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IMC Tributes – Sylvia Eleanor Holcomb

September 18, 2020
Sylvia Eleanor Holcomb
Following a long illness, Sylvia passed away on the morning of September 9, 2020. Sylvia was an integral part of Ian Murray and Company for many years. She filled the role of Director of Government Relations with the company, serving clients admirably and coordinating the activities of other team members who worked on government relations files… including some who were hard to coordinate, such as Jim Horsman and Ian Murray (Sylvia really was the boss). Her vast knowledge of business and government and her common-sense approach to finding solutions made her a uniquely powerful force in getting positive results for her clients and the company.
Prior to joining IMC Sylvia owned her own small Public Relations firm after leaving her role as Senior Manager of the Public Affairs Bureau for the Government of Alberta. She served in several offices in government including Premier Lougheed’s office, Chief of Staff to the Ministers of Municipal Affairs and Agriculture. She also served as Director of Communications for the departments of Transportation, Environment, and Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. She was a much sought after voice in developing many government programs. She also led many political campaigns.
Sylvia was born in Saskatoon and was raised in Lethbridge, Calgary. Following her marriage in 1964 to Ken Holcomb they lived in Medicine Hat and Sherwood Park, Alberta where they raised their four children, Matthew, Kathleen and Colleen and Michael. They also have sixteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She is also survived by two sisters and a brother. Despite her many accomplishments in business, her personal pride and joy was her family.
Comments from current and past IMC team members:
Ian Murray:
It started with a short recruiting process as Sylvia had tried retirement but that was not for her.   Sylvia was not only one of our best recruits ever but also one of our most valuable employees in our 30 year history. The entire Murray family enjoyed going to Sylvia and Ken’s place on New Year’s Day. We will all miss Sylvia. She was a great person and a great friend and mentor.
Don Edgar:
Thank you for sharing the sad news about Sylvia. She was a joy to work with and always very happy. Please send my condolences to her family.
Bruce Herdman:
Thanks for the info Ian. That is a big loss for you, both professionally and personally, and certainly also a big loss for her family and close friends and colleagues.
James Horsman:
I first knew Sylvia and Ken in Kinsmen in The Hat in the 60s without doubt she was one of a kind and touched the lives of countless fellow citizens in Alberta. She will be missed not only by her family Ken especially but all she loved dearly. God made her amongst us and thank Him for that presence.
Fred McDougall:
Sad news. No one could establish a presence at a meeting like Sylvia. I can remember the first time I met her-30+ years ago! She came sweeping into a departmental managers meeting wearing that famous fur coat, and took over almost without introduction. Always gave straight, honest advice, very effectively.
Grant McNeil:
As straight up a lady as you are ever going to meet. A sad day.
Bob Milbourne:
Thanks for sharing the sad news. Please extend my sincere condolences to her family. Sylvia was a really a neat lady, a one of a kind for sure!. Many fond memories of skirmishing with her in various venues. Will surely be missed by all.
Jane Parks:
Sylvia and I met nearly thirty years ago and immediately formed a very close bond. I was beginning my career in public relations and never could I have found better mentors than Sylvia and her partner, Barbara Deters. We began as business partners, but our friendship became our bond. Together we faced many challenges, the loss of our parents, the joys of seeing our families grow up and becoming grandparents. We travelled together as couples and sometimes just the two of us. We attended many political conventions, where we always picked a good spot to sit. Sylvia always said, everyone would come to us that we wanted to talk to and she was right. She knew everybody and they knew and sought her out. Her wit, humour, knowledge and ability to grasp intricate details of every project she worked on and then see solid, common sense approaches to solving client’s problems was her most powerful tool. I will miss her terribly.
Bruce Rabik:
Though I have not talked to her in a few years she was a very interesting lady- smart with well-informed opinions. The world is a bit smaller today.
John Zaozirny:
Very sad news….a very special lady
Also below are comments from a long-time client Pete Snyder of Air Products as well as the former MLA and Cabinet Minister, Iris Evans:
Pete Snyder:
In the early 2000s, I was assigned to support the needed government and community engagement for our new investments in Strathcona County. I had never heard of Strathcona County or been to Western Canada.  We enlisted Sylvia’s help to get the know the area and help us learn how to become a good neighbor. I grew up in an old school pollical family and I know an old school pollical operative when I see one.  She and I got alone immediately. She was my first Albertan friend. It was pretty clear she knew where all the proverbial bodies were buried.  It also occurred to me that crossing Sylvia would be a pretty quick way for someone to need burying!!!  With that in mind, Sylvia and I set up a 2-part work process. Part 1 was Sylvia told me what to do.  Part 2 was I did it.
Our work process was quite effective and carrying this out with Sylvia was one the most enjoyable experiences of my career, she introduced me to many truly wonderful and hard-working government and community leaders. With a unique combination of modest professionalism combined with a momma grizzly bear at full charge, Sylvia was a force for accomplishment and, even more so, for good. I will miss her very much. Best wishes for God’s blessing on Sylvia, her family and friends.
Iris Evans:
Beautiful Sylvia will be remembered for so many things, her love of her husband Ken and her children, grandchildren and extended family!
Her passion, her beliefs in community, in politics and her career that benefitted so many people, especially people in Strathcona County and beyond, will be remembered with greatest admiration and respect. Sylvia will remain a lovely and wise lady in the minds and hearts of all who knew her.
I was blessed to meet her and to share part of her journey and for that I am truly thankful. Love to all who remember and who will miss Sylvia always.
For anybody that wants to send a note to Ken Holcomb, here is the address:
204, 121 Festival Way
Sherwood Park, AB
T8A 3B4
Those who wish to make a donation in memory of Sylvia as requested to donate to Parkinson’s Research – The Michael J. Fox Foundation