George W. Holsey, 41, Sun photographer who led elementary school camera club

September 25, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

George W. Holsey, an award-winning Sun photographer who founded a camera club at an inner-city elementary school as a way to give something back to his community, died Monday of complications of AIDS at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 41 and lived in Northeast Baltimore.

Mr. Holsey began his newspaper career in 1985 as a technician in the newspaper's photo laboratory. In 1990, he was promoted to photographer and was assigned to The Sun's zoned editions.

"He brought a great sense of dedication to his craft because he liked working with people," said Dave Lewis, deputy director of photography for The Sun.

He said that Mr. Holsey had a particular talent for studio work and often worked on fashion and food layouts.

Mr. Holsey, who favored native African dress, was known for his colorful dashikis and was seldom without a kofi, a small beaded cap he wore with great distinction.

Gifted with an easy going demeanor and ready wit, he was popular with colleagues and people he met on assignments.

He was concerned about needy, inner-city students and in 1994 started a camera club for fourth- and fifth-graders at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School in Cherry Hill.

"He always said that he wanted to give something back to the community and that was the beginning of the camera club," Mr. Lewis said.

Susan Spath, Woodson's principal, said the camera club "was certainly George's baby. He'd come in and work with the children on his days off and he could be tough. He'd make them do things over until they got it right. He told them he was being tough just like his editors were tough on him.

"But his whole purpose was that, perhaps, someday a child would consider photography a career choice and I certainly hope that happens. It would be a great tribute to his memory."

Dr. Spath also was impressed with Mr. Holsey's modesty and dedication.

"He didn't do this for credit or glory, he did it because he wanted to help children," she said. "It all came from his heart."

"The children loved him," recalled Deborah Gillespie, a fifth-grade teacher who is adviser to the club. "With George they listened and learned."

Mr. Holsey took club members on field trips to The Sun's offices where their work was critiqued by professional photographers, who often were impressed by the quality of their photos.

"He was so very proud of them and they always looked forward to club meetings and being with George," Ms. Gillespie said.

Mr. Holsey was born in Albany, Ga., and grew up in Newark, N.J., where he graduated from Boys' Vocational and Technical High School.

Active in the Civil Air Patrol while in high school, he served briefly in the Air Force before going to work for New Jersey Bell Telephone Co. as a lineman.

In 1979, he moved to Baltimore and earned an associate's degree in photo illustration and cinematography from Catonsville Community College.

Walter Holsey of Newark said that his brother's interest in photography began as a youngster when he was given cameras by an older brother who also had an interest in photography.

Mr. Holsey was interested in automobiles and at his death was restoring a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda.

"Cars and photography -- that was his life," said Walter Holsey, who will complete restoration of the car.

As proud as the family was of Mr. Holsey's career, they were equally proud of his winning struggle against drugs.

"One of his great struggles in life was overcoming an addiction to drugs," Walter Holsey said. "He overcame that and for the last 15 years of his life was drug-free. All of us were so proud of him."

Mr. Holsey was married in 1975 to Angela P. Bethea, who died in 1990.

He was a member of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1300 Druid Hill Ave., where services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow. He is survived by his mother, Gladys Holsey of Newark; a son, Frederick J. Tindall of Columbia; two daughters, Channell F. Tindall, a senior at West Virginia State College, and Ann M. Tindall of Laurel; another brother, Gus Williams of Montclair, N.J.; and three sisters, Berta Brantley of Old Bridge, N.J., and Cora Williams and Gail Mangan, both of Newark.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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