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Couple remembers son through Winthrop art gift

Since their son's death in 2008, Robert and Barbara Holcombe of Chester have searched for some way to commemorate his life.

On Thursday, they found it.

The couple donated an original piece of artwork titled "Dinosaur" to Winthrop University, where their son, Thomas Lane Holcombe, earned a business degree in 1992.

"He had a great experience here," Barbara Holcombe said. "He had the same roommate all four years, and he enjoyed it."

Thursday was the first time they saw the "Dinosaur" piece hanging in Owens Hall, an academic building on campus that hundreds of students, faculty and staff pass through every day.

The artwork, created by South Carolina artist Richard Burnside, features a green dinosaur with red, black and gold dots outlined in gold with white- and red-painted pine cones for the back.

After graduation, Lane Holcombe sold insurance before moving to North Myrtle Beach.

"He always wanted to work for himself and ultimately own his own business," his mother said.

He helped renovate Thee Pawn Shoppe in North Myrtle Beach, becoming "quite knowledgeable" about jewelry. He also become part-owner and was making the business quite successful, his mother said.

It was at the shop where Holcombe met Richard Burnside and bought several of his pieces, "Dinosaur" being one of them.

The shop was where Lane Holcombe was shot and killed in July 2008 during an armed robbery, three days before his 38th birthday.

"We kept trying to think of some way to leave a memory to him, a lasting memorial," Barbara Holcombe said.

Their lasting memorial is donating the "Dinosaur" piece to the university he loved so much.

"First off, we want them to enjoy it and just smile," she said. "It makes me smile when I see it. Maybe if they're bogged down with studying, it'll give them a lift and a boost."

Barbara Holcombe does smile when talking about her son. He collected guitars, watches and cars. He had dreamed of owning a Corvette and had just bought one to restore before his death.

He was always excited about something, she said, whether it be someone he had just met or a new project he was working on.

"He was always doing 10 projects at once," she said.

One of those projects was a motorcycle he built from scratch, hand-designing the swirls on it and the design around the gas cap.

"He said, 'See, Mom? No one else has one like this,'" she said. "'I made it.'"

Lane Holcombe was also "warm-hearted, well-liked and stood up for people," she said. "If anybody ever wanted anything or needed anything, he would give it to them."

At the shop, children would come by to show him their test scores and school work because he showed he cared. A group of children also used to ride their bikes over and borrow some of the shop's tools. He had told them they could borrow the tools as long as they brought them back.

They returned them every time.

"These are not just things I'm saying because I'm his mother," Barbara Holcombe said. "They are things that actually happened. He treated everybody with as much respect as he could."

One of his favorite things was to take his bull terrier, Elvis, on walks along the beach every day after work.

Now, Barbara Holcombe hopes the Winthrop students, faculty and staff who walk by "Dinosaur" will notice the piece and read the plaque bearing her son's name.

"They won't remember him," she said, "but it makes me feel like he'll be a part of Winthrop forever. It would please him that it's here."

Karen Derksen, Winthrop Galleries director, said the school is very excited about the piece and that it is a welcome addition to the campus.

From talking to Lane Holcombe's parents and reading about him, Derksen thinks the art is a symbol of who he was: "a compassionate man" who supported artists such as Richard Burnside.

"I think that speaks a lot for who he really and truly was, and we're excited to have that represented here," she said.