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Former Rockford State Senator Joyce Holmberg Leaves A Legacy Centered On Education

Janie Wilson Cook

Former Rockford State Senator Joyce Holmberg died this week at the age of 86.

Holmberg was first elected to the State Senate in 1982 but had been very involved in the Democratic Party for decades. She was urged to run for what was dubbed “The Woman’s Seat” by Vivian Hickey, who had also served as Senator in the 34th District.  

During her decade in office, Holmberg made education issues a priority, and served on a number of education committees. She sponsored the bill that funded construction of Northern Illinois University’s Rockford campus and helped create the state’s college savings bond program. She started her career as a Kindergarten teacher and her faith in the abilities of children was often reflected in the commentaries she produced for WNIJ in the 1990s.

Credit c-span.org
Joyce Holmberg introduces Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis at Harlem High School in Machesney Park, 1988.

Holmberg was a member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford for more than 50 years and was also active in the League at the state level. She was easy to spot at public events in her signature bright red suits, such as the one she wore to give a crowd-rousing introduction to presidential candidate Michael Dukakis at a 1988 rally in Machesney Park, which was carried by C-Span. 

Holmberg donated her papers to the Regional History Archive at Northern Illinois University in 2009.

Holmberg was a lifelong Rockford resident. Services have not yet been scheduled.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.