Allan Holbert, reporter and jazz arranger

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2007 - 9:26 PM

Whether covering the Vikings, doing PR for Cargill or running a ranch, he met life with style and gusto.

Allan Holbert of Apple Valley wore many hats with a sense of style.

As a journalist, Holbert wrote about the Minnesota Orchestra and the Vikings, and he worked as a public-relations executive at Cargill Inc. He was also a scholar and arranger of early jazz. And he even tried his hand at ranching in Wyoming.

Holbert, a former Minneapolis Tribune reporter and a founder of the Reggie Hacksenflax Society Dance Band, died of complications of Alzheimer's disease on Saturday in St. Louis Park.

The longtime Minneapolis resident was 72.

"In each of these new areas, he jumped in and lived the experience fully," said his daughter, Ginny Holbert of Evanston, Ill. He strove for perfection in all his pursuits, tackling woodworking and golf with gusto, she said.

"His lifelong ambition was to make perfect dovetail joints," said his daughter.

As a music critic for the Tribune, Holbert was "a stickler for good journalism," said Gary Gilson, former executive director of the Minnesota News Council, Minneapolis Star reporter and a bass player in the Hacksenflax band.

Gilson added that Holbert was not afraid to stand up to top newspaper management, when they hesitated over a controversial story. After his ranching days, Holbert rejoined the Tribune for a few years in the mid-1970s to cover the Vikings.

He didn't have the background for reporting on major-league sports, but senior editors wanted him for his writing skills, said Bud Armstrong, a longtime Star Tribune sports copy editor.

"He was a very elegant writer, a very elegant guy," said Armstrong.

In 1980, Holbert, a trombonist, formed the Hacksenflax band, named because its members were hacks (reporters) and flacks (PR people).

For nine years, the band played at such events as the 25th anniversary show on KTCA-TV, the first Minnesota Book Awards program in September 1988, and at the Emporium of Jazz in Mendota.

In addition to his daughter Ginny, Holbert is survived by his wife of 31 years, Barbara Holbert of Apple Valley; a son, Fred of Western Springs, Ill.; a stepson, Ward Anderson of Winona, Minn.; a stepdaughter, Vicki Suker of Farmington; a brother, Fred of Lincoln, Neb.; two sisters, Louise Casey and Angela Terry, both of North Carolina, and six granddaughters.

A celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. on Aug. 4 at First Universalist Church, 3400 Dupont Av. S., Minneapolis.

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