Although he endured what his daughter calls “untold horrors” as a Marine serving in the Pacific theater during World War II, Marshall F. Holmes was best known for founding The Azle Opry at his Azle Coin-O-Mat in 1963.
The local civic leader and fifth generation Azleite died Monday, April 1, in Fort Worth at the age of 86.
Holmes was the son of Laura Gipson and John H. Holmes, and his grandfather, W. T. Gipson, helped found some of the early organizations in Azle.
After attending school in Azle, Holmes joined the Marines and was based on Guadalcanal. He saw action on Guam and other islands in the Pacific before returning home to Azle.
Holmes married Vonnie Wright, who, according to his daughter, was his lifelong love, companion and supporter in all his endeavors. The couple raised two daughters, Marsha and Linda.
A longtime businessman and civic leader, Holmes and his family were active members of Azle Christian Church, and he and Vonnie headed the Azle Cemetery Association for many years, working untold hours as a labor of love.
But Holmes may best be remember as the man who started The Azle Opry, a well-known country music venue, now celebrating its 50th year of operation.
It began in a corner of the Azle Coin-O-Mat laundry in 1963 and continued with more musicians and friends who shared his love of country music. The Opry attracted much news and attention in the 1980s as a positive influence for the city.
Many an Azleite will recall wringing their laundry out on the hand-crank wringer before tossing them into an electric dryer – all while enjoying the toe-tapping sounds of country and western music – on a hot Friday evening through the years.
After the washers and dryers were removed, the building was also opened to civic groups, such as the Boy Scouts, the Azle Youth Association, and churches.
Many musicians and friends have enjoyed it every Friday night. Holmes has been honored for his contributions and achievements with proclamations from the City of Azle as well as from the State of Texas.
His family says Marshall Holmes will be remembered for his love of family and friends, strength of character, enjoyment of country music, and as a proud son of the Azle community and the United States of America.
Those who wish may leave a memorial gift to The Azle Opry or Ash Creek Cemetery Association.