On Bill Holm

They had a funeral for Bill Holm out in Minneota on Sunday.

Some touching memories of Holm were printed by the Marshall Independent over the weekend (Others who knew him posted some very touching comments to the News Cut post). One struck a chord for ye olde blogger:

My experiences in knowing Bill Holm while trying to assist him in his health care were likely more valuable to me than to Bill. Although a man of his own direction, he cared dearly for his family, friends, fellow poets, writers, and musicians. I found him to be a great wordsmith in describing his rural roots, thoughts, and experiences, especially those impressions concerning the ethos of Minneota and the prairies…and Iceland. His most recent comment to me was an insightful one: “The only good thing about a recession is that people might read more…”

MPR’s Mark Steil is putting his Monday morning story together as I write this. Mark’s got a great eye for stories and this image he sent along of the chair Holm sat in during church service is a great one. Note the copy of the Star Tribune on it, with Holm’s picture on the front of the Opinon page.


I’m looking forward to Mark’s story and the tributes contained therein (When it’s done, it’ll be at the top of this page).

I imagine they’ll be like those of his cousin, Vivian Secrist, who shared this on billholm.com.

I had the privilege of being part of Bill’s family since I was born. Bill was my cousin on both my mother’s and father’s side of the family. We attended Sunday school together at St. Paul’s Icelandic Church when I was very young but, then a move by my family separated us for many years. I still would see him on occasion with visits to Minneota and after we both reached adulthood, our lives kept us apart for many years but, in the last twenty some years we were able to connect on many occasions for family celebrations and, of course, Boxelder Days in Minneota. Even tho I didn’t get to visit as often as I would have liked, when we met again, it was like we had never been apart. He encouraged my youngest daughter to continue writing her poetry and I know that meant a great deal to her. Even tho she hasn’t written anything for several years, I know it left a lasting impression on her and she thought very highly of him. I will so miss his wonderful hugs as we greeted each other on those special reunions and his great presence in our family. I have several of his books signed by him personally and I will treasure them and the stories for years to come. Good bye my precious cousin. You leave a huge void in all our lives. My heart goes out to Marci and all who feel the loss. May God Bless each and everyone of you. Say hello to Mom, Neva, Julian, Robert and all who have gone before you.

MPR is planning an event to honor Holm on April 7 at the Fitz.

  • Bob,

    As a native Minneotan, it’s nice to see the words spilling forth to honor the man who so loved the little town in which he was raised.

    Growing up, I always knew who Bill was – he was the guy that wrote about boxelder bugs – but I never really knew what Bill was. Sure I knew he wrote poems and essays, but that seemed like his job – like my dad going to the bank to work, or my mom going to school to teach – just the thing he did during the day. To have books lying around the house that bore his name didn’t strike me as unusual. I never would’ve guessed he was beloved the world over.

    I was reminded of this small town naivete as I heard my parents talk about today’s funeral. They couldn’t believe that two (of the many) bouquets sent to honor Bill came from China (“China, Michael!”), couldn’t believe Garrison Keillor would come “all the way from St. Paul” to pay last respects to his dear friend and couldn’t believe that tiny St. Paul’s – with a seating capacity of 150 – was ill-suited to hold all of the mourners that turned out to send Bill off with a few of his favorite Icelandic hymns.

    Perhaps those of us that passed by him in the cereal aisle at Finnegan’s – the only grocery store in Minneota – or ran into him at the post office didn’t fully grasp that we were living with a legend and maybe we’ll live to regret that, but we can be assured that he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

    Rest in peace, Bill.

  • Lance

    This is a man I didn’t know, but cry for nonetheless, because of his powerful words that tie he into me.

    His poetry turned him into the Uncle I never had, that took me on journey through my own land and forced me to see what I did not.

    Thank you, Bill.

  • Mary

    I never got to know Bill, except for a jolly message he left on my answering machine, as it turns out, about a week before he passed away. I had emailed him hoping for more information about his Iceland Writing Workshop, which I hoped to attend this May — my first trip to Iceland! I was sad I had missed his call — he said he was on his way home to Minnesota from Arizona, and to call him once he arrived. Alas, it was a call I never got to make. But I did get to share, in my email to him, how very much I had enjoyed his most recent book, “Windows of Brimnes,” and how much it had meant to me — and how it inspired in me a mini-obsession with Iceland. After reading “Windows,” I was convinced I had to go and visit Iceland — hopefully taking Bill’s writing workshop — and I spent the next several months reading guidebooks and any Icelandic author I could find. In his phone message, Bill chuckled about that and told me I should seek out books by Halldor Laxness, the great Icelandic Nobel laureate. I resolved to do just that. Oh, dear — now I will always regret that I came along just too late to experience the Writer’s Workshop with Bill in that picturesque little village of Hofsos, way up there on the ragged and windy north coast of Iceland. I will miss getting to see his house, Brimnes, and hear him play the piano with a bunch of other writer types sitting around talking and trying to sort out the world, while seabirds cry outside. I can just picture it from reading the book. But I will seek out the works of Halldor Laxness, and the other works of Bill Holm — and I will keep writing and trying to sort out the world, as writers do. And if all works out, I will go to Iceland this year anyway, and hope to drive up to that little village on the blustery north coast, and see the view that he saw out the windows of Brimnes, and raise a glass to the memory of Bill Holm, who brought me there.

  • Jun Yuan


    I’ll always remember you as one of the greatest teachers in my life and you live in my heart forever.

    Yuan, Jun

    One of your 1986-1987 students at Xi’an Jiao-tong University in China