Cecil Connor Holland, age 96, died peacefully surrounded by family at Oak Creek Terrace, Kettering, Ohio, on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. Cecil was born September 8, 1923, in Pomona, Missouri to Cecil and Myrtle (Crapo) Holland. Growing up during the Great Depression, a lot was required of him. He picked cotton and helped his father operate a small store, gun and watch repair, and newspaper printing business. By the time he was 15 years old, he had lost a baby brother, his mother, his older sister, and his father. He and his siblings went to live with relatives. Wanting to be on his own, at age 17 he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and worked in forestry in the Missouri Ozarks. There he developed an appreciation for trees that he would pass on to his children. In World War II he served in England as a radio operator and mechanic. While stationed, several men in his unit told him of Antioch College, which intrigued him. After the war, despite only one year of formal education, he earned his GED, took a few courses at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and eventually achieved his goal of admission to Antioch.Through Cecil’s co-op experiences, he found that he loved working with children, and in 1956, he graduated from Antioch with a bachelor’s degree in secondary school social studies. At Antioch he met and married Frances, and the two built a house and started a family in Yellow Springs. In 1970 he earned a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Idaho. In Yellow Springs, Cecil was active in Community Service and helped found the Unitarian Fellowship. For almost 25 years, he taught history, sociology, and government at Greenon High School. Gardening was a lifelong passion, and he wielded his wheel-hoe with power and precision. The dirt flew when he cut a row, with his kids running along behind dropping beans or corn in the furrow. He loved his dogs and everybody’s dog adored him. He was Dog’s Best Friend. Cecil hoped, he dreamed, and he created. He was curious, silly, and playful. His mind and body were in constant motion. In 1971 he bought a farm in Blue Creek, Ohio; his dream and his happy place. It was everything he wanted: Away from the cities, up a two mile winding gravel road, opening out on top with spectacular views for miles across the forested ridges. Working alongside his friends and neighbors, he learned to bush hog the fields, clear brush with a chainsaw, dig postholes, string and stretch barbed wire, and he raised a small herd of cattle. He fixed cars and farm machinery and used his carpentry skills for numerous projects. He built a beautiful house on the hilltop and added ponds for water and wildlife. He listened to the whippoorwill, roamed the hillsides with his children and his dogs, identified the trees by their bark (not the leaves!), and hunted for morel mushrooms, berries, persimmons, pawpaws or whatever nature had to offer. Every year he tended a magnificent garden and grew tomatoes sweeter than any found in the gourmet markets! In 1982 he retired to his farm, and one Saturday, while attending a farm auction, he found himself bidding against a woman with a terrific sense of humor. He let her win that day and later ended up marrying her, his second wife, Patsy. With the help of family and many kind and giving neighbors, he lived on his farm for over 30 years, pitching hay bales and stacking firewood until he was 89. Throughout his life, Cecil demonstrated a genuine interest in other people, and in the evenings he liked to drop in on friends. He learned from others and he shared what he knew with others. His passion for reading, language, and wordplay earned him the nickname of “The Walking Dictionary.” Finding a dead carpenter bee on a windowsill, he declared it a “would-be wood bee” and thereafter, upon seeing one, relentlessly queried his children: “Is that a wood bee? Or a would-be wood bee?” He was extremely well-read in politics and current events, and lectured family members on social stratification and the concentration of wealth. He engaged in spirited debate with fellow teachers, his dear brother, other family, and friends. He made repeated small contributions to countless progressive organizations, and was rewarded with buckets of mail solicitations. When dementia dulled his once sharp mind, he still prized this “correspondence,” as he referred to it, overflowing his desk. Cecil showed us how to live with dementia, with dignity and with humor. Ever the optimist, he ended each visit in the nursing home with a new and clever saying, such as, “Our job is to keep up with each other….and to keep each other up!” While his family had never heard him sing a note, he found a new talent at Oak Creek. At the dinner table he entertained staff with his made-up songs. Once he rose up out of his wheelchair and the nurse, thinking on her feet, decided she’d get his attention through song, “Cecil, sit dow-wwn.” With a sly smile Cecil sang back to her, “For what rea-son?” Cecil was preceded in death by his parents; his sister Ruth; and his second wife, Patsy. He is survived by his brother Quinten Holland of California; his first wife and friend, Frances Harville Holland of Beavercreek; his children: Carolyn (Michael Carbary) Holland, of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Mary (Cinci Stowell) Holland of Dayton; and Robert (Margaret) Holland of Bellbrook; Ruthie McIntosh of Georgetown, Ohio; and grandchildren, Makenna McIntosh and Marcos Carbary; and a community of friendship, related by blood and/or common interests. There will be two celebration of life services: The first one will be held Saturday, November 23 at 2:00 p.m., at the Shawnee Lodge, 4404B State Route 125, West Portsmouth, OH 45663. The second service will be held Saturday, November 30, 2:00 p.m., at the Unitarian Fellowship, 2884 US Route 68, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387, two miles south of Yellow Springs. The family will receive friends one hour prior to each service and a reception will follow. Wear your favorite flannel shirt in Cecil’s honor. Donations in memory of Cecil C. Holland may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center (1-334-956-8408, splcenter.org) or The Arc of Appalachia (7660 Cave Road, Bainbridge, OH 45612, arcofappalachia.org/).
Cecil Holland was a good friend and a valued colleague. He was one of those Greenon teachers who welcomed me on board in 1969, and our friendship grew from there. One memory I have of Cecil is picking him up for school and taking him home a couple of times. When tomatoes were in season, he shared bountifully, and yes, they were the sweetest and best.
- Don Dunstan
, Wednesday November 20th, 2019
Thank you, Mr. Holland!
You were a wonderful teacher, and taught me to love history.
What a wonderful obituary, and what an interesting life!
Rest well, sir.
- Annie (Ashworth) Holmes
, Monday November 18th, 2019
Mr. Holland was my world history teacher at Greenon High School and I wish I had known all this about him when he taught us in 1965. It seems he was quite a guy in many respects and my not knowing him better, missed a great opportunity. But, alas, I suspect there are many Cecil's in the world and many missed opportunities. May you Rest In Peace, Mr. Holland!
- Randy Ark
, Sunday November 17th, 2019
Sincere condolences. What a wonderful tribute to his life. Makes me wish I had known him.
- Cheri Davis
, Friday November 15th, 2019