John “Johnny” Holden is remembered for his adventurous spirit, keen academic mind and a deep love for his family and friends.
Born into a close family, Johnny valued his relationships with friends and loved ones more than anything, according to his father John Holden Sr.
“Johnny was a young man who placed high values on relationships rather than things,” John Sr. said. “I learned a lot from him over our time together, and it always amazed me that when presented with the opportunity — ‘Would you like this shiny new thing or would you like to spend time with one of your relatives you hadn’t seen for a while?’ — He would always seem to opt for the time with family, the time with friends.”
John Sr. said that while this trait was seen in Johnny before he came to Texas A&M, he feels that Johnny further defined his character when he enrolled.
Johnny seemed destined for A&M, where his grandfather, Class of 1945, attended school. John Sr. said Johnny's family members were instrumental in influencing Johnny's decision to become an Aggie.
“Johnny’s grandfather, my father-in-law, who normally lives with us here in the house … he is very loyal and always has been,” John Sr. said. “And that’s where Johnny got a lot of his desire to go to A&M. He also had three older sisters who all went to Texas A&M, so he didn’t even look elsewhere.”
Several memories of Johnny stand out, but John Sr. said woodworking with his son over the last few years comes to mind as a standout moment and serves as a reminder of how Johnny would find ways to spend extra time with his family.
“Just the last couple of years, the time that we have spent together woodworking, we’ve done that not because he started out being really interested in it, he did it a little bit with me as a kid, but it’s like he had this mental checklist that he’s been going through for the last two years, saying, ‘I want to spend time with Dad and woodworking’s the thing we can do,’” John Sr. said. “He would come up with these initiatives, overtly set up for the reason of spending time together, and he would come up with an idea like woodworking for us, and that became a ritual that I really liked.”
John Sr. said Johnny’s friends saw him as someone who was always there for them, and that Johnny had knack for bringing people together. This fit in well with his naturally curious mind, according to John Sr.
“He had this curiosity that caused him to want to try new things all the time,” John Sr. said. “He was not a gifted artist, but he decided that he could paint and get enjoyment out of it, so he started to paint.”
This curiosity also led Johnny to learn how to play three different instruments on his own and become certified as an EMT with the hope of volunteering at a fire department one day.
Johnny graduated from A&M in 2010 with a degree in mechanical engineering, and later returned to campus as a graduate student after working overseas.
“He always had this interest in working overseas, he got that because of [that] Aggie grandfather of his, who spent much of his career overseas,” John Sr. said. “So Johnny interviewed just looking for international activities, and he took a job … in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He worked as a field engineer there for about five years.”
After spending time abroad, Johnny chose to return to A&M to work toward his master’s degree.
“He decided to pursue a master’s degree in petroleum engineering, and to do that at Texas A&M,” John Sr. said. “ It was largely a way for him to spend more time stateside with his wife.”
John Sr. said he wants to honor his son’s memory by living the lessons Johnny taught him.
“At this point as a father, I’m all torn up about it … but what I can do is move forward,” John Sr. said. “Try to provide a good testimonial to Johnny, a good funeral service for him, protect his young wife and try to keep her [putting] one step ahead of the other. Those are the things I want to do, try to do things in his memory that make a difference. I feel like he did that for me over the years. I look back on him, and there are so many things I'm grateful to him for showing me.”