Cecil William (Bill) Holley Jr. passed into the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Saturday, December 28, 2019, at the age of 89. Born in Bristol, Florida on December 4, 1930 to Cecil and Clara (Bateman) Holley, Mr. Holley was the third oldest of their five children (Uldine Odell, Cecile Florence, Ruby Lee, and Elzia (E.C.) Calvin). After his mother’s death and his father’s re-marriage, he had a second brother as well, Edward (Mary Ann). Educated in the Blountstown public schools and following his graduation from Stetson University (1950-1954) with a Bachelor of Music degree, Mr. Holley proudly served in the U. S. Army (1955-1956) rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant. He was honorably discharged from military service and joined the music faculty at Oklahoma Baptist University before beginning his graduate studies in voice at the Indiana University School of Music. There he sang twelve operatic roles (1957-1960), taught undergraduate voice lessons as a graduate assistant, and graduated with a Master of Music in Vocal Performance degree. It was at IU that his God-given vocal talents were truly realized and he ventured to Europe to begin what proved to be a stellar international vocal career in opera. Mr. Holley possessed a heroic, dramatic tenor voice perfectly suited to the lyric and then dramatic roles of Italian opera composers including Puccini, Verdi, and Giordano (La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Turandot, Don Carlo, Un ballo in maschera, Andrea Chénier). He also starred in operas by Mozart and Wagner as well as singing leading roles in the French repertoire including Carmen and The Tales of Hoffman. He began his professional career with the opera houses of Salzburg, Austria and Gelsenkirchen, Germany before joining the renowned Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf and Duisburg, Germany) where he was engaged as one of the company’s well-known and acclaimed leading tenors. His was a voice that was cherished by opera goers at world-famous centers of opera in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and others (Germany) as well as at the Vienna State Opera house in Austria. Mr. Holley’s singing career, primarily in Europe, also included his acclaimed performances of La fanciulla del West (Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West) with the Houston Grand Opera. Bill Holley retired from opera in 1984 departing Düsseldorf and returning to his beloved Plant City. His passing saddens the hearts of lovers of great singing here and abroad. But - most of all - Mr. Holley was a beloved husband, uncle, and Christian gentleman. A member of the First Baptist Church of Blountstown, Florida for many, many years, his faith in Jesus Christ was deep and abiding. He loved singing for his Savior in local churches in the surrounding area. Preceded in death by his parents and sisters, surviving family members rejoicing in the memories of Mr. Holley’s life include his brothers and their families, nieces and nephews, many cousins, great nieces and nephews, and his former wife, Betty Sue Sapp Holley. The family requests that in lieu of flowers you might prayerfully consider a donation to South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City that cared for Mr. Holley so lovingly during this time. Specials thanks to Solaris Healthcare and their staff, Gordon Greer and family, Tony and family, Pat, Mareanna, Helen, and Sherry. May each of you come to love, trust, and obey Jesus Christ as Mr. Holley did. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.haught.care.
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South Florida Baptist Hospital
301 N Alexander St, Plant City FL 33563