Wes Holden: 1937-2019

J. Peter Mortimer, Wes Holden, Peter Ensenberger, Jerry Jacka and Jeff Kida on Jacka's porch
From left, Arizona Highways alumni J. Peter Mortimer, Wes Holden, Peter Ensenberger and Jerry Jacka and current Photo Editor Jeff Kida pose for a photo at Jacka's ranch. | Courtesy of Peter Ensenberger

Wes Holden, whose lengthy tenure on the staff of Arizona Highways included a stint as interim editor, died Friday, May 24, in the Phoenix area. He was 81.

Holden first appeared on the masthead of Arizona Highways as associate editor in January 1972. He served in that role until 1979, when he spent several months as acting editor following Tom Cooper's retirement.

After Gary Avey took over as editor in 1980, Holden became managing editor. Later in the 1980s, he moved to the Related Products Division (later renamed the Books Division) and led that department for nearly a decade, until his retirement in the mid-1990s.

Holden's widow, Suzi, tells Arizona Highways that her husband loved Arizona and its people, and she recalls one of his favorite sayings: "Do as much as you can for as long as you can, and then say thank you for a good run."

Peter Ensenberger, the magazine's former director of photography, remembers Holden as "a gentle soul and a kind spirit — one of the nicest people you'd ever meet." He adds, "He was a joy to be around, and he could weave a tale and tell a joke with the best of them. There was no such thing as a brief conversation with Wes."

In particular, Ensenberger recalls a staff trip down the old Butterfield Stage route. "Wes regaled us all with his knowledge of this historic trail," he says. "He knew all the twists and turns of the route like the back of his hand, and shared the legend and lore of its history."

Vicky Snow, who now is Arizona Highways' webmaster, worked on books with Holden toward the end of his career. She remembers him as "a gentle, kind of soft-spoken man" with a great sense of humor and a high-pitched laugh.

"He wouldn't just give me the edits to make from a printed proof," she says. "He'd come over to my workstation and take a seat next to me, and we would systematically apply his edits together, at my screen. He was very deliberate and in no hurry to crank projects out."

Cindy Bormanis, the magazine's operations and IT manager, also briefly overlapped with Holden. "He was a wonderful, kind man who enjoyed storytelling and photography," she says. "He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell."

Holden was of no relation to Win Holden, who retired as publisher of Arizona Highways in 2018.

A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Green Acres Mortuary and Cemetery in Scottsdale.

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