Donald Ray Holcombe passed away in Houston, Texas on Sunday the thirty first of May 2020. He was 90 years of age.
Don was born on Christmas Day in 1929 in Port Arthur, Texas. He was the only child of Denzil and Chloe Raiford Holcombe. At a young age he discovered his gift of musical talent which would become a driving force in his life. By the age of 11 he was teaching music lessons to neighbors and his career in music had officially begun. Don went on to graduate from Jefferson High School in Port Arthur as valedictorian before matriculating to Rice University. During his time at Rice, he spent his free time playing piano and accordion in bands for events around town and entering talent shows, further solidifying that his passion for music would become his career path.
After graduating from Rice, Don opened his first music store, Bellaire Music Company, in 1953. Over the coming decades Don would go on to co-found Holcombe-Lindquist Music Company, then moving on to found Holcombe Music. A legacy to his contributions to the music industry can still be seen today at 3133 Southwest Freeway. The "Piano in the Sky" sign at that location may have a different name on it now, but that was a contribution to the Houston skyline he was so proud of, and one that inspires those driving by to think about bringing music into their life, which was always his goal. In 1998 he retired, but never being one to sit around, he began teaching piano lessons, and continued to teach until just after his 90th birthday. Thousands of individuals can say he was their piano teacher, and he made an impression on every single one of them. There was no place Don would rather be than in front of a keyboard, and helping others discover the joy music can bring to their lives.
In 1972, Don married Joan Barmore and would not leave her side for the next 48 years. On many occasions over the years he would make the comment that meeting Joan was the best thing to ever happen to him, and he considered himself to be the luckiest man in the world to have her as his wife. During their many decades of marriage they would enjoy countless experiences traveling and raising a family together. In 1975, their son Charles Donald, Charley, was born and two years later he was followed by Juliana Lillian, Julie. Together the Holcombe's were as close a family as there has ever been. Whether it was month long trips exploring Europe together, quick trips to Vegas for some Black Jack and shows, weekends in Disneyworld, or the over 30 summers spent at their cabin in Wyoming, the Holcombe's made sure to take the time to be together, and that speaks to the relationship Don had with his family. It is easy to take family for granted, but Don never did. Whether it was supporting his children or grandchildren, Don always made time for the special people in his life.
Throughout his more than seventy years as a Houston resident, Don was involved in numerous professional organizations and his community. The River Oaks Breakfast Club, Shriners, Downtown Optimist Club, Houston Rotary Club, Rice Alumni organization ROMEO, an active member of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, along with leadership positions with the National Association of Music Merchants, Don enjoyed giving back to his industry and his community through leadership, his music and he cherished the incredible friendships made in these organizations throughout the years.
Don is survived by his wife Joan, their children Juliana Holcombe of Houston, son Charles Holcombe of Houston and his wife Nikki, and children Dylan Holcombe and Laurence Holcombe, as well as his daughter Debbie Bravo of Michigan from a previous marriage, and her family. He was loved and he will be missed by those that knew him.
Don was passionate for his interest in Parkinson’s research, as well as the music of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, and would kindly request that in lieu of flowers, please consider donating to either the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research michaeljfox.org, or the St Luke’s United Methodist Church Memorial Gift my.stlukesmethodist.org. And next time you hear a piano player in a restaurant, event or piano bar, make sure to throw an extra few dollars in their tip jar as Don always would, to honor their music and continue to support their passion on Don’s behalf.
A family service will be held on Thursday, June 18 at St Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. A live stream will be available at https://www.stlukesmethodist.org/memorial-livestream/