May 27, 1930 – Dec. 7, 2017
Wilbert Bernard Holder always had more than one iron in the fire.
While he was working nights for American Airlines at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, for several years he spent his days as volunteer office manager for the Buffalo branch of the NAACP. Earlier, in addition to his full-time work, he assisted in his family's dry cleaning business.
He died Dec. 7 in his Buffalo home after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
Born in Buffalo, he attended School 75 and graduated from Seneca Vocational High School, where he studied electronics.
In the late 1940s, he joined with his older brother, Duane, and his father, Alexander, who had a dry cleaning and tailor shop on William Street, to establish Holder Brothers, a laundry and dry cleaning service at Fillmore and Winslow avenues.
With branches on Jefferson Avenue at Best Street and in the Towne Garden Plaza, they operated the business until 1977.
Mr. Holder served for four years in the Air Force in communications and was stationed in England. After he was discharged, he worked in electronics from 1954 to 1957 at Bell Aircraft, then became a railroad postal clerk, traveling on mail trains for the U.S. Postal Service.
He left the Postal Service and took a job in 1967 with American Airlines in ramp service and maintenance at the airport.
After retiring in 1992, he went back to work three years later for Wegmans supermarket on Alberta Drive in Amherst, where he continued part-time until 2006.
A life member of the NAACP, he served as a board member and treasurer of the Buffalo Chapter and was a member of all of its committees. He was honored with the organization’s Medgar Evers Civil Rights Award for community service and received numerous awards for voter registration in Buffalo.
While serving on the NAACP board, he expanded his knowledge of labor law by taking paralegal courses at Hilbert College so that he could assist people with work-related problems.
As a retiree, he maintained the office, trained employees, investigated complaints and was active with the organization’s national youth competition in science and art.
He also was a member of the Buffalo Urban League, the Kensington Avenue Block Club, the American Legion and AMVETS.
For 1490 Enterprises, the community center and social services agency on Jefferson Avenue, he drove seniors to medical appointments. He also was a volunteer for the Channel 17 Auction.
He was a lifelong member of First Shiloh Baptist Church, where he served on the Housing Board, as a senior greeter, in the food pantry and in the layman’s ministry.
He also served on the board of the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier.
Survivors include his wife of 60 years, the former Justine Humphrey, a retired graphic artist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute; two sons, Keith B. and Kenneth B.; a sister, Gwendolyn Johnson; a grandson and two great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at noon Saturday, Dec. 16 in First Shiloh Baptist Church, 15 Pine St.