point. Hogan, 54, now works for the city of Glendale as an engineer, and Holden provided the reference for his first job with that city.

The greatest gift of the last 28 years “was to have Pat Holden as a mentor,” Hogan said, adding that Holden “introduced me to the gift of integrity.”

Holden was raised in Big Stone County, Minn., a town of 800, then moved to Oxnard in 1944 as a U.S. Navy Seabee. He married Katherine Marsas, his wife of 55 years, and they had six children, including the mayor.

Pat Holden went on to own and operate two Oxnard liquor stores for nearly 60 years. His wife died in 2002, after which Holden moved to Ojai.

Holden stood out in Oxnard as someone who related to the working class, son Tom said during a eulogy. By the time he left a hotel, he knew everything about all the busboys and bellhops, but not the managers, the mayor said.

“He knew the most important thing people could do was talk to each other,” the mayor said.

Another son, Ted Holden of Ashland, Ore., recalled his father battling alcoholism, which nearly cost him a business and marriage.

After he quit drinking, Pat offered to help anyone struggling with the bottle, Ted said.

It was one of Pat’s many legacies: “If you know somebody who needs help, you give it to him,” Ted said.

From his store, Pat Holden’s Liquor and Gift Shop, Holden held court with locals, employed his children and grandchildren, and made customer service a mantra.

“You never told somebody you didn’t have something,” Tom Holden said later at a reception in front of his G Street home. “He was Nordstrom’s before its time.”

A day rarely passed without a humorous “Pat Holden-ism,” such as, “If you don’t have anything to do, don’t do it here,” the mayor recalled.

Pat Holden never forgot a name, even when saddled with illness earlier this year.

Tuesday’s Mass was marked by religious hymns, prayers and Irish standards like “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

It ended with a classic race-track bugle call from the church balcony, a tip of the hat to Holden’s love of horse racing.

The mayor said he hoped people would remember his father by the lyrics of a John Prine song, “Hello In There”: “Please don’t just pass em by and stare, as if you didn’t care, say, Hello in there, hello.'”


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