‘Bullheaded’ landfill owner Holland dies

Published 10:14 pm Saturday, December 17, 2011

Many residents and officials in two Virginia communities are grieving this weekend at the loss of a prominent citizen who quietly did charity work in both communities.


Private landfill owner John C. Holland Jr. died suddenly this week. He was a Suffolk resident and owner of John C. Holland Enterprises landfill off Nansemond Parkway. His family also owned the historic Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington, which closed its offices in response to the death.

Holland wasn’t popular with everyone. He once sued — and lost to — one of his competitors, the Southeastern Public Service Authority, and many people thought of him as gruff and stubborn.

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He would agree. In June, he described himself as “a little bit bullheaded” during an interview about a fine that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ordered him to pay for a sidewall at the landfill that collapsed during a rainstorm a couple of years ago.

Holland ended up donating part of his fine to the city under an arrangement with the DEQ. The city plans to buy equipment for the Suffolk Department of Fire and Rescue with the money.

“I’d just as soon give Suffolk the $35,000,” Holland said in June.

He had just delivered the check in person at a City Council meeting on Dec. 7, less than 10 days before his death as a result of bacterial meningitis.

“My heart is broken,” Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson said. “I just can’t believe it. He was a great guy and he did a lot for our city.”

Johnson said she will miss Holland’s smile and the way he quietly took on charity projects and made large financial donations to a number of organizations, rarely saying a word to anyone about it.

“I think people have no idea of all the things he did,” she said.

Chief Fred Callis of the Driver Volunteer Fire Department agreed.

“He did a lot more for the Driver community than a lot of people know about,” Callis said. “Anytime the Driver Volunteer Fire Department needed some emergency funds, we could go to him and he was very beneficial to us.”

Callis said Holland’s relationship with the fire department as a benefactor had been going on for more than 20 years.

“He was very, very good to the community,” Callis said. “It’s going to be a terrible asset loss for the Driver Volunteer Fire Department. We hope his family the best, and we will do anything and everything for his family we possibly can.”

In 1989, Holland’s family purchased the Oak Ridge Estate in Nelson County, according to the estate’s website. The 200-year-old home has been owned by a number of prominent businessmen through the centuries, including tobacco planters and a Confederate congressman.

The voice mail message at the estate said on Saturday that the office would be closed for several days because of Holland’s death.