The nation is celebrating the life of a conservative activist, philanthropist and former goodwill ambassador under President Ronald Reagan today.
Holly Coors, former wife of Golden, Colo., beer baron Joseph Coors Sr., whose work helped launch the Heritage Foundation, died at the age of 88 on Jan. 18. Her friends remember her as an inspiring leader of the conservative movement.
Sam Brunelli, former Denver Broncos football player and former executive director of the American Legislative Exchange Council, worked with Coors when she served as chair of the Colorado Reagan-Bush campaign in 1984.
President Ronald Reagan
“Everybody in the conservative movement looked to her for her vision, her ideas, her values, her views and support,” Brunelli told WND. “We were together at the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. We knew how vital it was that we elect President Reagan, and she was instrumental in his election.”
Coors, a former New York City fashion model, also served as a member of the Peace Corps Advisory Council in the 1980s. President Reagan appointed her to the Board of Visitors of the Air Force Academy in 1984, where she served two terms.
She was awarded the special rank of goodwill ambassador for the Western Hemisphere by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 when she served as a special representative to the National Year of the Americas.
Holly and Joseph Coors had been friends with the Reagan family since the 1960s. Joseph, grandson of the Coors company founder, was an unofficial adviser during Reagan’s presidency. Holly served as a board member of more than a dozen foundations and organizations. President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the White House Fellows Commission and to the quincentennial of the Discovery of the Americas held in the Dominican Republic.
Joseph and Holly were married from 1941 through 1987, when they divorced. He passed away several years ago at age 85.
Former first lady of Honduras, Mary Flores, and Holly Coors at Children’s Nutrition Center ribbon cutting in Danli, Honduras (photo: Jamie Brandon)
Holly founded Women of our Hemisphere Achieving Together, a group that provided aid and support to the women of Central America and the Dominican Republic.
Diane Jenkins, former assistant attorney general for the State of Louisiana and director of Friends of the Americas, received a Ronald Reagan Humanitarian Award from the former president. She was close friends with Holly Coors and was a member of Women of our Hemisphere Achieving Together.
“She and the president were personal friends,” Jenkins said. “She was also very close to Nancy Reagan and remained close to Mrs. Reagan after the president’s illness.”
Jenkins told WND Holly’s charitable work grew out of the Reagan appointment.
“After her year as ambassador, she just was exposed to so much in Latin America, and she felt she could make a difference,” Jenkins said. “She continued her work as a goodwill ambassador on behalf of the United States in an unofficial capacity in her own right.”
Through Women of our Hemisphere Achieving Together, Holly brought together women who had been ambassadors, first ladies and governors of states, independent business women and political figures from both sides of the aisle. With Jenkins and Friends of the Americas, she helped set up mobile hospitals and provide medical equipment and care to different parts of Central and South America.
Coors also fed undernourished children, assisted disadvantaged women in starting small businesses and helped rebuild wings in hospitals and orphanages.
Blanquita Cullum, nationally syndicated talk radio host and governor on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, was part of the efforts led by Holly Coors.
“She’d bring us to the table, and we’d sit down and meet with the presidents of these countries,” Cullum said. “When women would call us up and tell us that there was a problem, for example, in Argentina, when there were no MRI machines, we’d take MRI machines to Argentina. When they told us there was only one machine for breast examinations in El Salvador, we made sure we got the machines to El Salvador.”
Former Guatemala President Álvaro Arzú with Holly Coors
“She had a very good soul,” Cullum continued. “She was one of these people who, while she came from privilege, really did not hesitate to get her hands dirty and get in there and change the world.”
Jamie Brandon, friend of Coors for almost 30 years, met Holly through a conservative political organization. She said Coors did most of her work without fanfare or recognition.
“She was so supportive of every organization that came to her needing her help to accomplish their goals, whether it was the ’700 Club’ or Friends of the Americas,” she said.
Holly helped women in El Salvador have access to education and eye care so they could read and study. She also led the first census for women in the country.
“Because of Holly’s example, they realized there was something that they could do for their countrymen and for the people who were in such need,” Brandon said. “It changed things in such a dramatic way. She was just one woman who lit this spark of women in a whole country.”
Robin Read Brunelli, president and CEO of the National Foundation for Women Legislators, said Coors empowered women at all levels.
“Even though she had all this experience and wisdom, she was always open to learning from others,” Brunelli said. “Elected women in all 50 states were impressed with her grace and with her generosity and her wisdom.”
She continued, “She really transcended party, but the Republican Party
has really not been the same since she stepped out of the limelight.”
Pat Boone, singer, actor and WND columnist, was also a friend to
Coors. He called her a literal embodiment of the noble woman described
in Proverbs 31:30-31 “because she gave generously to the poor, provided
for her own household and family, honored her husband and her beloved
The Bible admonishes, “Charm can be deceptive and beauty
doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly
praised. Praise her for the many fine things she does. These good deeds
of hers shall bring her honor and recognition from even the leaders of
“So it is, and shall be, with Holly Coors,” Boone said.
Coors died peacefully at her home in Golden, Colo., last week. She is survived by her five sons, 28 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. Her friends and family will celebrate her life today during an 11 a.m. memorial service at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Holland Foundation in care of the AMG Charitable Gift Foundation, 6501 E. Belleview Ave. #400, Englewood, CO 80111.
Cullum said Coors will be remembered for her love of God and for giving so much of her life to others.
“There are a lot of these feminists who talk about helping women, but Holly Coors really helped women,” Cullum told WND. “She didn’t care whether you had money or you didn’t have money. That was the beautiful thing. She saw into your soul.”