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‘Painless dentist, Southern Gentleman leaves memories

By Walter Geiger When Laura and I first moved to Barnesville back in 1979, among the first folks to take us in were Holland and Louise Jackson. Louise, who died 10 years ago, was a gourmet cook but all she did was cook. Holland set tables, assisted in the kitchen and cleared and washed all the dishes. He polished silver. He polished brass. He relished the menial tasks most of us menfolk despise. The Jacksons were superb entertainers. Their annual Christmas Eve party was legendary and Holland and Louise were really the only ones who could pull that off. It has been a dozen or so years since the last one but people still talk about those events that went on for generations. Both had servant’s hearts. Louise’s grandaddy, Dr. John Corry, was a beloved local physician as was Holland’s father, Dr. J. Holland Jackson Sr. I learned a lot of Barnesville history in that kitchen basking in elaborate tales of those two men, their patients and counterparts. Holland went to Emory, became a dentist and was perfectly suited for that job. He was caring, gentle and very laid back. Most people, including myself, tense up at the thought of going to the dentist. Holland had a manner about him that alleviated that tension completely for all but the toughest cases. For those he used laughing gas. Laura’s daddy spent a lot of time in Holland’s chair and referred to him as the ‘˜painless dentist’. It helped that Quimby had, according to Holland, the highest threshold for pain of any patient he had ever seen. He was the epitome of a Southern gentleman. He was kind and deferential to one and all and I never, ever heard him raise his voice. He had a wry sense of humor. I happened to drop by his office just as the late chief deputy Jerry Torbert was bringing in a prisoner from the jail who had a toothache. This prisoner was chained at his wrists and ankles. He was a young thug from the hood who had committed some sort of heinous crime. He had the street swagger and a sullen gaze. Jerry and Holland got him situated and Holland affixed the mask for the nitrous oxide. Just before he opened the nozzle on the gas canister, Holland asked the thug in his rich drawl, ‘You do realize that this is an electric chair,’ referring to its motorized adjustments. The street tough’s eyes bugged out. His hands clenched on the arms of the chair. It appeared he was about to bolt when the gas took effect and he went numb. Jerry and I laughed for about 10 minutes while Holland was all business. The troublesome tooth got yanked. The gas was cut off and the prisoner’s aftercare consisted of being told to put a wet teabag on the hole in his mouth if it started bleeding. He left with a mouthful of gauze and not so nearly as tough as he thought he was upon his entrance. I could tell many, many similar tales. Holland was a very interesting man to be around. He was loving, talented, generous and doted on his only child, Elizabeth. He and Louise were Godparents to one of our daughters but treated both of them as if they were their own children. The Geiger girls called him ‘˜Doc’. After Louise’s death, Doc married their dear, longtime friend Eileen Smith and took on Leigh, Jeanie, their three sons and a new extended family. Holland demonstrated love, respect and devotion for Eileen and each and every member of their blended family loved him dearly. Eileen took on Elizabeth, Grace Louise and the Geiger girls. Holland and Eileen’s first husband, Judge Byron Smith, grew up next door to each other, played together and were great friends. Holland was a connoisseur of art and Eileen is an acclaimed artist and retired elementary school art teacher. He appreciated her talents and love. They enjoyed living life to the fullest together and I picture him driving the red Oldsmobile convertible with Eileen navigating and Musa, the big German Shepherd, in the back seat. Eileen is an animal lover and one of her cats, Hattie Jean, would have nothing to do with her when Holland came on the scene. Hattie Jean stayed in Holland’s lap during his illness and was jealous when anyone approached him, even Eileen. Eileen directed his care in sickness and in health. He exemplified love and she made sure he was loved, well cared for and nurtured until the end. Their’s truly was a second marriage made in heaven. In the nearly 38 years I have known Holland, I have never heard anyone say anything derogatory about him. That is a legacy very, very few of us will claim when our days here on earth have run their course. Holland was simply beloved. Ultimately stricken with leukemia, Eileen gave him the best possible care but the disease took its inevitable toll and Holland died on Thanksgiving Day. His families were at his side. He was laid to rest Monday in Greenwood Cemetery. It is fitting Doc died on Thanksgiving for he leaves behind a host of family, friends and former patients who are thankful for his life, his love, his sweet spirit and his benevolence. I am proud to count myself among that group and can tell you firsthand we will miss him dearly. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette. He delivered these remarks as a eulogy at Dr. Holland Jackson’s funeral Nov. 28, 2016.

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