John Sanford Holmes

September 29, 1943 - March 6,2023

John Sanford Holmes, loving husband of Karen Holmes, and long-time resident of Merced, California, and Genoa, Nevada, was surrounded by family when he passed away on March 6, 2023. John lived a rich, fulfilling, and long life, and is finally at peace after a long struggle against Lewy body dementia.

John was born to Jean and Frank on September 29, 1943, on Governors Island, New York moments after his twin sister Carolyn. He was raised in San Fernando, California with siblings Carolyn, Wendy, and Peter. John loved basketball. He was named to the first team all LA City and played all four years in college. After his first year at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1962, he took a year off to travel Europe where he met Nancy Barton. They returned to California, graduated together from Valley State (now California State University at Northridge), and were married in 1967. John went on to earn a medical degree and complete an orthopedic residency at George Washington University. He was drafted and served three years as a major with the U.S. Army in Germany, before he and Nancy settled down in Merced, California with their four boys - Brian, Colin, Jamie, and Kevin. John joined the Merced Orthopedic Medical Group in 1979 and then opened up his own practice - Olivewood Orthopedics in 1985. For 30 years, until his retirement in 2009, John diligently served the people of Merced County. He treated sprained joints and fixed broken bones, replaced worn-out knees and hips, and worked weekends and nights as an on-call doctor at Mercy and MCMC hospitals where he helped anyone in need.

John loved his four boys, and regularly expressed the love, joy, and pride he felt for each of them. He guided and supported them throughout their lives, and loved watching them develop into adults, husbands, and fathers. John was a passionate environmental activist who worked locally to improve the air quality of the Central Valley by helping prevent a rocket engine testing plant from setting up operations in Merced County. He worked to raise awareness of issues of global and existential importance such as nuclear nonproliferation and climate change. John greatly valued service to others, and was a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. As a former President of the Rotary Club of North Merced and the Chair of his Rotary District’s International Service Committee, he led humanitarian projects for those in need in Russia, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

After a divorce from Nancy in 1997, John married Karen Rezzelle in 1999 and adopted her daughters Candace and Connie. John retired to Genoa, Nevada where he and Karen opened a restaurant, Genoa Station, and John regularly entertained guests by playing guitar and singing folk songs as “Genoa John.” He volunteered at Genoa’s town fundraiser Candy Dance and was an active participant in the town’s Cowboy Poetry Festival. John loved Genoa and was an integral part of the community.

John will be remembered for his sense of humor, his love of family, his community and international service, his environmental activism, and his patient bedside manner as a long-time doctor.

John is survived by his wife Karen; sister Carolyn Holmes (Hal), brothers Peter (Peggy) and Victor (Betsy); sons by Nancy Holmes: Brian (Mary Kay), Colin (Wyokemia), Jamie (Laura), Kevin (Jessica); daughters Candace and Connie (Frank); grandchildren: Hazel, Sid, Olivia, Abbie, Emma, Logan, Jack, Oliver, Katelyn, Heather; and great grandchild Emily. John is predeceased by his parents and his sister Wendy (Roger).

A celebration of life will be held at 2339 Main Street, Genoa, Nevada on July 1, 2023 from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Greenpeace USA ( an organization John was passionate about and frequently supported. For those who would like to share memories of John or condolences with his family, please email: