HOLEMAN HONORED. At a special meeting Don Holeman was presented with a plaque and a street sign “Mr Caretaker” honoring his work to display at his Mt. Zion home. The Village of Mt. Zion also proclaimed the week of May 17 through 23, 2021 as Don Holeman Week in the village and throughout Mt. Zion Township. (Front row) Debbie Alexander, daughter; Don Holeman; Marcie Holeman, daughter-in-law. (Back row) Fred Mifflian, nephew; Doug Holeman, son; Donnie Holeman, son; and Sherie Holeman, daughter-in-law.
The Holeman family has a history in Mt. Zion Township for taking care of the township cemeteries but after 60 years of serving on the board, Don Holeman decided it was time to give it up to others.
Honored at a special meeting in May, Holeman said, “I’m 83 years old and it’s just time for to leave. My interests are still there but my body just won’t keep up.”
Along with making contributions and input on the decisions in regard to the grounds, Holeman stated he just enjoyed tending to the area. “I’m an outside person, and there’s a lot of history over there,” he said pointing to the cemetery. “But it takes me longer to do stuff than what it used to.”
Caring for the cemetery has been a family affair as Holeman’s moved to the area in the 1950’s. George Holeman cared for the cemetery for several years who then passed it on to Don and he in turn has now enlisted the help of his children and grandchildren as caretakers of the cemetery.
His son Doug Holeman retired as sexton of the Mt. Zion and Long Creek Township cemeteries in August of 2016.
“We were raised to be respectful and care for the graves as we were taught how to pick up the flowers and clean off the gravestones,” daughter Debbie Alexander said. “Back then, the graves were all dug by hand.”
The Holeman children through their experiences understand that death is a part of life and were raised to be respectful for families during their difficult time. They were taught the appropriate and sympathetic way to accept death. “It was a topic that was a part of our lives and our faith as well,” Alexander said.
The work ethic Holeman has taught his children has spread to other avenues of their lives. “He’s instilled in us a level of hard work and respect for our community that is modeled,” Alexander said. “His actions speak louder than his words.”
After working the grounds for 12 years, Holeman joined the cemetery board in 1973. Bryan Smith, director of the Township Districts of Illinois, has known Holeman for over 15 years and honored him at a recent township meeting. Smith credits Holeman for helping cemetery trustees financially throughout the entire State of Illinois. “It’s him who got the ball rolling. I see the fruits of that all over the state,” Smith stated.
A Mt. Zion High School graduate, Holeman served his country as a member of the United States Navy. Retiring from PPG in 1989 after 30 years, he has kept busy volunteering at the Good Samaritan Inn, Macon County Conservation District, local sporting events, and of course assisting the family when his help is needed. One of his favorite places to visit is the Holy Family Catholic School, where his daughter is the principal “He gets up and goes to work every single day,” Alexander said. “He’s still very active.”
Health issues has slowed Holeman down for the moment. “The doctors say he has way more than nine lives,” Alexander said.
Cemetery work is very backbreaking and heartbreaking. “Whatever loss it is, it’s always a devastating loss,” Alexander said. “He wants to leave it in a very honorable way.”