PROMINENT South Yorkshire business woman Deborah Holmes has died aged 56 after bravely fighting a long illness.
Deborah was a partner with her husband Mark Dransfield in the property development company, Dransfield Properties Ltd, of Sheffield.
The company was founded in 1992 and is responsible for many award winning developments across the UK.
While being treated for cancer, she also launched and headed the boutique department store, Sandersons, based at the company’s flagship Fox Valley development in the heart of Deborah’s home town of Stocksbridge.
Deborah had two daughters, Rebecca, 23, and Lucy, 20, with Mark. She also leaves behind her much loved sister, Amanda Holmes.
The older of two daughters to the late Dennis and Peggy Holmes, Deborah was born in Grimethorpe, Barnsley, where her father worked in the pit.
Following an accident, he took a job at Stocksbridge steel works before opening a small grocery shop in the town.
Mark said: “Deborah’s retail life began behind the counter of her parents’ corner shop. From there, she went to Sheffield University to study history - the first in her family to pursue a university education.
"She then went on to a highly successful business career.”
She launched the free newspaper, the Stocksbridge Trader, in the town in the late 1980s, successfully turning it from a monthly to a weekly publication before selling it to the Barnsley Chronicle group.
In 1988, Deborah - or Debs as she was universally known - put the newspaper up for an award run by the YTV programme, Enterprise, a competition for young entrepreneurs which was hosted by journalist Robert Hall.
She came runner up in the final to the young builder from Hull who would later become her husband. Mark said: “While I beat her to the title, I won a prize which was far greater - to be able to share my life with Deborah.”
The couple married in 1992 and after selling the paper, Deborah raised her daughters and was a partner in their family business.
Amanda recalls: “Debs loved being a mum to her girls. She was absolutely devoted to them and they were most definitely the reason she fought so hard to live. Her amazing determination now lives on in them.”
Deborah was particularly proud to be part of the redevelopment of the former steel works in her home town and when a department store was needed for the Fox Valley development, she decided to open her own.
Sandersons opened its doors in September 2016 with Deborah putting her own stamp on the store from its opening day, inviting her closest family and friends to cut the ribbon.
Amanda added: “She was so thoughtful in private but in the store, she loved making her customers happy and helping them to look their best.
"She was a true Yorkshirewoman though and knew we like quality and value for money so was always aware of that in what she sold.”
Deborah was diagnosed with cancer six years ago and typically chose to keep her illness private, with only a handful of family and friends knowing.
Mark says: “Debs fought her illness with courage and dignity, she is a true inspiration to all who knew her. Her passion for life and family never wavered and we will miss her dreadfully.”
Deborah died peacefully surrounded by her loved ones on January 2 at St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield.
Her funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church, Bolsterstone, Sheffield, on Saturday January 12 at 10am, followed by a private cremation.
A collection will be held for St Luke’s at the service on the day and at Sandersons in the days leading up to the funeral.