Remembering Rich Holly and Herb Jonas [Editorial]

Havre de Grace area loses two community icons

The Havre de Grace area lost two community icons in the past two weeks with the passing of Rich Holly and George Herbert "Herb" Jonas.

"Mr. Holly," as he was known to generations of Havre de Grace High School students and their families, not only taught at Havre de Grace High School for 43 years, but also coached numerous sports and served as a faculty advisor for various student groups.

He took special pleasure in serving as senior class advisor, playing a key role in the most important year for many students that culminated with graduation.

It's not his time teaching, coaching and mentoring the community's high school kids for 43 years, however, that set Rich Holly apart.

What made him more than just a special teacher was how he immersed himself in Havre de Grace.

He married a Havre de Grace girl and, after his retirement some years ago, he became even more active in the community than he had been. He was a leader in everything from the annual community Thanksgiving dinner to various other Havre de Grace projects.

His was a life well-spent, though too short at 70 years, and Havre de Grace was lucky the Scranton, Pa., native became one of its favorite sons.

Herb Jonas, who was 88, was a Michigan native and settled in Harford County, as have many of our residents, because of his work at Aberdeen Proving Ground, where he was a mathematician with the Army Research Laboratory, following a stint as an Army officer near the end of World War II.

At the ARL, he was on the cutting edge of the computer age, creating algorithms used in weapons research, development and testing that were run on machines from the pioneering ENIAC to the Cray supercomputer, according to his obituary published last Friday.

Mr. Jonas' mathematical achievements may have been surpassed only by his dedication to his wife of 67 years Winifred "Wink" Jonas, who survives him, and their collective devotion to the thus far successful effort to keep a rubble landfill being built in the midst of the predominantly African-American Gravel Hill community, which is near their home.

The couple would certainly be the first to tell you many, many people were involved in the fight, which unfortunately continues more than 25 years later, as litigation upon litigation initiated by the rubble landfill property's owner continues to drag through the courts.

While that's certainly true, the Jonas' tenacity and their belief that their cause was a righteous one that could not be derailed by fear, intimidation or political pressure, is a lesson in how people of different backgrounds, faiths, races and beliefs can band together for the common good of their community that all of us should take to heart.

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