Up from the ashes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Features Editor

David Holmes wanted to make a grand entrance at the Gala at Troy Country Club last April.

He planned to circle the club in his self-built gyrocopter and then bring her down for a landing on the No. 10 fairway to the applause of a gala audience.

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However, Holmes came down in a blaze of glory. "Well, maybe just a blaze."

As he touched down, the gyrocopter lisped to one side, took a funny bounce, the engine died and the propeller blade struck the ground, causing the copter to flip, spark and burn.

For Holmes it was an embarrassing grand entrance and a real "meltdown."

His tux tails caught on fire and melted the nylon, making his tux a rather uncomfortable fit for such a gala affair.

"I wanted to be a lawyer people could look up to," Holmes said, laughing. "For a few minutes, they did. Then, they were running around trying to put me out."

Heroic efforts did put out his fire, but not him. They invited him to stay at the Gala and, being the good sport he is, Holmes stayed.

He was not going to let a crash landing, a totally destroyed gyrocopter and a hot seat spoil the big evening he had planned.

"I figure any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing," he said. "So, my landing at Troy County Club was a good landing."

When Holmes got home that night, there was a message on his answering machine from someone at the country club telling him that he couldn’t land his gyrocopter there because the club’s insurance wouldn’t cover such an "act."

So, he had to cough up 100 bucks for the "divot" he had made in the fairway, but his black-and-white was insured – but only by chance.

"When I rented the tux the salesperson asked if I wanted insurance and I said I didn’t" Holmes said, laughing. "What could I do to a tux, spill a little punch on it? Snag it on the dance floor?"

When he paid for the tux, however, he was charged for insurance.

"I noticed it after I got in the car and started to go back, but I thought, ‘What’s $2.50?’ and went on home," he said. "The day after the gala and my ‘event,’ I took the tux back and put that insured monkey on their back."

After Holmes "good" landing at Troy Country Club, he has taken a lot of teasing, dished out all in "good"

fun but he doesn’t mind.

"When my children were growing up, I talked to them a lot about being committed, now they’re taking about having me committed," he said laughing.

Not long after the gala event, Holmes was back at the drawing board with his salvaged engine at his side.

"You know what they say, there’s no fool like an old fool," he said, with a smile. "I didn’t plan on sitting around playing dominoes for the rest of my life. I wanted to enjoy life – what I have left of it –

and the best way I knew how was to live it to the fullest."

Holmes had been diagnosed with cancer and his life expectancy was less than two years. But, hormone theory has worked for him and he’s living his life on a wing and a prayer.

He recently completed his "Field of Dreams" on his farm near Antioch, complete with a hangar, a 2,000-foot runway and a brand new gyrocopter, with the exception of the reconstructed engine.

Holmes’ friend, Richard Shackleford, helped him with the construction of the hangar.

"Except the color," Shackleford said, laughing. "I didn’t pick pink. David did that."

Holmes laughingly blamed hormone therapy for his choice of colors.

"Since I’ve been on hormone therapy, I’ve put fancy curtains on my windows, moved the furniture around and I go shopping all the time," he said, then growing serious for a moment. "The Lord does answer prayers. He has been good to me and I am thankful for the treatments that can lengthen my life, because I am having a good time – up there."

Holmes has named his latest gyrocopter Phoenix.

"Phoenix – up from the ashes," he said, "That’s an appropriate name, I don’t think anyone will argue with that."

And few are brave enough or "crazy" enough go bicycling through the air the way Holmes does day-in day-out.

"It’s not an escape," he said. "It’s an exhilarating experience with life. There’s nothing like it. I feel closer to God up there than anywhere else. It’s an uplifting experience."

And just as quickly as Holmes can liftoff on his whirlybird, he can switch directions on the ground.

"I’m going to build another gyrocopter," he said, with a smile. "A three-seater and I’m selling gift certificates for rides. They’ll make great mother-in-law gifts for Mother’s Day."

Phoenix – up from the ashes – David Holmes and his Field of Dreams.