The children in Casper Holroyd’s neighborhood always knew it was time to start eagerly counting down the days to his annual Halloween bash when the first decoration went up on his lawn in early October.
They would eye the gradual transformation as they got off the school bus each day, wondering what this year’s party would bring.
Holroyd’s house was the place to be on Halloween, his west Raleigh yard transformed into a carnival of sorts with games, music and treats at every turn. The air was rich with the smell of buttered popcorn and cider, a hip-shaking Elvis put in an annual appearance, and fireworks might light up the sky.
Jenni Moore Myers, a neighbor, remembers arriving at the party for the first time last year with her daughter Evelyn, then 5.
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“It was just a magical experience, way beyond what I thought a neighborhood party would be,” she said.
For nearly two decades, Holroyd entertained hundreds of little ghosts and goblins and their delighted parents. When he died late last year at 86, families in the neighborhood off the House Creek greenway mourned the loss of a man who had brought so much joy to their lives all year.
They especially couldn’t imagine Halloween without Holroyd.
So they’ve banded together to throw a party of their own this year, a nod to the legacy of a man who helped make their community what it is.
They don’t think they can match Holroyd’s party-throwing prowess, but they hope to emulate his spirit. When Moore Myers sent an email asking whether the neighbors would want to keep the tradition going, the response was a resounding yes, with everyone pitching in.
Jane Holding, one of Holroyd’s daughters, said she’s pleased to see the neighborhood carry on his tradition.
“It just means the world to the family because it meant so much to him,” she said. “He would be so happy and so proud.”
The children is Holroyd’s neighborhood may have known him best for his Halloween parties and the backyard pool they all were welcome to enjoy, but he also chaired the Raleigh city school board during desegregation and its merger with Wake County schools, served four terms in the N.C House of Representatives and was a teacher and mentor of the JOY class at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church.
“He was just a man of incredible energy, incredible ideas and an incredible love of people, especially young people,” said Walt Sherlin, a friend of Holroyd for many years.
Holding said her father always loved games and celebrations. He cultivated his talents as a father to his own children, then continued his traditions at church and in his neighborhood once they had grown.
“He just had a big heart for kids,” Holding said. “He was a big kid.”
Walt Sherlin’s daughter-in-law, Lise Sherlin, said that she always walked away from Casper’s party with a sense that he truly put others first.
“My sense of it (was) that he really cared about people and really believed in people,” she said.
No matter the size of the party the neighborhood pulls off this year and into the future, it’s hard to think the newest generation won’t walk away feeling the same way.