If Jesse Holt was there Saturday — and maybe in a special way he was — he would be smiling, and he would be proud.
Holt, who died in October of 2016 of a stroke, would be watching what he most liked to watch. That would be kids of all ages running, jumping and throwing here, there and everywhere during the Jesse Holt Invitational Track and Field Meet at Moore Park.
Shortly before he died, Holt knew he had a serious health problem, but there was no way to keep him away from the Northwest Express Track and Field Meet that he founded and presided over for years. That final year, because of his health, his hands were ice cold.
For the entire three-day Northwest Express meet, he would wear socks over his hands so he could be where he wanted to be.
On Saturday, the people who loved, honored and respected Holt were where they wanted to be.
The scene was chaotic at the Moore Park track — just the way Holt liked it.
More than 1,000 people — 5-year-olds to elderly grandparents — showed up as the City of Miami honored the man who had influenced so many kids over the years, both on the track and off. They officially named the track at Moore Park after Holt, an honor that was well-deserved and long overdue.
Fittingly, in 1961, Holt became the first African American in the City of Miami to compete against white competitors — and that piece of history occurred at Moore Park.
So, now it’s official. From now on, the track at Moore Park will be called the Jesse L. Holt, Jr. Track.
The community that Holt so loved turned out en masse Saturday, and that included kids he taught as 5-year-olds and grew up to become college and Olympic stars. They wanted to say thanks to the man they considered so influential in their lives.
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The politicians were there and said their words, but the most important words came from Holt’s family and the kids he taught.
The person most thankful for Jesse Holt’s life and purpose was his wife, Claudette.
Asked how much she missed him, she first said, “There are no words for that.”
Then she added, “I miss him every day. I miss him every time I walk into the home.”
Eldest son Alan Holt said, “This is where we all started.”
He then looked out at Moore Park and the community that surrounds it and added, “This is where we grew up and this is still our home.”
Finally, he had one more thought about his father.
“Jesse Holt was a visionary,” he said. “Yes, he was a visionary who gave his heart to kids.”