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Dell Holmes, parks director, dies at 58

Mr. Holmes, who led St. Petersburg's parks department since 1983, died of pancreatic cancer.

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 4, 2003

Dell Holmes, the city of St. Petersburg's parks director since 1983, died Thursday morning. He was 58.

Mr. Holmes battled pancreatic cancer for more than two years and had been on sick leave since January, said Lee Metzger, the city's Leisure Services administrator.

Mr. Holmes had been at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg but was recently moved to Mariner Health Care of Pinellas Point, said his father, Litdell Holmes Sr.

Metzger recruited Mr. Holmes to be St. Petersburg's parks director after the pair worked together in New Castle County, Del. Metzger said he was impressed by Mr. Holmes' work ethic.

"Dell certainly had a very high standard for maintaining the parks," Metzger said. "He wanted to exceed the expectations of city residents."

Deputy Mayor Goliath Davis said one of Mr. Holmes' most notable accomplishments was helping to coordinate Chunky Sundays, the seasonal gatherings for young adults.

The events caused discord among local residents, who complained of traffic, litter and loud music. But with Mr. Holmes' assistance, city officials were able to rotate the traveling parties between the city's parks and keep them under control, Davis said.

At 6-foot-7, Mr. Holmes was physically imposing. But his co-workers said his intimidating stature was offset by a warm and generous personality.

"He was a gentle giant," Davis said. "And when I say giant, I mean not only in his physical size, but also in his legacy and his great affection for people."

Mr. Holmes played college basketball at George Washington University and remained active in the sport throughout his life, Metzger said. He encouraged local youths to participate in sports and served as a coach.

Mr. Holmes was active in many local civic associations and the Florida Institute of Park Professionals, Metzger said.

In addition to his father, Mr. Holmes is survived by his wife of 32 years, Elsie Hayward Holmes; and three daughters, Faith Holmes of Tampa; Faye Holmes of St. Petersburg; and Ivory Berry, of St. Petersburg.

Funeral arrangements were still pending Thursday night.

-- Carrie Johnson can be reached at 892-2273 or cjohnson@sptimes.com .

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