I Lean on Love
Hazel Holmes, Wife and Love of Ernest Holmes
By Jeannette Quinn Bisbee
Ernest Holmes was a happy man. He had too many friends to count, hobbies like cooking and gardening and poetry, and his passion for Science of Mind, treatment, and all spiritual matters. He was always expanding the horizons of his mind and the contents of his brain. He was always “open at the top” ever learning about Spirit and sharing that knowledge through books, sermons, classes, radio and television.
But Ernest Holmes only had two women he ever loved deeply in his life: his mother, Anna Holmes and the woman he was married to for almost 30 years—Hazel Durkee Gillan Foster—a woman who Ernest had glimpsed upon first coming to join Fenwicke, his brother, in Venice, California in 1912. He wasn’t to meet her formally until 1927. A few months later they would marry and stay beloved companions side-by-side for the rest of Hazel’s life.
Hazel was the daughter of Annie Durkee Gillan. “Aunt Annie” as she was known to all, was the sister to Augusta Rundel—“Aunt Gussie” a very, very important person in Ernest’s life. Gussie Rundel was a well-known, successful, popular realtor in the Los Angeles area and a student in the first class of graduating practitioners in 1927. In 1914, Fenwicke Holmes’ congregation was building a new Congregational Church to house his ever-growing ministry. Ernest Holmes had just moved out to California, and he assisted Fenwicke on Sundays and lived with him. Fenwicke’s congregation attended church services in a temporary building—while the new church was being built. That building burned to the ground; there was no place to hold services and the new building wouldn’t be done for months. Gussie Rundel quickly came to the rescue and rented out new buildings where Fenwicke could hold his services; she became lifelong devoted friends of both Fenwicke and Ernest. Gussie came to know and love Ernest so deeply and believe in his abilities as a spiritual practitioner and speaker that she even made available to him a cottage that was the location of his first, “Home of Healing” in Venice, CA. She also took Ernest to her favorite men’s clothing store and paid to have all of his suits custom made so he would look good up on the platform when he spoke. He wore the cutaway coat and striped trousers that Gussie thought the height of fashion in 1916 and he wore as he rose to fame as a lecturer. But Ernest had never forgotten the glimpse he had gotten of her niece―the lovely Hazel.
Hazel impressed all who met her—despite being a quiet woman who liked to stay in the background. She had an amazing singing voice, and she had moved to Paris to train as an opera singer at a young age. However, even though her voice was magnificent, she gave it up. When asked why Hazel said, “Singing on the stage in an opera house would be only part of the career of an opera singer. The rest of the life was something I found I did not want….it didn’t fit with my own wishes for a way of life.” She gave up singing altogether because if she couldn’t devote time to her training, she didn’t want “less than.” She left opera and Paris behind her, although she became a devotee of fashion after her years in Paris, and was always known for her elegance and her hats and clothes. And her absolute kindness to all. In years to come, if a friend or acquaintance admired a bracelet, a ring, or a hat—she would instantly remove it and insist the admirer take it. It was part of her charm and part of beauty.
Hazel was known by two nicknames: Madame Buddha and the Duchess. Her best friend, Adela Rogers St. John, writer and friend to movie stars, gave her the first nickname due to her “imperturbability.” That was a quality that Ernest, too, adored in Hazel. He loved to tell the anecdote of one of their first dates. He had invited Hazel to join him on a visit to some friends in the High Sierra. It was a very hot day outside of Bishop, CA, and they were in an old Studebaker Ernest drove. They got a flat tire, and Ernest who was never very mechanically minded, struggled with the spare tire for an hour. Hazel just called out encouragement from her seat in the car while she baked in the summer heat. They resumed their drive, when “POP”―another tire went flat—and now they didn’t have a spare. Ernest rooted around and found a patch kit and spent a few more hours trying to get the tire patched. Again, Hazel serenely and patiently took in all the repairs. It was two a.m. when Ernest finished his repairs—too late to drive on. Hazel told him to get in the backseat and grab a nap, but first Ernest had to unload the hampers of fruits and vegetables that they were carrying up to the cabin. Ernest was in love! After baking in the car all day, and freezing in the desert cold all night, covered in a layer of dust and sand—Hazel emerged from the Studebaker the next day—totally calm, hat still at the proper angle, and not a spot of dust on her immaculate white gloves! She had never voiced one complaint throughout the hot, tiring day. Rev. William Hornaday gave her the nickname The Duchess, and you can see why!
