William Kenneth Hollingsworth, 92 years old, passed away peacefully on July 22nd, 2023 surrounded by family after an amazing life full of love, humor, warmth of spirit, and compassion for all those around him.
Bill was born on March 7th, 1931 in Pacific, WA to his parents Arthur and Nell Hollingsworth, the 1st of four sons to the couple. He excelled in sports and found his passion for trumpet playing during High School, eventually following a music scholarship to Eastern WA State College in 1950. He would play with the Spokane Symphony Orchestra before moving back to Tacoma in 1951 to join the US Air Force. While serving in the following years, Bill would lead the USAF marching band and headline the showcase “March On!”, an early regional TV program.
After winning a statewide talent contest, Bill moved to CA in 1954 to pursue the entertainment industry, enrolling at the Pasadena Playhouse. While there, he was noticed by a TV studio crafting a new foray in the fledgling ‘kids programming’ slot. He was hired as “Captain Jet” and trailblazed a format that would flourish throughout the US in the coming decades.
Throughout the late 50s and 60s, Bill would star in many shows in this format including “Commander Riptide”, “The Great Zolar”, and “The Bill Holly Morning Show”. He also nurtured and managed a band of teenagers to national stardom – “The Dixieland Small Fry” – as a jazz prodigy act. All the while, he maintained a continual role of headlining jazz combos as bandleader and manager working adult nightclubs and cabarets up and down the West Coast.
In the early 60s while performing at the Limelight in Santa Monica, Bill met the love of his life, Thelma Miller. They were wed in December 1963 and would enjoy 41 years of marriage until her passing in 2004.
Bill expanded his skills adding magician and Master of Ceremonies roles to his performances throughout the 70s and 80s. He would eventually craft “The Bill Holly Show” into the vehicle for all his talents in the coming decades. He made numerous appearances as MC for celebrity charity events with headliners such as Bob Hope during this time. Moving back to WA in 1984, he also found great satisfaction spreading a message of self-esteem and confidence to grade schoolers with personal appearances throughout the 80s and 90s.
Starting in 1988, Bill worked with Honda of Fife where he was known as “The Legend”. He never wanted to retire and would maintain his work schedule until just months before his passing. After returning to the PNW, he would never lose his passion for family, fishing, NW sports, and entertaining everyone who met him with his storied career and boundless love of life.
Bill is survived by a long list of nieces, nephews, extended family members, and legions of admirers. A Celebration of Life will be held at the Pacific, WA Senior Center in Pacific, WA on October 15th, 2023, at 2:30pm. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your local school’s music education program.