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William L. Holcomb, 85, longtime labor negotiator, active volunteer

William L. Holcomb, 85, longtime labor negotiator, active volunteer

Sept. 16, 1934 – March 6, 2020

William L. Holcomb was well-known as a labor negotiator who worked with many local governments throughout the region.

But he also did extensive volunteer work, for the most part behind the scenes.

"He traveled in big circles, but he did a lot of low-key things, under the radar, that really had an impact on the community," said his son, Joseph Holcomb.

Mr. Holcomb, 85, of Kenmore, died March 6, 2020, at home with assistance from Hospice Buffalo. He had suffered a stroke three weeks earlier.

When Mr. Holcomb became involved with the local chapter of the American Red Cross, his son said, its headquarters was badly in need of repair. "He raised a lot of the money to save that building on Delaware Avenue," his son said.

The local Red Cross gave Mr. Holcomb its highest award, the Clara Barton Award.

Born in Buffalo on Sept. 16, 1934, he was the first child of William L. and Josephine Holcomb.

Mr. Holcomb was a member of the Class of 1952 at Canisius High School, where he was a class officer for two years and played football, basketball and baseball. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1956 from Canisius College, where he majored in English literature.

After participating in ROTC during his college years, Mr. Holcomb entered the Army Reserve in 1956 and rose to the rank of colonel. He graduated from U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and received the Meritorious Service Medal, before retiring in 1994.

On Oct. 3, 1959, he and Susan Formhals married in Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Snyder.

To his family and friends, Mr. Holcomb was a warm and devoted person, said his daughter, Mary Kathleen Hale. "He loved his friends – it was visible in all the lifelong friendships he fostered (some spanning 75 years) and his beloved supper club," she said. "He loved people – Bill Holcomb was one social guy. His smile, firm handshake and friendly demeanor always drew people to him. He loved to talk. He loved his family dearly."

From 1970 to 1974, Mr. Holcomb was director of labor relations for the City of Buffalo under Mayor Sedita.

In 1974, he formed William L. Holcomb Associates, which he operated in Snyder until 2012. "He was well-known for fairness, his knowledge of the law, and helped to grow companies and streamline governments throughout New York," Joseph Holcomb said.

Mr. Holcomb worked as director of operations at Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation from 1974 to 1977; coordinator of labor management programs for the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University from 1977 to 1982; vice president of human resources at Greater Buffalo Press from 1983 to 1988; and director of human resources for the Erie County Water Authority from 1990 to 1996.

He was an instructor in labor relations/human resources management at Canisius College from 1971 to 1975 and 1990 to 1996; at Niagara University from 1975 to 1977; and at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1988 to 1991.

Mr. Holcomb was past president of the state Public Employer Labor Relations Association and the Buffalo Executives Association. He was a charter member, former board member and vice president of the National Public Employer Labor Relations Association and a charter member of the Organization of Public Employer Negotiators.

He was a former board member of the Printing Industry of Western New York and belonged to the U.S. Army Reserve Officers Association, the U.S. Army Armor Association and the Labor Employer Relations Association.

Mr. Holcomb served as chair of the Northeast Region of the American Red Cross and of the board of directors of the American Red Cross' Greater Buffalo Chapter. He served on the board of the Kenmore-Tonawanda Chamber of Commerce and the St. Vincent de Paul Society and was president of the Professional Businessmen's Association.

Mr. Holcomb was general chairman of the 1982 Catholic Charities Appeal, on the board of Our Lady of Victory Infant Home, past president of the Canisius College Alumni Association and a member emeritus of the Canisius College Board of Regents and the Kenmore Mercy Hospital Foundation Board of Directors.

Mr. Holcomb received the LaSalle Medal from Canisius College, was named to the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor at Canisius High School and to the Class of 1952 Leadership Hall of Fame. He was named the 2010 Citizen of the Year of the National Public Employer Labor Relations Association and received the group's Labor Employer Relations Association Presidents Award.

Since 2003, the William L. Holcomb Award for Public Service in Labor Relations is awarded annually to a member of the association.

Mr. Holcomb's wife died on Feb. 4, 2018.

He is survived by his sons, William L. Holcomb III and Joseph M. Holcomb; a daughter, Mary Kathleen Hale; brother Peter Holcomb; and three grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated March 9 in St. John the Baptist Church in Kenmore.

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