THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
William C. Holmes
Issue Date: December 6, 2017
William Chandler Holmes, 91, passed away Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
Born Dec. 6, 1925 in Menominee, Mi., to Ben Bentley Holmes and Ella (Hubert) Holmes, he enjoyed a good upbringing and lived along the bay of Lake Michigan with his brothers and many lifelong friends. He became an expert sailor and earned a ship captain's license.
At age 17, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II and served as flight engineer and top-turret gunner on a B-24 bomber. On his third mission, his plane was shot down over Hungary, and he parachuted into the hands of the SS troops. Many long, cold marches and crowed box cars took him to various German prison camps. In 1945, his camp was liberated by General George Patton.
After the war, he attended Lawrence University in Appleton and married the late Joan (Worth) Holmes. He became the youngest manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company, overseeing the transition from switchboard to rotary dial phone service.
A leader, he was active in many community organizations, including president of Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce. He assumed his family business as a manufacturer's representative for brick and building supply companies. With his success, his competitors referred to the Upper Peninsula territory as the "Iron Curtain Country."
He moved to Milwaukee and expanded the building supply business. After retirement, he became active in photography, bird-watching, volunteering at local nature centers and found his place in history as a World War II veteran. He was in many parades and was grand marshal in the 2011 Veteran's Day Parade and Day of Honor. He was also featured in the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight documentary and Mettle and Honor: The Greatest Generation, a televised program featuring oral histories from World War II veterans.
In 2013 he was awarded the Lance P. Sijan award. Dedicated to preserving the camaraderie of fellow ex-POWs, he served as commander of the Milwaukee Barbed Wire Chapter of American Ex-POWS.
A man of many accomplishments and experiences, he was a well-liked friend to many and a gentleman to all.
He is survived by three daughters, Paula (Geoffrey) LaFond, Elizabeth (John Smith) Holmes and Ann (Robert) Holtz; 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life and interment will be held in Menominee in the summer. Donations can be made to Menominee North Pier Light, PO Box 151, Menominee, MI 49858.