Capt. James Holt has seen prison riots, hostage situations, officer-involved shootings, train crashes, plane crashes and a multitude of fatal car crashes during nearly 37 years with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
But Holt, a Youngstown native and Poland resident who retired Friday, also remembers a promise he made to a woman whose young son had died in a car crash more than 20 years ago in Mansfield.
Holt had been to the morgue to see the boy’s body and felt it was better that his mother not see him that way. He asked the woman not to go because he believed the memory of seeing him that way might make it hard for her to remember happier times.
Finally, the woman agreed, but on one condition.
“She asked that I go to the morgue and hold his hand and say a prayer for him and tell him his mother loves him,” Holt said.
He headed back to the accident scene, which took many hours to process, and it was 10 to 11 hours later when he got free to fulfill his promise. With help from the coroner, he got into the morgue and did what he said.
“There’s a human factor to it,” Holt said of work at the highway patrol.
Holt, a 1975 Chaney High School graduate who has received 135 commendation letters since his career began in Fremont in 1979, advanced to district commander in Bucyrus and then district commander of the Warren district headquarters, where he supervised 403 personnel at nine patrol posts.
Holt is proud of the work of the highway patrol, calling it the “premiere law enforcement agency in the United States. They’re strict, but they’re fair,” he said.