Faces in the Crowd: The Holmes Family

March 15, 2018

By Aaron Michell
Correspondent

Dean Holmes hasn’t taken a vacation in 25 years. Because when you love what you do, every day becomes a vacation.
One of 12 siblings born and raised on the Holmes Farm in Tustin, Dean learned the farm-country work ethic from an early age. Being “poor without knowing it,” he learned the importance of family, faith and hard work.
In 1979, Dean married Dawn Culp of Reed City, and together the two of them have raised four children: Deana, Brian, James, and Mariah; and four grandchildren: Tatum, Vivian, Parker, and Carter.
Deana’s the personal trainer with the biggest heart for helping those in need; Brian’s the talented engineer with the natural ability; James is the hard-working athlete, craftsman, and artist; Mariah’s the elementary teacher, church leader, and – according to Dean – probably the best athlete of the bunch.
We were fortunate enough recently to sit down with Dean, Dawn, and James, at their office and showroom in Tustin to get a little insight into what the Holmes family is all about.
We found out they’re about sports: Softball, golf, basketball, volleyball – you name it, they either play it or watch it religiously. And they’re about religion too – God is a big part of all their lives. They’re about business – their company, Holmes Wood Products, continues to grow by the day, with some of their work having been featured on Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters.
Most importantly, perhaps, they’re about family. And with 12 siblings, 4 kids, 4 grandkids, and 150 or so other close relatives, it’s easy to see why. It’s also easy to see why this family is more than just another bunch of faces in the crowd.

The faces of the Holmes family; Brian, Carter, Parker, Christy, Mariah, James, Dawn, Dean, Deana, Vivian, Curt and Tatum.

The faces of the Holmes family; Brian, Carter, Parker, Christy, Mariah, James, Dawn, Dean, Deana, Vivian, Curt and Tatum.

Marion Press: So Dean, I know you come from a big family, tell us about that.
Dean: There’s 12 of us; 12 siblings: 5 boys, 7 girls. We moved here when I was two, so about 1960. And we’ve been here ever since. We all went to school in Marion and graduated from there. We have the largest family – unless it’s changed – we had the largest family to ever graduate out of Marion.
Most of us are still around here – Alan is just north of us; my brother Keith – we own 160 acres right straight through – is on the other end of it. The three of us own the original farm, and then I’ve got a sister, Doreen, that’s on some land that’s adjacent to his. And then several other siblings, too, that are in Tustin. I’d say about 9 out of the 12 are within 3 or 4 miles of here.

MP: What was that like, growing up with 12 siblings?
Dean: We were – well we were pretty poor, so we made our own entertainment, just because there was a lot of us, and every Sunday we were either playing softball, or volleyball, baseball, football; I mean, on Sunday afternoon we would pretty much all end up here and have a cookout and some sort of sporting event. Badminton, ping pong – everything was competitive. Didn’t matter; girls, boys – I had sisters who were just as good at ping pong.
Dawn: Or better…
Dean: Yeah, they’d probably say better.
Dawn: They would!
Dean: Because if you lost, you’d have to wait two hours before you’d get to play again be,cause there’s 10 people ahead of ya. My sisters – they didn’t like losing anymore than we did. But their arms are a little bit shorter than ours, so we could always do things they couldn’t. Nobody has a problem with taking advantage of their siblings!
But we grew up on the farm. We had to milk cows everyday before school and then every night. But that’s what we knew – we didn’t know other people didn’t have to do that. We didn’t know – I know we weren’t very well off financially, but we really didn’t know we weren’t. Most of my friends in high school were about in the same situation. They may have been a little better off financially, but not a whole lot. We did a lot of fun things, so I wouldn’t say that any of us have a lot of regrets.
The only regret that I had was that I didn’t get the opportunity to do sports in school – My dad, once he put us on that school bus, as far as he was concerned, it was the school’s responsibility to get us back; that was his philosophy. And that’s one thing that Dawn and I both made a real effort to do with our own kids, was to make sure that they had that opportunity to play in any athletic endeavor that they wanted to be a part of.

