Robert Holzkamp, a visionary Tribune Company executive who instilled the values of hard work and perseverance in his family and inspired a generation of employees during his 42-year career, died July 31st in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He was 84. Robert Bruce Holzkamp – “Bob” – was born in White Plains, New York, on Nov. 18, 1932 to Clarence E. and Ruth Holzkamp.
Bob’s wife, Jane, described their marriage as “a fabulous time and great romance,” with “a true gentleman who always brought the family together.” At work and in his personal life, Bob helped those around him reach for greater heights. “He was a loving father who encouraged me to do things many women wouldn’t, from piloting large boats, to building projects, to sports,” said daughter Susan Wiberg.
Daughter Debbie Holzkamp said the seeds of her own success as a sales executive grew from her father’s example. “My dad was a mentor during my career,” Debbie said. “He was famous for his leadership, particularly in helping women develop careers in advertising sales back in the 1960s when it was still a male-only field.”
Bob Holzkamp began his newspaper publishing career at the Chicago Tribune in 1956 as a classified advertising salesman and held various advertising and marketing positions. Between 1977 and 1983, he worked for two Tribune Co. newspapers in Florida, first as vice president and director of sales for the Orlando Sentinel, then as executive vice president and general manager of the Ft. Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel.
At his retirement in 1999, he was the vice president of sales and marketing for all of Tribune Company.
Bob built a national reputation for re-shaping newspaper industry norms. He led the charge for building stronger relationships between advertising and news departments to heighten understanding of their vital interdependence. After women were hired for classified phone sales in the early 1960s, under his leadership they quickly rose to become more than half of the Tribune classifieds staff. He helped transition the financially struggling New York Daily News during a massive and contentious restructuring of that paper in the early 1990s involving its sale to the British financier and publisher, Robert Maxwell. “My father met the extraordinary challenges presented to him with courage and perseverance, while sticking to the fundamental values of communicating directly and honestly with people to see the job through,” said Debbie.
Newspapering was just one facet of Bob’s life. “He loved boating and cruising with friends and family,” Susan said of her father, a licensed captain. He traveled by boat throughout Florida, the Bahamas, and the Great Lakes on a succession of “Debbie Sues” and “Janie Lynns.”
Bob also loved automobiles and had to try out a new car model every year. Among his favorites were a 1978 Pace Corvette, a 1972 Skylark, and a Lincoln Blackwood – Lincoln’s short-lived pickup truck made in 2002.
Bob served as an officer in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956 and was stationed at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Leonard, Missouri as a commander in the Engineer Officer Candidate School. He was called back for service in 1961 due to the Berlin Crisis, when he was stationed for six months at Fort Polk in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Bob received an honorable discharge in 1968 as a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.
He had a serious and reflective side, too. “My father respected all people, always,” said Susan. “Later in life, he became a faithful believer in God and read his devotion every day.” Bob was Lay Leader for the Florida South East and North East Methodist districts and traveled to 70 different congregations. “What a positive, caring, supportive person for me and my ministry,” said Rev. Tim Smiley, former superintendent of the North East District for the United Methodist Church, who visited churches with Bob. Community service was important to Bob, too. He was a past President of the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Chicago, a longtime board member of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago, and an active volunteer for the interdenominational family and community ministry, Barnabas.
Whether boating, skiing, dancing, selling, leading a team, building a cabin, saving the waterways, cooking burgers, or teaching his grandkids to fish, Bob could be counted on to offer his trademark message of encouragement, “Here we go!” His energy, love of life, and spirit of achievement will live on in those who knew him.
Robert Bruce Holzkamp is survived by his wife, Jane Holzkamp, and family Melissa Muller (Zig Ziegler), Muller Davis Jr., and Joeff Davis ((Kely Leiser), and grandchildren Westley Smith, Skyler Joy, Riel Bellow, Asha Davis, Lulu Davis, and Lilah Davis. He is also survived by his former wife, Margie Holzkamp, and their daughters Susan (Marty Wiberg) and Debbie Holzkamp (Steve Shary), and grandchildren Dana Wiberg, Charles Taylor, and Ryan Shary.
The family suggests donations in Bob Holzkamp’s name to Barnabas, 1303 Jasmine St. Suite 101, Fernandina Beach, FL, 32034, or Metropolitan Family Services (United Charities), 1 North Dearborn, Suite 1000, Chicago, IL, 60602.
Services will be at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 26, 2017 at the Memorial United Methodist Church.