Darwin Holian, 89, Santa Barbara

Published 6:08 am Sunday, May 6, 2012

Darwin K. Holian went home to heaven to be with his Lord on April 27, 2012.

Darwin was born in Maynard, on April 9, 1923, to Kenneth Holian and Jessie Kuiper Holian. He was raised in Hendricks, where his father was the editor and publisher of the weekly Hendricks Pioneer newspaper and his mother was the reporter.

Darwin Holian

Darwin graduated from the local high school in 1941 and was given a scholarship to St. Olaf College in Northfield, where he attended for two years until joining the U.S. Navy during World War II. Because he was a pre-med student, the military chose to continue his education at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, which he attended for one year before being transferred to Great Lakes Naval Hospital as a hospital corpsman where he helped to care for wounded sailors. The Navy then saw fit to enroll him in 1944 in the University of Minnesota Medical School at Minneapolis, where he remained through the end of the war, graduating in 1947. Darwin married his college sweetheart, Eleanor Eastvold, on Nov. 11, 1944.

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When finished with medical school, because he had received schooling by the military, “Doc” was required to devote two years as a doctor in the service. He chose to enter the Army Medical Corps which stationed him at the Navajo Ordnance Depot in Flagstaff, Ariz. He and Eleanor and their first daughter, Charlotte, had a wonderful year exploring the Southwest until the Korean Conflict broke out in June of 1950. Three days later he was on his way to the Orient with the 3rd Infantry Division as a front-line surgeon. In February 1951 he broke his right arm while digging a foxhole in the frozen ground and was evacuated to Japan where he remained as a surgeon in a military hospital in Tokyo after his arm healed. He was honorably discharged in July of that year and began his surgical training at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Being a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans made him especially aware of his former military brothers. While in Minneapolis, his second daughter, Barbara, was born.

Darwin’s first practice as a general surgeon was in Albert Lea, beginning in 1954. While there, he became a Diplomat of the American Board of Surgery and later a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. During Doc and Eleanor’s 14 years in Albert Lea, two other children were born, Steven and Ann, and a full life of service and blessings was had.

Leaving their oldest daughter Charlotte who was in college, the rest of the family moved to Santa Barbara in 1968. Despite the already numerous surgeons in Santa Barbara, Darwin took to the challenge, and after three years of working emergency rooms and assisting other surgeons, his previous experience and dogged persistence finally resulted in an active practice.

His last 10 medical years Darwin concentrated on doing obesity surgery. As a pioneer in this field, he gave talks around the world and had articles published both in surgical magazines as well as in a Canadian obesity surgery book. He once said, “This was an operation that totally changed my life as well as the lives of hundreds of others.” His faithful secretary, Trisha Gilman, was his right hand supporter in the endeavor. They had the first computerized medical office in Santa Barbara, and Doc continued to be interested in computers all his life.

Darwin served as Chief of Staff at Goleta Valley Hospital and served a stint as a member of the Board of the Santa Barbara Medical Society. In addition to his practice, Doc did medical missionary work in Mexico, Honduras, the Philippines and Bulgaria, but he was not granted a visa to work in China, so Eleanor and he used that visit to pass out Bibles undercover instead.

As a doctor who believed in 24/7 care of his patients, he was on call for 40 years. A true general surgeon, he used to say, “They don’t make us anymore.”

Darwin was involved in the Boy Scouts, Elks and Kiwanis. He loved golf, fishing and big game hunting, was a church trustee, and as a member of the VISTAS Lifelong Learning Center, he continued his desire to stay current and keep his mind alert. Crossword puzzles and Sukodu were also aids to that end.

An avid Bible scholar, Darwin was raised a Lutheran, was a Baptist theologically, but enjoyed worshiping with the Presbyterians. His love of the Scriptures tied in well with his Bible teaching wife who often tempered his strict interpretations.

Darwin concluded, “How could one not be grateful for such a fulfilling life? I have had a most satisfying and rewarding one. To God be the glory!”

The Holian family would like to express heartfelt thanks to The Samarkand Retirement Community, Dr. Gregg Newman, Assisted Home Hospice, and Independent Nurse Consulting for helping them to keep Dad at home until the end, per his wish.

A celebration of Darwin’s life in Christ will be held in the Mountain Room at The Samarkand at 2 p.m. May 25.

He requested that memorials be sent to: Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital Foundation, Bible Study Fellowship International, or Compassion International.

Interment will be at Santa Barbara Cemetery. Arrangements by Welch-Ryce-Haider. Please visit www.wrhsb.com to leave online condolences and remembrances.