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James "Jim" Stanley Holtaway

July 9th, 1940 - June 29th, 2024


James (Jim) Stanley Holtaway, born July 9, 1940, of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina died on June 29, 2024.


Jim is survived by his wife Deneith Wilson Holtaway; his three children Leslie Holtaway of Fairfax, VA, Stephanie Joos of Austin, TX and Jonathan Holtaway of Vienna, VA; his son-in-law Don Joos; his daughter-in-law Tara Holtaway; and his two brothers, Tom Holtaway of Rio Rancho, NM and John Holtaway of Geneva, IL.  Jim and Dene have nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren.


Born in Elizabeth, NJ to James Stanislaus Holtaway and Veronica Ender Holtaway, Jim grew up in New Jersey and Illinois.  He enlisted in the US Air Force after his high school graduation in 1958 and became a radar and electronics specialist working on B-47s.  Upon his discharge, he attended the University of Illinois and Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in secondary education in social studies. 


Jim and Dene met at the University of Illinois. They started their married life together in August of 1963 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2023.


The decision to work for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pulled Jim and Dene to multiple countries in Africa and the Caribbean.  Their early years during which their three children were born included two postings to Tunisia, where they would meet many dear and lifelong friends.  The family’s second international posting was three years in Khartoum, the Sudan after which Jim completed a one-year Fellowship at Harvard University.


While serving in Washington in the early 1980s, Jim became heavily involved in the civil projects required to rebuild Grenada after the United States invasion in 1983.  This eventually led to his appointment as Director of Caribbean affairs and a four-year posting in Bridgetown, Barbados.


Following his post in Barbados, Jim accepted a Fellowship and then a posting as a professor at the National War College in Washington D.C.  Initially an International Economics specialist, Jim was a popular seminar leader and eventually taught several courses in a variety of subjects to the top military ranks, many of whom became the future leaders of the armed forces. It combined Jim’s love and respect for the military with his professional expertise and he absolutely loved those years.


With more than enough years of government service, Jim retired at 52, one year after he bought two dream purchases, a 42-foot trawler called Blue Rock, and a beautiful lagoon lot on Hilton Head Island, SC.  For three years, Jim and Dene lived with their dog Waverly on Blue Rock year-round in Gangplank Marina on Water Street in Washington D.C., right down the river from the National War College, where he worked. After completion of their new home, Jim and Dene moved to Hilton Head permanently in 1997.


Jim was an active retiree and while he could still play tennis, he captained his tennis team to win the southeast regionals and within one set of a National Championship for his USTA division, a failure that he accepted with grace, but it always rankled him a little.  He loved his boat, which was kept at Windmill Harbor and he could be found sitting on board enjoying the breeze and talking with his fellow boaters. He also owned multiple RVs during his life and while he loved the outdoors, he expected his comfort to be nearby.


Everyone who knew Jim knew that the grandkids were his passion.  He purchased so many electric scooters, electric cars and go-karts for his grandkids that his community eventually outlawed them, but they waited for Jim’s grandkids to grow up first. The neighborhood always knew when the grandkids were in town with the laughing, splashing and yelling around the pool and multiple fishing rods posed along the lagoon shore. For over twenty years, Papa had two steadfast holiday traditions; Santa, which dutifully recorded each grandchild’s height each year, and the kid size train that eventually had to move from around the tree to outside because there were so many grandkids inside.


Never one to miss a gathering, Jim held happy hours on most days in his front yard and was always ready with his three garage fridges packed full of hors d'oeuvres and drinks, appropriate for any age or preference. Good friends and good conversation extended the happy hours well into the cold months thanks to his extensive collection of heaters.


We could not have asked for a more loving Dad, Papa and Great Grandpa. He will be missed, and his love will always be carried in our hearts.

