The Life of Bonnie Holman

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Posted Wed, Apr 5, 2017

Wife, mother, and grandmother proves that one can achieve one’s dreams, no matter the circumstance.

Bonnie Holman sits in the sitting room with her pug/Chihuahua mix, Little Man, at her home in Denver, Colorado, on Mar. 21. [Photo: Jessica Holman]

In 1972, Bonnie Elizabeth Holman stood on the stage at Metropolitan State University, donned in a black cap and gown with the tassel not yet turned. Out in the audience sat her husband, Bruce Holman, and two of her three children, Rick, age 16, and Robert (Bob), age 13. After nearly 22 years, Holman was finally doing what she had always longed to do—getting a degree. At the age of 38, she got to walk across the stage, shake hands with the dean of the college, and accept her hard-earned diploma.

“It was a good thing to do,” Holman said. Having a husband and three kids, it was not an easy feat to decide to go back to school. But this was something that Holman had wanted for a long time. “All my friends stayed in school,” she said.

Fresh out of high school, the first college Holman attended was Adams State. She had dreams of getting a degree in physical education. But then she met Bruce Holman, and that changed things. They were very much in love, and after only one year, they decided to get married in December of 1954. After that, she dropped out of Adams State to live with her husband in Denver.

A little over a year after their marriage, they had their first child, Rick. He was born premature and spent 29 days in the hospital before they could take him home. Eighteen months after that, they had their daughter, Sandra. Their last child, Robert, was born almost two years after that. During that time, Holman tried to go back to school, but she said it was too hard when she had three children to take care of. She stayed at home to care for her children instead of working. “That’s what you did,” Holman said about being a stay-at-home mom in the ’50s and ’60s.

One of the low points in her early life, Holman confessed, was when the family moved from Denver to Pueblo and then back to Denver again. Her husband had a job opportunity as the meat market manager at King Soopers in Pueblo, so they packed up everything and made a new life there. They were there for only three years before once again moving back to Denver. To Holman, moving meant leaving behind people with whom she had made valuable relationships, like her neighbors. “I hated it,” she said. “I really feel like losing good friends was really tough.” Holman admitted that this was a time in her life where she suffered from depression.

But “it wasn’t all bad,” said Holman They had new neighbors, and she spoke fondly of one neighbor in particular—a sweet old man that her daughter, Sandra, used to visit and read stories to. She grew new relationships and became accustomed to life in Denver again.

Holman’s children grew, and she once again played with the idea of going back to school. “Out of my peer group, everybody got their degree,” she said. She felt that it was just something that she had to do. This time, she followed through with that dream. She chose to go to Metropolitan State University of Denver, a school that was made for students like her—students who had full-time jobs or were full-time parents like her. This time around, she chose to study early childhood education.

When she went back to school, her husband proved to be very supportive. She would make the dinner, and he would help put the kids to bed. “I couldn’t have done it without him,” she said.

“I think she needed to,” her husband said about Holman going back to school. “It was like a life insurance policy.” And with the help of her husband, Holman felt that going to MSU wasn’t hard. “[There was] something in your mind-set that says we can do this.”

It also helped that her education was funded by Head Start, a program that started in 1965 and provided early childhood education, health, and parental involvement services to low-income children and their families. After graduation, she worked for around 15 years with Head Start before becoming a teacher for the Denver Public Schools district, where she worked for another 15 years.

Holman taught mainly children entering kindergarten. The school she taught at was a culturally diverse school, and one skill she had to learn before becoming a teacher was the ability to speak Spanish. Holman contributed a lot to her students. She provided a rich environment for the children, as well as stimulation and enrichment, especially in the form of reading. She even provided what she called a “lending library” for the kids to have better access to books. “It was a blessed program,” she said, “because you got to influence children and families.”

Holman did receive some resistance from the principal because she did not approve of her teaching. “[The] worst part [about teaching],” Holman said, “was that the people did not understand the early childhood philosophy.”

Even after retiring at the age of 67, Holman did not give up her teaching. “I always said that she was a teacher first and a grandmother second,” said Chris Holman, wife to Holman’s youngest son. Holman was always available to help her grandkids with their homework and reading whenever she could. Education was important to her. She is the happiest when her family members live fruitful lives—when they get an education and graduate from high school or college, get successful jobs, etc. “It is happy to think that everyone is doing OK,” she said.

Holman, now 83, has lived a long life. She has strong relationships with friends and family. It hasn’t all been easy, especially after losing her only daughter, Sandra, to drugs and alcohol, but she doesn’t let those hard days keep her from appreciating her life. “Every day is a gift,” she said. “You don’t look at ‘if only’ because you can’t. And that’s hard work.”

3 Responses to “The Life of Bonnie Holman”

  1. Miriam Mimi Madrid Says:

    Very thorough depiction of Holman. I really was able to see her legacy through your story. I would have like to see some graduation pictures or archive photographs of her life, friends and family. Love Little Man too!

    Reply

  2. Zach Peele Says:

    Holman’s story is one that resonates with many Americans. As you pointed out, MSU Denver is geared towards students who have lots of different things going on in their lives, aside from just school. I’m sure a lot of students here can sympathize with much of what Holman had to struggle with, such as balancing a full-time job and raising a family, along with completing a degree. Holman’s story is one of endurance and success. Great article!

    Reply

  3. John Marinelli Says:

    Great read, would like to hear more about why the principal at the school she worked at disapproved of her teaching methods. Also it feels like you put her daughter dying a little bit too close to the end of the article and didn’t expand enough on it enough, that had to have affected her life profoundly. Despite those two criticisms, it’s a great piece, I really enjoyed it.

    Reply

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