Local businessman and community leader Bill Holmes, who died on June 18, 2016 at age 58 of a brain aneurysm, often credited his success and his volunteer spirit to his early experience traveling with Up With People, a global nonprofit music and service education organization. Up With People has launched a $250,000 legacy campaign in his name, to give students at two Tucson high schools the opportunity to travel with Up With People.
Among his many volunteer commitments, Holmes was “a treasured member of our Federation board,” says Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona President and CEO Stuart Mellan. Holmes, who was not Jewish, married Jewish community leader Shelley Pozez in April 2016. The couple, who had been together more than seven years, had chaired a Federation mission to Israel in 2015.
Steve Rokowski, an Up With People alum who worked with the organization for 18 years, recalls meeting Holmes when the group performed in 1974 at a high school in Yuma, where Holmes grew up in humble circumstances. Impressed with Holmes, a senior who was the school’s stage manager, he invited him to join Up With People on the road. Learning Holmes couldn’t afford the tuition, Rokowski interviewed and hired Holmes as part of the technical staff.
After touring with the cast, Holmes moved to Tucson, then the base for Up With People, and the two became best friends, Rokowski says.
“He was such a light of positive force and did so much for the community through all the nonprofit boards he served on,” he says. The legacy campaign will benefit students at Tucson’s St. Augustine and San Miguel High Schools, from which Holmes’ six grandchildren graduated. As of last month, the campaign had raised $170,000, Rokowski says.
“Speaking about Bill always brings a smile to my face,” says Steve Rodgveller, a Jewish community leader who is part of the effort.
“I’d always known him to be a caring, loving person. He loved people; he loved to be with people,” says Rodgveller, who’d known Holmes for 25 years, professionally and personally. In recent years, they spent so much time together, he says, and had so much in common, “it felt like we were brothers.”
The legacy campaign will culminate with Up With People Cast A spending March 12-18 in Tucson, doing a variety of service projects and two shows sponsored by Zanes Law at the Fox Tucson Theatre on March 17 and 18. Tickets can be purchased at foxtucson.com. Donations to the legacy campaign can be made at upwithpeople.org/give (designation: Bill Holmes Legacy Fund) or gofundme.com/the-bill-holmes-legacy-fund.