Wide Awake: Family, Love, Lucky

I was planning to write this month’s column about my connection to the history of the magazine, how we’ve grown, what the thinking was behind different moves we made. Considering this is our anniversary issue, it seemed the obvious topic. But then someone wonderful died.

You may have seen in the news that Joe Holman passed away last month. He was 93, and for most of his adult life, he ran the company that was started by his father in 1924. That company now has 7,000 employees and operates across the US and in Europe. Here in South Jersey, it’s very likely you’ve bought a car from a Holman dealership.

On the way to his funeral, I asked my husband Joe if he could think of anyone who was like Mr. Holman. We had gotten to know him because our family and his daughter Mindy’s family are friends. We tried to name one person who had his integrity or his gentle kindness. We really thought about it. And we couldn’t come up with anyone.

We stood in line at his viewing – a very long line – and a few executives from Holman made their way through the crowd, hugging people and thanking them personally for coming. They greeted each person and talked for a few minutes about the man we were there to honor. It occurred to me that at some time during our chats, they had each used the same words: family, love, lucky. Even though this funeral was for a highly accomplished businessman, those words became the theme of the day.

As the morning went on, more and more people arrived, filling the church and then filling an “overflow” room where people watched the service on video. The service was live-streamed at Holman offices and The Evergreens, where Mr. Holman lived.

Three of his grandsons – young adults now – spoke about their grandfather, who they called JoJo. Each talked about how they fully understood that their grandfather was happiest when he was with his family. And they marveled at all the times they watched him make others feel like they were part of that family, especially the people who worked for him. These young men understood that it was up to them to continue that legacy of making people feel valued and loved. It was like they realized now that all the times they were with their grandfather they were learning how to live a great life: Show love to others, especially your family. They watched it their whole life. And now they would live it. They considered themselves lucky that they could honor JoJo in that way.

Mindy and Mr. Holman’s son Steve also spoke. Steve became emotional, thanking all the people who had helped his family and his father.

Mindy said that over the past few days, she estimated that almost 2,000 people had called her, sent a text, emailed or came in person to offer their condolences. She mentioned that in all of those messages, not one person commended Mr. Holman for his success in the car industry. No one talked about the growth of the company. Instead, they told her about a personal experience they had shared, how special he made them feel, how kind he was. They went on and on, acknowledging his character. They called him a man of integrity.

So the day before we went to print with this special anniversary issue, I listened to the life lessons of one of the greatest business owners in our community. Only, no one was talking about sales or hiring or planning. No one was even thinking about that. This great businessman was actually just a great man. He was successful at life, at relationships, at being human. Holman Enterprises, that was his job. His work was his people, his family – and to him that meant everyone he met.

For days now, I’ve been reviewing mounds of articles and photos to include in this issue to show all the accomplishments we’ve had. But in one short morning, I learned our true success can’t be seen on these pages. Mr. Holman taught us all how to be successful. Love your family. Show kindness to the people you meet. Those who knew him were lucky to know someone who lived this way, because now they can live that way. They can love, and be loved. That is the legacy of a very successful man.

January 2020
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