In this tribute, George Adzick remembers Bill Holte, who passed away last month at the age of 97, as a beloved teacher, coach, and friend. Adzick holds dear the memories of the positive influence and guidance Holte provided him during his time growing up in Eden Prairie.
By George Adzick
There is a certain kind of light that shines on a community. It is a light that spans a number of years so uncommon that the members of the community who have been served by that light mourn when it is extinguished, and a part of us is lost.
If your good fortune includes the memory of warm rays of Mr. Bill Holte’s light, then you, among all of us who share this gift, will remember him as a folk hero, and folk heroes never die, and that loss of an extinguished light, is found and will last forever.
For many of us, it began in the early ’60s when Mr. Holte organized a summer program we referred to as “Summer Recreation.”
On the school grounds of Eden Prairie Elementary School, Bill Holte, with the assistance of two popular Eden Prairie High School students, Linda Brekke and Leon Nesbitt, conducted a fusion of youngsters from various neighborhoods across Eden Prairie, assembling on weekday mornings to participate in artistic and athletic endeavors, sometimes expanding well beyond our community.
We arrived in cars loaded with butts in every seat, piloted by one parent on the drop-off and another on the pick-up, or by bicycles in single file on the sides of county roads, or by foot on long-forgotten short-cuts. It became a daily pilgrimage for weeks on end in a community rife with children enjoying few summer vacation options compared to the luxuries afforded to kids in the city or nearby towns.
We learned social and recreational values well beyond the scope of our immediate kin, and interior friendships of our own neighborhoods. We learned to take our turn on the trampoline, to say “way to go” when a home run was hit, tell stories, pick teams, paint pictures and sing songs, and we learned to share our lunch.
These were life lessons. It is where we were to find our place in the larger community by learning how to play. It was a vivid and brilliant … certain kind of light.
In the years after Summer Recreation, we gathered in the classrooms and on the ball fields of junior high school.
Mr. Holte remained a fixture in our good fortune.
In the classroom, his methods featured expectation over demand, focusing on comparative achievement and healthy self-esteem.
His command of the learning experience made learning easy and enjoyable, a respite for the gravity of elementary students transitioning to the next level. A failing grade did not exist in his assessment paradigm.
In the fall of each year, Mr. Holte coached pre-varsity football, in the spring, pre-varsity baseball, retaining his profile as an educator, certain to install the requisite fundamentals of football and baseball that served as critical success factors in the development of high-achieving athletes pursuing varsity level action. His selfless commitment to young people pursuing their dreams was a vivid and brilliant … certain kind of light.
As the leader of Eden Prairie High School varsity basketball, Mr. Holte was authoritative, not authoritarian. He emphasized winners over winning while translating an understanding of the game that year after year suited the corresponding talent of his teams, characterizing the true nature of a servant leader.
Coach Holte refrained from any form of alienating method that coaching might reveal. Never a raised voice nor a condescending critique, he pulled us, never pushed. We were his boys from home, under a vivid and brilliant … certain kind of light.
You will be missed, Coach Holte. Thank you for that certain kind of light. We will see you down the road.
Editor’s note: George Adzick graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 1973 and still resides in Eden Prairie.
Bill Holte’s obituary can be read here.
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