Friday, June 3, 2016

Remembering A Great Friend, Leader, Citizen

In many years of involvement in civic affairs and politics in South Jersey, I've been fortunate indeed to know and work with many distinguished public servants at all levels, both Democrat and Republican.
It's been great to count many of them among my friends.
But there are none that I remember more fondly than former Cherry Hill Mayor John T. Holden who presided over South Jersey's most robust and vibrant community from 1971 to 1975.
These were truly boom-boom years for Cherry Hill -- a period of rapid growth and development virtually unprecedented in the Philadelphia region and I was privileged to work alongside Mayor Holden as he made some of the toughest decisions ever faced in that job. Through it all, he was gracious, caring, even-tempered, wise, witty and always, always attentive to his duties and well aware of his responsibility.
As I carried out public relations assignments for John and helped put Cherry Hill on the map as the business, commerce, dining and entertainment center of South Jersey, I learned a great deal from this Massachusetts native and friendly son of St. Patrick. He began each day with a smile (a broad, friendly grin) and, no matter the size or nature of disagreements along the way, he never had an unkind word for anyone and never let political squabbles get in the way of neighborliness and friendship. He was dignified but never pretentious. He had a natural presence that set you at ease.
I watched John Holden as praise was lavishly doled out to him and his team at rallies and special events and also in the glare of the media during tumultuous times when angry citizens heaped criticism upon him. Through it all, he not only maintained his composure but exhibited good judgement, always.
How did he do it? Did he go home and put his fist through the wall or kick his dog? Hardly. He was a devoted family man with a loving wife and five wonderful children. He was also a person of deep and abiding faith and one of the first members of  St. Peter Celestine Church and parish (now Christ Our Light) in Cherry Hill where his kids attended school.
John Holden set a sterling example for me and those who supported him and worked for him. I was proud to have campaigned for him, joyous when he was elected (toppling a regime that had been entrenched for 20 years) and honored to serve in his administration.
I have so many wonderful memories of those years and I'm sure these are multiplied thousands of times over in the recollections of so many others.
Our condolences go to John's wife, Mary and to his entire family and all of his many, many friends and associates. He leaves us with an impressive, loving legacy!

The official obituary follows:
John T. Holden, Sr. former Mayor of Cherry Hill, NJ, died June 1, 2016. He was 88. Beloved husband for 65 years to Mary Holden (nee Fitzgerald). Loving father of Mary Pat McDermet (Dr. Arthur) of Mt. Laurel, NJ; Kathleen Sweeney (Dr. Robert) of Spring Lake, NJ; John T. Holden, Jr. (Jill) of Voorhees, NJ; Martin Fitzgerald Holden (David Kadingo) of Bethlehem, PA; Margaret Holden Gilkin (Brian) of Garnet Valley, PA; 12 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Dear brother of Paul Holden of Fall River, MA and Ann Marie Sullivan of Centerville, MA.
Viewing Sunday evening 6 to 8pm in the Schetter Funeral Home 304 W. Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034. A second viewing will be held at Church on Monday morning from 10 to 10:45am in Christ Our Light RC Church, 402 N. Kings Highway, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034. Mass of Christian Burial Monday 11am. Interment Colestown Cemetery, Cherry Hill, NJ. In lieu of flowers contributions in his memory may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, the American Heart Associationor to Vitas Healthcare. Please visit to share your condolences with the family.
Published in Courier-Post on June 3, 2016- See more at:


John Holden Jr. said...

Hi Dan, thank you for your kind words. My Dad did count you among his good friends. Best regards, John Holden Jr.

Dan Cirucci said...

He was a gem, John.
And, as the years go by you will find that your dad is still with you every single day -- that he's walking right alongside you, taking pride in your accomplishments, cheering you on and comforting you in moments of adversity. That's because he gave you unconditional love and love truly is eternal. It lives on.
Hugs to your mom and the entire family during this difficult time.