Update on Holly Barrett

Holly Barrett. FamilySearch.com.

Over a decade ago, I wrote a blog post about Holly Barrett who died in 1969 at the age of 14, mysteriously until now. Here’s an update to that post.

After years of wondering, I heard from one of Holly’s nieces recently and learned of her sad ending. She was a special young woman who contracted leukemia—likely due to being a Nevada bomb-test downwinder. Chemotherapy in the 1960s was hard on her young body and she died of heart failure in a Salt Lake hospital. Her parents were in the grocery business and they named Holly’s Pantry, a convenience store in Salina, Utah, after her (the store is still running, though it’s no longer owned by the Barrett family). Holly is buried in Salina’s East Side Cemetery.

I’m grateful to have learned more of Holly’s story and I hope she knows that people still care about her many years after her passing. I also want to thank all the blog readers for their interest and for reaching out to me publicly and privately over the years.

A Eulogy for My Shoes

These are my “bishop’s shoes.” They were the best dress shoes I have ever had. My wife and I bought them at Dillard’s in the Provo Towne Centre the month after I was called as bishop. That was in December 2005.

But they are “plumb wore out.” There was some good wear left on the soles, but the tops had holes in the them and the insoles were broken down to the point that the shoes were uncomfortable to wear.

I threw them away yesterday. They were too worn out to give away. They had far exceeded their life expectancy. I gave them a proper burial in our garbage can. (I also threw away a brown suit that was worn out beyond repair.)

I think I came close to walking (and sometimes running) about 500 miles in them, over the last five years. I was sad about giving them up. (I am probably the most sentimental person in our family.) I felt ungrateful to just dispose of them without a proper funeral. Consider this blog post a funeral for my shoes. In fact, here is a little eulogy for them.

After a courageous battle with a bishop, a pair of vegetable-tanned Ecco dress shoes passed away March 7, 2011. They were born, probably in Italy, sometime in 2005. After a brief visit to the Springville Transfer Station, they were buried in the Bayview Landfill, 7 miles northwest of Elberta, Utah. The unnamed shoes were fraternal twins. They served their owner faithfully and with little complaint for over five years. They will be greatly missed. There will be a permanent viewing on this blog, but no services will be held. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to the missionary fund of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In Memory of Holly Barrett

Last summer, on the priest’s summer trip, we stayed at a camp site that was outside of Salina, Utah. The spot belongs to the family of our Young Men president. It was a beautiful spot, and I appreciated the willingness of his family to let us use it.

Near where we camped, in the middle of nowhere, we found this grave site for a girl named Holly Barrett. She died at age 14, a few months before her 15th birthday. The grave has been there for 40 years. It made you feel pretty sober, standing above that headstone surround by sagebrush.

I’ve asked myself many times since, “Who was Holly? What was she like? How did she die?” Our youngest daughter was 14 at the time, so you can imagine what my thoughts were like.

One morning, we had a little exercise. The priests visited the grave site, and when they got back, we asked them the following questions, and let them take turns answering them.

  • Before leaving this life, what is one thing you want to be sure to do?
  • How can you make the most of your life today—right now?
  • What is the difference between real happiness and fun, satisfaction or pleasure?
  • If you knew you would die today, what is one thing you would change today?

These are the kinds of questions we could all take some time to think about.

P.S. If anyone out there knows who Holly is, please let me know by commenting on this blog. Thank you.

Update August 2021

After years of wondering, I heard from one of Holly’s nieces recently and learned of her sad ending. She was a special young woman who contracted leukemia—likely due to being a Nevada bomb-test downwinder. Chemotherapy in the 1960s was hard on her young body and she died of heart failure in a Salt Lake hospital. Her parents were in the grocery business and they named Holly’s Pantry, a convenience store in Salina, Utah, after her (the store is still running, though it’s no longer owned by the Barrett family). Holly is buried in Salina’s East Side Cemetery.

I’m grateful to have learned more of Holly’s story and I hope she knows that people still care about her many years after her passing. I also want to thank all the blog readers for their interest and for reaching out to me publicly and privately over the years.