Tolman "Tom" Holten worked into the early morning hours to produce the latest news for Star Tribune readers for more than 30 years. When asked about his career, he liked to simply say he was a "newspaperman."
Holten, a calm, sharp-eyed night chief copy editor and news editor at the Minneapolis Tribune and its successor, the Star Tribune, died on Dec. 19 at the age of 97.
A World War II Army veteran who served in the Philippines, New Guinea and Japan, he was a student of global-to-local events. At home, he kept a globe next to a stack of newspapers for quick reference. He never boasted about his role in culling and integrating the volume of news that flows into a night news desk that had to be edited and laid out in digestible portions for readers looking for an account of events every morning on their doorstep.
Former colleagues remembered him as a friendly, always-steady editor who never wavered under deadline pressure. Holten was known as a mentor to young editors on the night shift at the old Minneapolis Tribune. And he was a fellow who also could break tension with a quip.
"In a morning paper newsroom at night it could get hectic sometimes, and a little tense, and Tom was always an island of calm," recalled Steve Ronald, a longtime colleague and retired Star Tribune news editor. "He was almost courtly in some ways and respectful of everybody from the copy aides to the editor. That meant that people treated him with a good deal of respect, as well.
"This was a Scandinavian guy from Wisconsin. He was not flashy, but absolutely trustworthy, and he exuded reliability. Most of the time, he helped prepare the national and international [news wire] budgets and made recommendations at news huddles for how the stories would be displayed. He often designed the morning news section as well, as the layout person. He was in a role where you had to be well read and up-to-date."
Holten graduated from the University of Wisconsin and was working for a newspaper in Portage, Wis., when he enlisted in the Army in early 1942. He joined the Minneapolis Tribune from the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison in 1955. He retired in 1983, less than a year after the merger of the morning Tribune and afternoon Minneapolis Star. He returned to the paper to work summer and other shifts during vacation periods until 1991.
Holten married his late wife, Jacki, granddaughter of the Portage newspaper publisher, and raised a family in south Minneapolis. He was an avid gardener. He decorated the corner of 60th Street and Morgan Avenue South with irises, lilies, peonies and roses. He was an active member of Knox Presbyterian Church. In retirement, he refinished furniture, volunteered at a neighborhood school, led Bible study groups and documented his family history.
Jon Holten, Tom Holten's son and a former Star Tribune reporter, said he was touched by newsroom staffers who told him that his dad was a professional and empathetic colleague who always had time for a word of encouragement.
"They said they had learned so much from him or that he was their mentor or that he was the best boss they ever had," Jon Holten said. "That was an unexpected bonus. How many people get a chance to hear that work colleagues admired your dad?"
Tom Holten is survived by son Jon and daughter-in-law Carol, a daughter, Marcia, several grandchildren and great grandchildren.