NCL Honors Norfolk’s Person of the Year

Grace Allen
From left, NCL president Kelly Panepinto, Norfolk’s 2019 Person of the Year Richard Holmes, and gala chair Jennifer Oliver.
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

A life-long Norfolk resident was recently honored as the 2019 Person of the Year by the Norfolk Community League (NCL). Richard “Dick” Holmes was recognized during NCL’s gala celebration, held on Saturday, May 18 at the Tiffany Ballroom in Norwood.
NCL member Kristen Gilmore, who served on the gala committee, called Holmes “the patriarch of Norfolk” and lauded his community service and love of the town.
“Mr. Holmes has impacted this community in a lot of ways, mostly behind the scenes, but he is also a genuinely good guy,” said Gilmore. “There is general agreement among the people who know him that he is humble and hardworking and doesn’t do what he does for accolades or appreciation.”
Holmes is the owner of the W.T. Holmes Transportation Company, which provides bus transportation for schools in ten area towns. The bus company sits on over 100 acres, land that Holmes generously shares with the community for two yearly events: Norfolk’s Community Day, held in June, and the Haunted Train Ride, held in October, which raises thousands of dollars for various town organizations.
Both events feature rides on Holmes’ antique, miniature trains. The rare trains were originally amusement park rides, and Holmes, a collector, laid tracks on a half-mile loop in the woods behind his house.
When asked why he opens his property and shares his train collection for these events, Holmes replied, “We do it for the community. We share what we have.”
Holmes also has several antique vehicles among his fleet of busses, which he lends regularly to area parades.
Tim Holmes, Dick’s son, says community service is ingrained in the family.
“My grandfather and my father emphasized community service because it makes your community go,” said the younger Holmes. “Everyone needs to give something. You contribute what and how you can. I guess you’d call it the Yankee spirit.”
Dick Holmes’ pride in Norfolk is evident. He owns the Country Crossing plaza in the center of town, and says he took great care to build the plaza in 1985 with a classic New England aesthetic. His bus company offices are also housed in a colonial-style building, when he could have built a cheaper, metal structure.
Holmes, who is 76 years old, was born and bred in town. He married his high school sweetheart, Diane Delaney (the couple is celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary this year), and has two sons and a daughter and nine grandchildren. Although he has seen many changes in the community, Norfolk still retains that small-town feel, he said.
W. T. Holmes Transportation Company was started by Walter Holmes, Dick’s father, in 1932. Walter Holmes served in town government and as a selectman for many years. Dick took over the business in the 1960s, and his two sons now help run the company. A grandson has also joined the family business.
Notably, only about 12 percent of family businesses survive into the third generation, and only 3 percent are still operational into the fourth generation and beyond. Holmes attributes his company’s success to old-fashioned family values. Monday nights are family dinner nights, and most of the extended family tries to at least drop in and say hello, if not stay for a meal.
“We all get along pretty well,” said the reticent Holmes. “We all give and take. My dad had a few busses, and we’re up to 170 today. We work hard at it.”
Holmes still starts his work day at 5 a.m., showing up in the office before his sons.
“I have to stay here to keep my eye on them,” joked the older Holmes.
When the school year ends, repair work on the busses begin. Holmes does the body work with a grandson, and is the only person allowed to use the sewing machine to mend any ripped seats.
Holmes is also active in the town’s Federated Church, and has served on the town’s Advisory Board in the past.
This is the third time the Norfolk Community League has selected a Person of the Year, according to Kelly Panepinto, the organization’s president. The Person of the Year is nominated by residents and then the 12-member NCL board chooses 3 to 4 candidates for residents to vote on. This year’s candidates were Holmes, Jeff Chalmers, Hillary Cohen, and Tara Spellman.
In an interesting twist this year, the candidates urged residents, on the town’s Facebook page, to vote for Dick Holmes instead of themselves.
“I think this speaks not only to our very selfless candidates but also to the amazing contributions Dick and his family have made to the community,” said Panepinto. “The other nominees recognized that many of their contributions are made possible through the generosity of Dick and his entire family.”
The Norfolk Community League has about 200 family memberships. Formed in 1974 as NOVA (Norfolk Organization for Various Activities), the organization’s goal, according to its website, is to “enhance the quality of life for Norfolk residents, to increase involvement in activities that better our community and to strengthen community spirit.” NCL provides a variety of social, family-based and fundraising activities for its members. All monies raised through NCL activities and fundraisers are dispersed to various Norfolk groups through its grants program.
One of its biggest fundraisers is the NCL gala, held once every 18 months. The next gala and Person of the Year selection will be in the spring of 2021.
NCL welcomes new members. For more information about NCL or to join the organization, visit