Reginald Armor relates the story of Hazel and Ernest’s first formal meeting. Hazel had married a prosperous business man, who died shortly into the marriage. Grieving, her mother and aunt had encouraged Hazel to travel back to Europe—there she had a second, brief marriage where evidently her new husband took advantage of her and absconded with much of the money she had inherited after her first husband’s death. Saddened and not knowing her next path, she returned to California. Aunt Gussie insisted that she needed to hear Ernest speak and visit him for a practitioner session. She saw Ernest at the Ambassador Hotel ballroom, and allowed Gussie to take her to his office for a session.
“Always interested in solving the problems of others, he [Ernest] kindly invited Hazel into the office and closed the door. Normally, he was able to diagnose a case in fifteen or twenty minutes and recommend a solution. This time, however, it was nearly an hour before the door opened. Hazel’s demeanor was entirely different when she came out from when she went it. ‘I wasn’t aware,’ she bubbled, ‘that Ernest and I had met before. But, do you know, he told me that I was the second person he met when he first came to California and landed in Venice many years ago! Isn’t that amazing! And he has remembered me all those years!’”
So, on October 3rd, 1927 Ernest Holmes and Hazel were married and stayed happily married for the rest of their lives. They had each found that overused term—their ‘soul mate’.
Hazel’s mother, “Aunt Annie”, was famed for her psychic abilities; she would entertain Ernest by telling him where any of his friends were at any given time—the power of remote viewing. Many people who knew Hazel commented that she, too, had inherited some psychic abilities—particularly clairvoyance, and she put these skills to use as she became a dedicated practitioner—especially to those people she knew in the movie and performing arts. And she became Ernest’s only practitioner until his death. She had her own office in the Institute right next to Ernest’s office, and she was consistently busy and sought after for treatment; her success was well known. Her friend, Adela Rogers St. John, said,
“Hazel said that she thought a practitioner was different from anyone else. To practice, as she saw it, would mean to be ready to meet any claim or emergency on the phone at any time. She felt that actual practice, as she understood this, demanded quiet, dedication, and removal from the scene of the difficulty, whatever it was. She was aware that personality can be a great factor for the preacher or teacher. But personality and personal emotion was detrimental to the practitioner. Hazel wanted to be a true, dedicated practitioner. Nothing else. And she became one of the truly, truly great ones.”
I have always wanted to know more about Hazel, but except for some pictures of her and Ernest, and anecdotes from people who knew and loved them—there was not much evidence of her presence.
Until I discovered that hidden in the Science of Mind Archives and almost forgotten is a monthly column that Hazel shared in Science of Mind magazine for three years starting with the December, 1927 issue!!! The column was called, “The A.B.C.’s of the Ph.D.’s”; it is signed by H.G. Foster, and then a few months later the name changes to H. Foster Holmes. It was her contribution to Science of Mind magazine as a young practitioner. In fact, sprinkled throughout the early issues are many brief little poems, articles, or musings by Hazel Holmes. Here is one thought from her very first column:
“Sure cure for restlessness—sense that you are floating in an Ocean of Divine Love, until you find yourself inundated by the current of Divine Energy; rest there in complete abandonment.”–Hazel Holmes
The greatest blow to Ernest Holmes was Hazel’s sudden death. Hazel would wait up for Ernest after he went to speak or address a class. After the split in the Religious Science movement, Ernest had gone back to speaking and addressing new churches and classes around the state on a frequent basis to ensure that the split didn’t end what he had worked so hard to build. He came home late from a class and called out to Hazel; no light was on and no familiar voice greeted him from the second floor. He went up the stairs and found that Hazel had quietly, serenely and gracefully made her transition—just as she had moved through this life. It was May 21, 1957; his dear love had entered the next realm.
All who knew Ernest commented that he was never quite the same vital man who had bounded through life with such zest and humor after her death. For the next two years he still appeared at churches, dedications, and at Asilomar, but the energy had gone out of him. At Asilomar, someone approached Ernest after he had been spotted on the shore staring out to sea in solitude. When he met someone on the path and they asked how he was doing, Ernest would smile gently and say, “I lean on Love.”
I hope you have enjoyed this column; I am indebted for information found in Fenwicke Holmes’ biography Ernest Holmes: His Life and Times; Reginald Armor’s biography, That Was Ernest, and many other books and articles. If you would like to read more of Hazel Holmes’ writings, please follow this link to the March 1928 issue of Science of Mind magazine.
Click below to download and read the December, 1927 Science of Mind magazine:
Click below to download and read the March, 1928 Science of Mind magazine issue:
Jeannette Quinn Bisbee R.Sc.P has been published in Science of Mind magazine, and was an Insight Speaker at the 2013 Asilomar Convention. Her passion is the Archives, and she contributes this blog twice monthly highlighting for readers around the world the wonderful projects and items available in the Science of Mind Archives. She is currently involved in a book project based on material from the Archives and Science of Mind magazine.