MP: And your office here, when did this come about? Tell us about Holmes Wood Products.
Dawn: In 2010 is when he started Dean’s Custom Sheds, but that wasn’t official until 2011. But he started building the sheds and that was hitting it off, and then in 2012 he made his first income with the varnishing. And in 2013 is when it really started booming, and now this year has been our biggest year with the varnishing and so we decided to change our name from Dean’s Custom Sheds and just put it all under one name – all these little businesses – so as of July of this year we became Holmes Wood Products, LLC.
Dean: So, about every year over the last three to four years, the business has probably doubled each year and then some, as far as the amount of work that we have and what we bring in.
Where we shine is pre-finishing; the tongue and groove; the whitewashing. We do some other things to fill-in. We still do the storage sheds yet. The 6-inch tongue and groove – that I have stocked; prefinished and ready to go. People can come in off the street and pick it up. Anything else, say they want whitewash, or shiplap, or anything like that, they’ll have to order it and I’ll go ahead and get it made up and they’ll pick it up once I’ve got it ready.
Dawn: We just get busier and busier.
Dean: It’s just the two of us, and it’s only been a year that he’s been a part of the business. James is actually a craftsman, I’m not.
Dawn: That’s more his business; he’s working with this in this building, but he has his own income with woodworking – he can explain better than we can.
James: So, I’m kind of in-between some stuff right now. Originally, I started building furniture and selling it, probably 7 years ago or so – that’s about when we put my shop in. And I started doing that just in the winter when I got slow, just because I kind of enjoyed it; thought I’d make a little extra money here and there.
I always loved woodworking from school – taking woodshop with Mr. Cole for six years – so that’s kind of how I fell in love with woodworking. I always thought that was my dream job and so I started doing it, and it became another job to me; once I started doing it close to full-time, it just became a regular job…
What my dream job now is that I almost want to be like an artist. I want to build furniture, wall décor, really artsy, decorative stuff. And not custom – I just come up with my own stuff and basically have a showroom and sell it. I’m getting into building river tables and some wall décor. I’m trying to come up with some projects that are native to Michigan to incorporate the Great Lakes. It’s woodworking but it’s also art. That’s my passion, stuff like this.
Dean: That’s the problem – he wants to putter and I need him to work!

MP: Stop puttering, James!
MP: Outside of work, what do you like to do for fun?
James: He doesn’t have hobbies… He likes farming.
Dean: But that’s a hobby!
Dawn: Putting up hay in the summer.

MP:
So that’s a break from work, putting up hay?
Dean: Yeah, I get out on the tractor; now I have my phone, but I can just shut it off.
Dawn: And he has music, and air conditioning…
Dean: Music is probably my biggest passion. I still listen to a lot of the music that I did growing up.
Our whole family was very a musical family – my dad played guitar. That’s the other thing, when you asked what did we do as kids: that’s what we did in the evenings, well, we called ‘em hoedowns.
My dad would play guitar. My family is very gifted vocally, especially the girls, so we would sit down and sing for hours, just as a family – gospel music, country music, you name it. There would be a group of us, 15 – 20 of us.
James: And they still do it today.
Dean: We have our Christmas program – Mariah is a very gifted musician, she’s taken up guitar. We, of course, enjoy listening to her. I have the radio on, pretty much continuously.
I’ve got some siblings who are incredible singers. My mom passed away a year ago and they did some songs at her funeral and it was just beautiful.
There’s something about – when it comes to music – harmony and a family, it’s just always if it’s done right, it’s just phenomenal. Just absolutely fantastic. So, at Christmas time, we still, everybody if they want to, will get up and do a little bit – either a solo or play guitar or maybe they’ll sing. We’ll probably spend at least an hour. My mom passed away, but that was her biggest input – she wanted to make sure that we continue that tradition. Which, we still do that to this day and I don’t know if that will ever change.

MP: So, Dean is picking Michigan [to win the college basketball tournament], James is picking Michigan State; who are you picking, Dawn?
Dawn: I just support Dean. Occasionally. I do like March Madness; I like basketball. I’m not a sports junkie, but I’ve loved watching the kids.
Dean: My son-in-law, Curtis, was a very good athlete – he played soccer and basketball and ran track, but he comes up here and we’re thinking that we’re gonna watch the Lions, or watch the game if the Tigers are on… and he’s in there ten minutes and then he’s out in the yard shooting his bow; and this guy Mariah’s marrying – same way. They enjoy sports, but they’re not gonna watch it on TV.
Dawn: Not 24/7, like him.
Dean: Well I only watch it when it’s on! When the Lions are on from 1-4 pm, I just tell her, ‘Don’t bother me.’
Dawn: Yeah. But he’s told me that since we were first married. ‘Don’t bother me.’

Dean, Dawn and James Holmes.

Dean, Dawn and James Holmes.

MP: So you were forewarned.
Dean: Right. I look at it as they play 16 games a year, that’s 3 hours a game, that’s 48 hours a year. I don’t want anybody bothering me. I could care less if we have company; we could have a group or whatever, that’s fine. But if I really want to watch a game, I could care less if I have anybody there.
James: If it’s important, then we want to watch it by ourselves.
Dean: If it’s important then we may watch it together, and we might not, but I have no problem watching a very, very important game…
Dawn: …all by himself.
Dean: I don’t need maybe a glass of Pepsi and a bag of ’tater chips; I don’t need to be chattin’ with somebody else about what’s goin’ on!
If the Lions ever get in the Super Bowl, I don’t need anybody for the Super Bowl party. I’ll go get my pizza and bring it home and watch it by myself. Which, I don’t think is normal…
James: Well, if it’s an important game, and you’re invested in it and you care about it, you wanna watch it by yourself so nobody’s there bugging ya, making stupid comments.
Dean: Unless you have somebody to watch it with who’s somewhat knowledgeable.
Dawn: These two actually go really well watching the game together!

MP:
Two questions that we ask everyone: what is it about this community that you really enjoy: what is it that keeps you here? And who have been your mentors or role models that have helped get you to where you’re at today?
Dean: For me, anybody in my family I’d consider a role model, but I’ve worked for my brother Keith for 30 years and he probably was as good a role model as I possibly could’ve had: he was honest, he had tremendous integrity, his work ethic was phenomenal. He would be no doubt for me, my role model.
This community is all I’ve ever known. You can put that anyway you want. I’m here ‘cause this is where I was born, I guess. Why I wasn’t born in the heat that’d be my only question. Why anybody would stay in Michigan when there’s states that sunshine and it’s 80 degrees in the winter – that would be my question. I’m only here in Michigan because my family’s here.
James: For me, and for him too – he’s not going anywhere – this community is special to us because of family, with most of our family still around here and most of us are so family-oriented that’s one reason why we love this area. All of us love the small community; it’s nice knowing your neighbors; it’s nice knowing the people around you who can help you out – and you don’t get that in a bigger community.
Friends and family and the close community that draws us here. Michigan’s such a cool area.

MP: It is. It’s very underrated.
James: With the Great Lakes being close, and the hiking, and our property here, if you go out on the hill and take a look, it’s just absolutely beautiful.
Dawn: Being out in the country there’s so much beauty: The sunsets; the stars at night.
James: As for role models, for sure Keith – I’ve been working with him and my dad since I was 10. Keith and my cousin Darren. They’ve both given me a very good work ethic. They’ve taught me how to do things professionally, how to do things right. Taking pride in your work. They’ve helped me out a lot. And Adam Cole – he’s not teaching shop anymore, but having him for shop class for five or six years. And after I graduated we’d still get together and we worked on some renovation projects at the school, and I’d come in and help with some of his classes. He taught me a lot and was a very good role model and he taught me a lot about woodworking and the craft that I was in.

MP: And Dawn, what advice has stuck out for you over the years?
Dawn: Oh boy, I don’t know. Off the top of my head I can’t think of anything other than my faith – God’s word and getting direction and trying to live by that. To love others and treat others how you’d want to be treated. To give what you can give and to support the community. I know that the Holmes’ are loud and expressive. But they can be very private too and I think I’m that way also. I guess that’s why I love this area.
It’s so beautiful. I enjoy being outdoors: gardening, walking, the people we run into. And like James said, the people of the community, I think it’s so great how we can just pull together – even if we have our differences, we’re still gonna be there for each other.



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2 Responses to Faces in the Crowd: The Holmes Family

  1. Pam and Tony T Reply

    March 15, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    What a great article. This family and the rest of the Holmes clan are so awesome, They live thier faith and walk thier talk. We are blessed to count many in this family, including Dean, and his family as friends.

  2. Nathan Johnson Reply

    March 15, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing more of your story. You guys were good neighbors to grow up around. I have fond memories of your clan and learned so much about farming and life from your folks.

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