A couple of months ago, I remember reading rumors that Dr. J. Eric Holmes, editor of the 1977 Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set had died, but, so far as I know, no one was able to confirm this as fact. Yesterday, the rumors were confirmed by Allan Grohe in a post on Dragonsfoot, where he relayed information he'd received from Dr. Holmes's wife. According to this information, Holmes died on March 20 as the result of another stroke. I recall that he'd been in ill health for some time, being unable to attend at least one convention where he was to be feted as guest of honor because of a previous stroke.
This is sad news, not merely because Holmes was an important figure in the early days of the hobby (as well as an enthusiastic devotee of Edgar Rice Burroughs and other pulp fantasy authors), but also because it was through the Holmes Basic Set that I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike the little brown books (which I never owned till much later) or the Moldvay Basic Rulebook (which was released after I was already playing), the compact Holmes Basic book -- the "blue book," as it's sometimes called -- is what drew me into the hobby before I even had any idea what I was getting myself into.
Even now, three decades later, I look on that Basic book with great fondness. Without it, I doubt I'd be here today, writing this. It's a terrific little volume and a testament to the talents of Dr. J. Eric Holmes, who turned the confusing and often-contradictory texts of OD&D into something a little less confusing and contradictory -- at least enough that one precocious 10 year-old could make his first steps down the paths to a lifelong hobby.
Requiescas in pace, Dr. Holmes.