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Helen Holmes wouldn't let her fear of flying stop her husband from chasing his dream of becoming a pilot.

"I was always scared to death of planes," she said Wednesday sitting in the living room of her Shepherd home. "I've never been in a little one. But he was just such a hard worker, I just decided to not say anything or try to talk him out if it."

So when Daryl Holmes called her Saturday morning to say he was flying to Columbus with a friend, Helen shrugged it off as she had dozens of times before.

"That was the last time I talked to him," she said.

Holmes and James Buzzelli died Saturday morning in a plane crash near Silesia. No one saw the single-engine Piper PA-18 owned by Buzzelli go down, and the crash remains under investigation by federal authorities.

Holmes was a lifelong flying enthusiast and built his first model plane when he was 8, his wife said. He was involved in a local remote control flying club and was preparing to take the test for a pilot's license. He also was looking forward to buying his first plane, she said.

Four days after his death, friends and family described Holmes as a man with limitless energy and a thirst for helping others. He was 45. Survivors include his wife and four children.

Daryl Holmes

Raised in Billings, Holmes graduated from Senior High School in 1975. It was there that he met Helen. The two were high school sweethearts, she said.

"He had these rosy cheeks," Helen recalled with a smile.

After graduation, Helen moved to Europe but returned seven months later after she received a letter from Holmes. They were married four months later, settled in Shepherd and raised their children.

Becky Holmes, 19, remembers her father as the parent who always volunteered to chaperone her class on field trips. He also helped build a softball field at Shepherd High School.

"All the kids just loved him," she said.

Tom Holmes, the oldest at 23, said his father was always helping others, whether by volunteering for a community event or pounding nails on a neighbor's new deck.

"The biggest part of his life was helping people," he said.

Holmes worked as an electrician at the Exxon Billings Refinery since 1989. He also volunteered on the company's Fire Brigade where he was the senior engineer.

Helen Holmes

Wes Simpson, chief of the refinery's Fire Brigade, said Holmes was a trusted and valuable member of the volunteer crew of 24 firefighters. The two men shared an interest in airplanes and motor sports, he said.

"There was always a bounce in his step and a big smile on his face," Simpson said.

Billings Fire Chief Marv Jochems said he met Holmes during several annual fire training seminars in town. He was impressed with Holmes' dedication to the volunteer fire service and knowledge of firefighting.

"That's above and beyond the call of duty," Jochems said.

As the senior engineer, Holmes helped design a new, custom fire truck for the Exxon refinery that is scheduled to be delivered this summer, Simpson said. The $800,000 truck includes some features Holmes suggested specifically for helping the refinery fire service, he said.

"I've heard a lot of people say they think it would be a good idea to dedicate the new ladder truck to Daryl," Simpson said. "We could put a plaque on the side of the truck right where he would have been standing."

Holmes' funeral services will be held today at 11 a.m. at the Heights Baptist Church. Members of the Exxon Fire Brigade and Billings Fire Department will honor Holmes with a traditional firefighter's memorial service.

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