Edward J. Holl Jr., a retired printing production manager who was a Baltimore Gay Alliance founder, died of cancer Nov. 28 at Sinai Hospital’s Hospice. The Charles Village resident was 72.
Born in Baltimore and raised on Waverly’s Montpelier Street, he was the son of Edward J. Holl, a bartender, and Doris Keenan, a Carr Lowery glass worker.
He attended Baltimore City College and joined the Army during the Vietnam War. After undergoing his basic training, he was assigned to Panama for advanced jungle training. Mr. Holl became an Army trainer and instructed troops in jungle combat. He left military service as a sergeant and later received an educational equivalency degree.
He settled in Charles Village on Abell Avenue and applied for a job at the Barton Cotton printing firm in Remington on Sisson Street. He remained at the post for 41 years and rose from the shipping department to be a production manager and proofreader.
During his tenure at the printing firm, he worked on projects that included the Hutzler’s department store calendars and religious-themed Mass cards for the Jesuit Fathers and other orders.
In 1975 Mr. Holl joined other activists to found the Baltimore Gay Alliance, a racially diverse advocacy organization for gay men and women.
“Eddie showed great courage in joining the organization and visibly fighting against oppression,” said Jim Becker, a friend from Charles Village. “He was not political in the way he approached life and the organization. Eddie was more focused on being a foot soldier and a hard worker. He just liked helping people and doing what was right.”
Mr. Holl was an early volunteer on the Gay Switchboard, one of the alliance’s first projects, which operated out of a Charles Village home. Friends said one night a week he took calls forwarded to his home phone number.
“For six hours he would field calls, ranging from simple requests for information about gay bars and resources to long, sometimes emotionally draining conversations with people struggling with their sexual identity,” said Mr. Becker. “There were also prank and hostile, homophobic calls, especially after the Switchboard began to be publicized. … Eddie considered the Switchboard a very important service given the total lack of visibility that gay people had in Baltimore at the time.”
Mr. Becker also said, “Eddie was a great listener and he was also a great talker. He was perfect for the job.”
Mr. Holl served on the alliance’s committee to find and buy a community center and was among the original $1,000 donors to purchase a Mount Vernon building on West Chase Street.
He was also a volunteer at gay dances at the Johns Hopkins University Glass Pavilion and other locations, including Steelworkers Hall.
After residing on Abell Avenue, he moved in 1990 to the Calvert Court, a cooperative apartment building. Friends said his outgoing personality allowed him to establish friendships among its residents. He served for many years on the governing board and organized a Friday evening social in the building's courtyard.
“Every Friday night at 5 o'clock people brought a dish. It was Eddie’s happy hour,” said a neighbor, Pat McCarty.
His Charles Village friends said he was a constant presence along 31st Street and knew many residents.
“He had a gregarious way and could speak at length, almost in a stream-of-consciousness style,” said Mr. Becker. “One day he was talking so much I told him, ‘Outline it.’ ”
Mr. Holl was also a caregiver to elderly Charles Village residents and drove them to medical appointments.
“He didn’t waste his time criticizing people. That was his endearing quality. He overlooked people’s faults and just moved on,” said Gerry Ronkin, a friend who lives in Sarasota, Fla. “He was a loyal person. Once he decided he liked you, that was it. He was equally loyal to his job at Barton Cotton. He never took his full vacation time. He was intent on getting printing orders completed.”
“Eddie had a small world in this neighborhood, and he was a remarkably good person who shot out beams of generosity and light,” said a neighbor, Carol Anderson-Austra. “He did things for people. He was honest, kind and self-deprecating. He did not do anything for self-aggrandizement. he just did it.”
A memorial gathering will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Charles Village Pub, 3107 St. Paul St.