We Entrusted James Holtaway's Care To

The Island Funeral Home & Crematory

The Island Funeral Home & Crematory

Welcome to our gracious funeral home, where our dedicated staff provides exceptional care with meticulous attention to detail. Founded in 1981 by Allen and Nancy Richardson, we have grown to become Hilton Head's trusted choice for end-of-life care. With the addition of an on-site crematory in 1983, we are uniquely positioned as the only cremation provider on Hilton Head Island where your loved one remains in our care throughout the entire process. Our recently renovated facility offers serene spaces for reflection, private viewings, and life celebrations that honor your loved one's unique story.

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Share a favorite memory, send condolences, and honor James’s life with a heartfelt message.

Jean & Dan Farmer

Our condolences to Dene, the kids, grandkids and great-grands. Dan and I met Jim and Dene in 2010, after an introduction by my aunt, whose family lived near his in NJ. We shared many happy hours at their Hilton Head Island house, as well as wonderful restaurant meals nearby! Jim showed us around the island our first time there, and he sent us many real-estate flyers over the years to entice us to move there. We enjoyed hearing stories about their travels across the globe, and about life on the island. Visiting with Jim and Dene was one of the most delightful parts of each trip we made to Hilton Head Island. We will miss Jim.

Published July 9th, 2024

Sue and Wally Stopper

Our friendship with Jim Holtaway has spanned many years despite us living across the pond from each other. Little did I realise when I accepted a temporary job with USAID Khartoum back in 1979 that many years down the line Wally and I would be invited to spend a few days with the Holtaways on Hilton Head Island. Jim was there to pick us up when our plane touched down at Savannah Airport at some ungodly hour. He came complete with a plate of hors d'oeuvres as, in his words, 'that airline wouldn't have fed you' - he was right. Jim and Dene's hospitality was incredible, so much so that Jim persuaded us to spend a tad longer than the scheduled 'few days' with them (I'm not sure Dene had much of a say in this decision!!). Jim then proceeded to introduce us to the joys of electric scooters, go-karts and cycle rides over the golf course - not sure if that was allowed or not. He also warned us to watch out for alligators which we thought was a joke but it most certainly wasn't. At the end of a day out it was almost compulsory to draw up a garden chair and sit out in front of his garage, enjoy a glass of wine and Jim's trademark of hors d'oeuvres then put the world to rights - the latter was never successful but the wine went down a treat. Happily we were able to repay Jim and Dene's hospitality when they came over to stay with us in the UK although sitting outside our garage was never going to be an option. We introduced them to the English countryside, the National Trust and the Downton Abbey series. On a separate occasion we managed to catch up with them whilst they were passing through London, either before or after a cruise. Jim had tasked us with tracking down a distant ex-relative who was a Queen's Counsel working in the city. Wasn't the easiest of undertakings but the result was a memorable evening which Jim organized to perfection. We enjoyed a great friendship with Jim despite our 'physical' paths not crossing as much as we would have liked. Frequent emails kept us up to date with the goings and comings of the Holtaways. It was abundantly clear that his family meant the world to him, his grand-children especially were his pride and joy. He has left them a wonderful legacy of memories. Jim was a larger than life character, a more generous and kind hearted friend would be hard to meet. It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to have known Jim and he will be sorely missed but not forgotten.

Published July 7th, 2024

Phil Porter

I met Jim about five years ago when he asked me to take a few photos of his yard. He was very proud of the landscaping, and it showed. I marveled at his Canary date palms, and I could tell he loved them, too. Even though we had never met, he invited me to sit with him in the front yard and enjoy a cool bottle of water on a hot summer day. Jim then regaled me with story after story of his and his wife's time in the foreign service. I've not met many men more interesting than he. A couple of years ago I sent him a note asking his opinion of the war that had just broken out in Ukraine. Instead of a quick answer, he sent me a two page response with opinion and analysis. Jim made me feel like a close friend even though he barely knew me. I can imagine many more people have had the same experience. What a wonderful man and servant to his country!

Published July 9th, 2024

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