By Mary Minor Davis –
‘Passionate’ Community Leader
When Bill Holmes passed away suddenly in July, many in the community wondered how one so full of life could suddenly be gone, just when he reached the pinnacle of his life. As news spread throughout the community, shock and disbelief were shared by all who knew this vibrant, passionate community leader.
Holmes, 58, had recently married Shelley Pozez, his soulmate for more than seven years. The marriage blended their families: his three daughters, Laurie Orozco, Christina Cruz and Becky Cruz, and Shelly’s children, Lindsey and Josh Baker.
As the managing partner and CEO of Agape Hospice & Palliative Care, Holmes had found a place where he could work to bring compassionate care to those facing loss.
“As a business partner, Bill was the best there could be,” said Tammy Burns, one of his partners at Agape. “Not a day went by that I did not feel gratitude for the amazing team we have at Agape. He was always a bright light in the office, lifting the mood and bringing that little bit of comedy relief that kept our spirits up in trying times.
“Bill was like a member of the family. If there is one thing he did in Agape, it was model Agape love − and help others find that thing inside that you constantly have to find in order to keep on going, especially in the provision of hospice care.”
Holmes lived and worked in this community for nearly 40 years. He was known for his selfless contributions through his endless volunteering, his service on various boards and his individual giving to others in need. He truly was dedicated to making the world a better place.
Some of the many boards he served on − Tucson Metro Chamber, American Heart Association, Tucson Medical Center Foundation, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Fox Theatre Foundation, Saguaro Girl Scout Council, Chicanos Por La Causa, El Rio Foundation, Catholic Community Services, Angel Charities, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Up With People, Downtown Tucson Partnership, Pima Youth Partnership, La Frontera and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. What is notable about his service was he didn’t just give in one area − he believed in helping his community as a whole.
While it is always hard to find words to describe the loss of loved ones, in Holmes’ case, words seem even harder to find that capture the essence of one so full of life, compassion and energy for all that surrounded him.
“Bill could light up a room before he even entered it,” wrote Michael Varney, president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber, and a close friend. “His gentle, courteous mannerisms were his trademark.”
Those sentiments were echoed by many. More than 1,000 people gathered, with standing room only, at the celebration of his life, held at the Jewish Community Center. “Selfless giving” and “sense of humor” were the characteristics most often shared by those mourning his passing. Those who spoke challenged all who knew him to honor his memory by making a commitment to “living more like Bill.”
“Bill Holmes was a good friend and a business partner in that order, and that friendship always encouraged me to be the best version of myself,” said Russell Burns, Holmes’ other Agape business partner. “I look forward to being that kind of friend to others myself.”
“Bill was passionate about the health and wellness of his community,” said Brenda Goldsmith, executive director of the El Rio Foundation. “He felt strongly that every child should have access to quality healthcare and education. Bill was a dear friend and mentor. His love of life and worldwide impact will live on in the lives of those he inspired.”
Sam Burns, COO at Agape, worked closely with Holmes. “Bill was the exact same person behind the scenes in the office as he was out on the stage of life in the community. He was 100 percent authentic.”
Michael Luria, executive director for the Children’s Museum Tucson where Holmes and Pozez were married this spring, has known Holmes for many years and developed a deep friendship in recent years.
“When you think of Bill you think of his smile, his laughter,” Luria said. “What people don’t often realize was how smart he was and how perceptive he was. He was a great listener and would help put things in perspective, offering wise and sage advice. That’s why he was so successful in business.
“Bill always saw the brighter side of things. That’s why I think people − even those who didn’t know him well − were so shocked. I don’t know that I will have the good fortune to meet another Bill Holmes in my life.”
Debbie Rich, CEO of Girls Scouts for Southern Arizona, recalled Holmes’ mentorship. “He was my first boss when I became a CEO,” she said. “He was just man enough to be a Girl Scout. By that, I mean he recognized the power that girls have and how they could be successful with the right resources. He’s always here. He’s ever present.”
“There will never be another Bill Holmes,” said Shelley, his widow. “That’s what his girls say, and not just because he was their father. It’s because of his integrity, his character, the way he made people feel when they were around him and his respect for others. There will never be another Bill − I truly believe that.”