George William Holmes, aged 93, died on June 20 in Downingtown, PA. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1928. He moved permanently to the United States in the late 1950s, to continue a career in journalism. He is survived by his wife, Deborah, a native of Chadds Ford, PA.
Holmes’s father was a captain in the British Army during World War I (1914-18), during which he was a victim of chemical warfare on the Western Front. He returned home to Dublin and started a family, which eventually included three sons. Holmes was the youngest, but his father died of pneumonia before his birth, leaving his mother to raise the children.
Holmes and his brothers were granted the right to be educated at a Dublin school for the children of families with limited means. The headmaster at his school, recognizing that young George was gifted, worked to ensure that Holmes was admitted to Trinity College Dublin, still considered one of the top-ranked universities in the world. He majored in modern languages, graduating in 1950. He also traveled extensively around war-scarred Europe, still recovering from World War II.
Committed to becoming a journalist, Holmes applied repeatedly for a job to the editor of The Irish Times, who finally said yes. One of his early stories, when he was assigned a quiet Sunday beat, was about a hen who was raising pigeons as her own. Written in a droll, tongue-in-cheek style, the story made the front page, and his career was launched.
In 1954, Holmes was one of only two overseas journalists to win a fellowship in journalism from the University of Michigan. He traveled extensively around the U.S. during his school breaks. He spent the second year of his fellowship writing for three Michigan newspapers. Holmes also wrote a series of articles for The Irish Times, chronicling his impressions of post-war America.
Back in Europe, he moved to England to work at The Manchester Guardian. He then returned to North America, where he worked for the Detroit Times, The Globe and Mail in Toronto, and The Wall St. Journal.
Feeling like a cog in the wheel at these large newspapers, Holmes took a job in 1963 with a business and trade magazine covering the jewelry industry, called Jewelers’ Circular-Keystone (JCK), based in Philadelphia, where he rose to the rank of managing editor.
Leaving in 1968, he and several associates founded Focus, a Philadelphia regional business weekly, the first publication that covered in-depth business news for the Philadelphia area. But when staff disputes broke up the team in 1974, Holmes and his friend Charles Bond were lured back to JCK as editor and publisher. Deborah Holmes, his wife, was already there as a masthead editor and, eventually, managing editor. The couple married in 1971.
Over the years of Holmes’s leadership, JCK became the leading international publication in its field, bringing its editors 16 Neal Awards and Holmes a Crain Award for distinguished editorial achievement, all from the American Business Press, at that time the leading organization for business-to-business magazines. Holmes also was a member of the group that launched the JCK Show in Las Vegas in 1991; it soon became one of the largest jewelry events in the world.
JCK magazine, during Holmes’s tenure, tackled all the important issues facing jewelers, from soaring gold and diamond prices in the late 1970s and early 1980’s, to sky high crime rates during the same period. Award winning investigative articles on jewelry fencing, shoddy appraisal practices, the near collapse of the Swiss watch industry (and its rebirth), and undisclosed gem treatments also appeared in its pages. At the same time, the magazine made a significant contribution to service journalism, providing useful, practical, and expert advice for working jewelers, as well as regular statistical and marketing data updates.
Having moved to Downingtown in 1979, the Holmeses retired there in 1996. They helped found and were members of the East Brandywine open space committee and delivered for Meals on Wheels in Chester County for many years. George Holmes handled consumer inquiries in the Better Business Bureau’s Lancaster office for two years and reported and wrote the East Brandywine township newsletter, The Milemarker, for 12 years.
Along with his wife, Holmes was an avid reader, gardener, and hiker. The couple returned many times to favorite national parks including Banff and Yoho in Canada, Acadia in Maine, and Saguaro and Chiricahua in Arizona.
There will not be a public funeral, but a memorial gathering is planned.
Those wishing to make donations in George Holmes’s memory can do so to: