He climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains and ran a successful business for years, but what Lloyd Holmes was most proud of was the time he put into community service and volunteering in Greater Portland, say his children.

Mr. Holmes, a Portland native and a longtime resident of Scarborough, died Friday at the age of 83.

“For all of his life, he was dedicated to helping the United Way,” said his daughter Judy Holmes of Seal Harbor. “The good that he did for the people of Greater Portland is just unbelievable.”

Mr. Holmes was born and raised in Portland, and graduated from Deering High School in 1945. After high school, he attended Maine Maritime Academy, graduating in 1947.

His daughter said he wanted to pursue a career in portrait photography, but his father died and he was called to join his family’s business, Holmes Electric Supply of Portland, which his grandfather established in 1922.

Judy Holmes said her father encouraged and inspired her to pursue a career in photography. “When I was young, he used to buy me cameras,” Holmes said.

In the 1950s, Mr. Holmes became general manager of the family’s electrical supply company. Its name was changed to Holmes Distributors in 1967.

Another daughter, Cindy Andrews of Cumberland Foreside, said her father established the House of Lights in 1955. For years, the store operated at 510 Cumberland Ave. in Portland, alongside the electrical supply company.

The store moved to Scarborough in 1987, said Andrews, who now owns the House of Lights.

Harry Clark, president of the House of Lights, knew Mr. Holmes for 20 years, and considered him his mentor.

“He knew a lot of people and he had one rule: Treat the customer like you would want to be treated, like a human being,” Clark said. “He ran his business like L.L. Bean.”

“His business philosophy was hire the right people, give them the right tools, let them do their job and, oh yeah, check in with them once in a while,” Clark said.

Their similar business styles may have fostered a lasting friendship between Mr. Holmes and Leon Gorman, the former president of L.L. Bean. The outdoor retailer specializes in putting its customers’ needs first.

“He and Leon were like brothers,” Clark said.

Gorman and Mr. Holmes met through their affiliation with the Junior Achievement program. Mr. Holmes served on Junior Achievement’s board of directors from 1970 to 1977.

In 1986, Mr. Holmes received the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Henri Benoit Award for providing leadership in the private sector and making a positive contribution to the community.

In 1978, Mr. Holmes created the first United Way run, a fundraiser for the organization. In 1987, he received the United Way of America’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award, the organization’s highest honor for voluntary service to community and country.

In 2004, the United Way of Greater Portland established the Holmes Leadership Award, which recognizes impressive philanthropic achievement by an individual or company in support of the United Way.

Andrews said Gorman and her father climbed Mount Everest in 1990. Mr. Holmes, who was 63 at the time, didn’t reach the top but set a record for reaching the highest altitude – 21,500 feet – for a person that age.

He also climbed Mount Rainier in Washington and Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, Andrews said.

“I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year. I had to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” she said. Judy Holmes climbed Kilimanjaro with her father in 1989.

Mr. Holmes remained active throughout his life. He ran road races, skied and played golf. Downhill skiing was one of his favorite pastimes.

Mr. Holmes’ son, Mark, who lives in New Hampshire, became a ski instructor and a golf pro. “We all sort of followed what dad taught us,” Judy Holmes said.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]