Beloved longtime news anchor dies
Several people who knew him noted that, despite his stature, the longtime newscaster was down to earth.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- For more than 30 years, Tom Holden's was a familiar face each evening in many Mahoning Valley homes.
A generation of Valley residents grew up watching Holden deliver the local evening news as anchorman on WKBN-TV 27 and were exposed to his brand of no-nonsense journalism.
Despite his on-air longevity and popularity, Holden made himself accessible to people and took an interest in anyone who sought him out, several co-workers recalled.
That was one of the ways many people remembered Holden, who died Saturday evening at Forum Health Northside Medical Center after a brief illness resulting from complications from a blood infection. He was 67.
"He was very approachable, a regular guy despite his stature in the community and profession," said Gary Coursen, Channel 27's news director. "He treated you like an equal, even if it was your first day."
Coursen, who worked with Holden for about 30 years, added that he represented "the old Youngstown," and that living all of his life in the Valley gave Holden a deep knowledge and appreciation of the area, something that allowed him to place many current news stories in a broader perspective and context.
"He was a storehouse of knowledge and experience," Coursen said.
The news director recalled that when he was off the air, Holden, a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan, had each day's Indians game on at his work station. Holden also enjoyed bringing candies in from Giannios Candy Co. every pay day, and had a nickname for everyone in the newsroom, Coursen added.
Holden's love for sports didn't stop at baseball, though. He was also an avid Cavaliers and Browns fan, and for more than three years he played golf every Thursday morning at Tanglewood Golf Course in Pulaski, Pa., said Don Guthrie, Channel 27's meteorologist.
Guthrie, who started at the station in 1970, said Holden never hesitated to step up to the plate when challenging situations arose in the newsroom. Guthrie added that he hopes people will remember Holden for his trustworthiness and the contributions he made to the broadcasting industry.
"He lived and breathed television news and gave his whole life for the station. He was Youngstown's version of Walter Cronkite," Guthrie said fondly.
Mona Alexander, news director at WFMJ-TV 21, called Holden "a consummate professional and a real gentleman" and said his fairness, honesty and integrity will be a large part of his legacy. Alexander spent 16 years at Channel 27 working as a managing editor, reporter and assistant news director before moving to Channel 21 eight years ago.
Influencing journalists to-be
Alexander added that Holden also gave back to the profession by teaching at Youngstown State University for many years. There, he exposed students to his philosophies regarding fairness and objectivity in news reporting and "engaged them in the profession," she said.
"He's contributed to our area and to future journalists," Alexander said, adding that Holden influenced her career in the field.
Holden also had a positive influence on Sarah Eisler, who had been his co-anchor since 2001. Eisler said she was also grateful to have worked with Holden each year at Channel 27's booth at the Canfield Fair and to see him interact with those who stopped by.
"I was proud to sit next to him and be associated with him," Eisler said. "He was gracious with every person and never lost his touch with the average Joe. He followed the Golden Rule."
"He was a class act and made WKBN like family to me," she added.
Holden, a Woodrow Wilson High School graduate, received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University in 1964. He also served in the Army.
Before starting at WKBN in March 1972 as a reporter, Holden spent time at WBBW-AM 1240, where he reported news and sports. Two years later, he was on the anchor desk at Channel 27, a position he held for more than 30 years.
In mid-April, Holden began to move toward retirement after having been a regular on the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Around the same time, he was moved to the noon and 5 p.m. spots, but became ill after one day at that position, Coursen said. For the last few months, Holden's illness kept him in and out of the hospital, he added.