John G. Holmgren
[Resident of Orinda]
12/17/22 - 10/31/2013
John passed away on Thursday October 31st after a short illness. A true gentleman and devoted husband, father and grandfather, he will be greatly missed by his family and friends. His granddaughters reciprocated his many visits and attentions to them with their deep and abiding love.
John was born in Evanston Illinois to John Gunnar Holmgren and Lillian Skoglund Holmgren. He attended high school in Evanston, College Park College and then, following service in World War II, earned his journalism degree from Northwestern University. He was an avid hockey and tennis player, and excelled at music, first studying the clarinet and then settling on the tenor saxophone. It was in Chicago that he met his future wife, Ilene Droz, who, after serving in the USO, went to Chicago to study music performance at Northwestern. Both musicians, they were able to see at close hand the great jazz musicians of the day when they appeared in Chicago, including Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, Roy Eldridge, and Coleman Hawkins, the musician John idolized and whose style of playing he emulated with great success.
During his military service, John was stationed throughout the Northwest in bases that stockpiled ammunition and aircraft destined for the war zones. He served as drum major in Army bands that played in war bond and other war-related events. It was during furloughs that he visited California and determined that he would migrate there after the war.
John and Ilene married in 1948 in Chicago and moved to the Bay Area in 1950, first living in Oakland and then moving to Orinda. John began his long career with the California State Automobile Association at that time as writer, and later editor, of Motorland Magazine (now called Via). Apart from his writing and editorial duties, he was possibly best known for his Time for Travel program that aired for many years on KCBS radio. His program was remembered for many years after he retired from the CSAA, as evidenced by the many fans who approached him in his retirement years to express their enjoyment of his program. He was a proud founding member of the Broadcast Legends, a great organization that celebrates how our lives have been enhanced by what we've heard "on the air" from wonderful radio personalities over the years. He was also an active member of Skal, a travel industry organization, and of the San Francisco Press Club.
While journalism was his career, he was a working musician for much of his adult life, first working in the horn sections of the big bands that were popular in the Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s. He played many a gig at the Press Club in San Francisco and was the band leader on the Reno Fun Train throughout the 1970s.
John was an avid tennis player and golfer. He played the great golf courses of Scotland and Hawaii on his many travels. While he was a Bjorn Borg fan (got to support the Swedes!) he spoke most reverently of Pancho Gonzales and Don Budge, one of whose rackets he proudly owned.
John is survived by his wife of 65 years, Ilene, of Orinda, his son, John (Lisa) and granddaughters Lauren, Sarah and Anne, of Piedmont. He is predeceased by his parents, John and Lillian and his sister, Alphyld.
A celebration of John's life will be held on Sunday, December 22nd, at Moraga Country Club, the site of many of his tennis and golf games, from 2 to 4 PM. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Berkeley Jazz School: www.jazzschool.org.