Holloway, a young city native who amassed a master's degree in politics and a list of political accomplishments including working for Hillary Clinton, always wanted to improve Jersey City.
But the year after she lost the election in her beloved native town, the former councilwoman moved temporarily to Philadelphia, where she died unexpectedly on July 18 at age 46.
Holloway, who was a cousin of late Mayor Glenn Cunningham, was remembered last week by colleagues and friends.
She was a councilwoman from 1993 to 2001, and ran unsuccessfully for mayor against eventual winner Jerramiah Healy in 2005. She moved to Philadelphia in 2006.
"You know more about a person after their death than when they are living," said Theodore "Teddy" Holloway, one of Holloway's two brothers, last week. "My family appreciates the warm outpouring of kind words and thoughts from people who knew her during her time in office."
Holloway died in the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. The cause of death was a stroke, according to Teddy Holloway, but he also said doctors are looking at how Holloway initially fell ill.
According to reports, Holloway was talking on the phone when she suddenly collapsed. Later, she admitted herself to the hospital and could not speak. She may have had an aneurism, and suffered strokes while in the hospital.
A funeral service for Holloway was scheduled for this past Friday at Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Jersey City.
Holloway is survived her two brothers, Theodore "Teddy" Holloway and Gregory Holloway; and a niece, Kennedi Holloway.Holloway for the people
A native of Jersey City, Holloway got her first real taste of politics when she worked as an aide to her first cousin, Glenn D. Cunningham, in 1987 to 1988 while he was City Council president.
She had also been a political consultant for Jesse Jackson, worked with former first lady and current U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and worked with former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.
She was also a graduate of Academic (now McNair) High School in Jersey City, earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Rutgers University-Newark, and a masters degree in political management from the Graduate School of Political Management in New York City.
Holloway then ran in 1993 for the City Council seat in Ward F on a slate with mayoral candidate Bret Schundler. She beat incumbent Dan Wiley by just six votes.
Holloway then ran again for City Council in 1997 under Gerald McCann, then won a runoff with Jerramiah Healy and won re-election.
During Holloway's two terms as councilwoman, Holloway's former aide Joan Terrell said her accomplishments included bringing Ward F over $150 million for rehabbing buildings and public service. The money went to the Martin Luther King Drive HUB Plaza, and to get construction started for the library that would be eventually named for her late cousin, Glenn Cunningham.
But as councilwoman, Melissa Holloway also showed a penchant for unorthodox political thinking, whether it was protesting for a month in front of then-Mayor Bret Schundler's home in 1995 over the reassignment of an African-American deputy chief, or creating a booklet, "The Manipulation of the Bernius Court RFP," describing her efforts to stop a flawed housing development project in her ward from going through without her or the community's input.
Looking back at Holloway's independence last week, longtime resident Yvonne Balcer said, "I admired her because she the only person on the council who voted her conscience, which was rare, since Bret Schundler had a rubber-stamp council." Had many interests
Among those remembering her last week was her former council aide and friend of 15 years, Joan Terrell.
Terrell first met Holloway in 1993 when Holloway was campaigning on Claremont Avenue where Terrell lived. Terrell was also the president of the Claremont Avenue Block Association.
"I was amazed at how young she was and the level of intellect she demonstrated," Terrell said. "And during our first conversation, she took notes on what I had to say."
Terrell also got to see Holloway's intellect manifest itself in various ways outside the political arena, whether it was taking culinary classes at Hudson County Community College, trying to save the archives of the Jersey City Public Library, or saving a cemetery in Philadelphia from demolition.
"Melissa was such a busy young person who always had more than one ball in the air," Terrell said. "It's still a shock to me, and to people in Jersey City who knew Melissa, that she passed away at such a young age." Jersey City was still with her
Philadelphia may have been the place where Holloway passed away, but it was not the place where she planned to settle for life.
A longtime friend of Holloway's from Jersey City, Arnold Williams, said last week that when he met Holloway in mid-April while working on presidential candidate Barack Obama's Pennsylvania campaign, she indicated that Philadelphia was not her "final stop."
"She had sought to come back to Jersey City, as she always considered it her home no matter where she went," Williams said.
Terrell said Holloway moved to Philadelphia based on past visits in order to explore the city's rich African-American history, and so she could pursue genealogical research there.
But Terrell said it was inevitable that Holloway's funeral would be held in Jersey City.
"It's like bringing Melissa home," she said. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org