The size of the crowd at Mark Holm’s memorial service in Albuquerque on Saturday told me he was valued as much for his grace as a person as his talent as a photojournalist.

Several hundred people turned out, I’d guess. This struck me as exceptional for a newspaper person, especially for we 60-somethings, who started out in newsroom environments far more caustic than today’s.

Mark Holm probably always would have been exemplary, though, then or now. His brother, Peter, said yesterday it just wasn’t in Mark’s nature to be fierce, competitive or cruel. He had another way.

After learning of his death at 63, friends and co-workers described him as a quiet, kind and generous guy. He was remembered as patient, mirthful, encouraging, a mentor to many younger people coming up in the business. We were not close friends and I did not know him well, but working with him always felt good. My recurring image is that he always had a smile for you. I thought he had an aura. I understand now it was the aura of a beautiful person. I liked him from the start.

Mark’s grown-up kids — Alison, Mary Kate and Luke —  did wonderful jobs of remembering their father with well-chosen words. All three managed through grief and the stress of public speaking to draw fond, knowing laughter from the memorial service’s saddened crowd. I suspect they learned the trick from their father, known for grinning under a mustache that one daughter with familiar, gentle humor described as “confident but not aggressive.”

Mark didn’t need a camera for a penetrating look. You saw genuine interest when he faced you. You knew he listened, just as he might study through the lense. One of the memories that impressed me most yesterday was a daughter describing a father with the patience and love to learn and build on what was unique in each of his three children. It showed in their poise Saturday.

I never get over wondering what’s fair about a good person dying, especially when they seem so young. The loss seems so great I wouldn’t know what to suggest as consolation for Mark’s wife, Joan, who, by the way, I do not mean to overlook in the child-rearing equation here, nor in Mark’s care. But I am also moved by how much Mark Holm meant to so many people.

So far, the only conclusion I’ve been able to draw from his passing is that day-to-day, dealing with others, I should try to be more like him.

And I probably should just move on alone with my thoughts, but I guess it’s the newspaperman in me that compels me to report on the memorial service. And word herder that I am, I’ll inflict one more cliche on my photographer friend: Here is a picture worth a thousand words.

mark holm

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