Husband, father and grandfather R.E. “Earl” Holding was born Nov. 29, 1926, the youngest of three children born to Franklin Eugene and Reva Johnson Holding. He attended school in Salt Lake City, graduating from West High School in 1944.
Earl learned the value of a day’s labor as a youth and worked many jobs at the Covey and Hillcrest apartments where he lived. Due to World War II, he was able to attend school for half the day and work for the other half. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps upon graduation and served in Europe at the end of the war. After returning home, he attended the University of Utah where he received a degree in civil engineering. In 1949, he married his sweetheart and best friend, Carol Orme. Even before they were married, Earl and Carol started their first business together when they planted a 25-acre fruit orchard at Dimple Dell. They worked side by side to cultivate and irrigate the land, harvest the peaches, pears and apples, and sell them to local stores. Earl and Carol were seldom apart throughout their 64 years of marriage; they formed an unbeatable partnership in business and in life.
In 1952, the Covey family offered Earl and Carol the opportunity to move to and manage the Little America on the western prairie of Wyoming. During the 13 years that they lived and worked at Little America, the couple started their family and fell in love with the state of Wyoming and its people. From that time on, Wyoming became home.
Despite his business success, Earl never forgot that it was the people he worked with who made the difference. He often remarked that “you do business with your friends.” He inspired those around him to give their best efforts, and then even a little more. He was as fiercely loyal to his family and his employees as they were to him. Most of the employees hired by Earl in the early days spent their entire careers with him and even their children work with the company to this day. Earl enjoyed working alongside his people and watching them succeed.
Earl deeply loved the land and the beauty of the American West. After spending his childhood in an apartment, he always longed for open space where he could have a dog and a horse. This desire eventually led to the acquisition of his ranches in Wyoming and Montana. He looked for every opportunity to spend time at the ranch, working the fields, cattle and crops and being surrounded by the natural beauty of God’s creations.
Many of his business ventures were centered on creating something from nothing, making improvements and building from beautiful natural materials. When planning the Grand America Hotel, he personally traveled to Bethel, Vt., to select the granite for the project. He was fascinated by the possibilities found in nature, from drilling for oil to preserving a stand of trees on a ski run.
His happiest times were spent with his children and grandchildren, hiking, biking, fishing and exploring the great outdoors. He also loved hearing his grandchildren sing or play music. His face would light up when a new baby came to visit. Earl was known for his competitive spirit, whether it was racing mountain bikes with his grandsons or skiing his favorite runs in Sun Valley. He always wanted to take his family along with him, even on business trips, so he could teach them the important things in life.
Earl’s tireless efforts on behalf of the Olympics helped bring the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Olympics, believing the Games stood for the ideals of athletic excellence and international cooperation.
He kept a silver dollar in his pocket that he often turned while pondering an important decision or challenge. He said it reminded him how hard it is to make and keep a dollar and that things in business, as in life, should be genuine. For him, the effort and fun of pursuing an ideal was its own reward.
Earl was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Earl and Carol were sealed for time and eternity in the Jordan River Temple. He remained close to his childhood friend President Thomas S. Monson, who was his classmate at West High School. He was deeply moved when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang at a celebration honoring his 80th birthday.
On April 19, 2013, at the age of 86, Earl passed away at home of natural causes. He is survived by his wife, Carol; their three children, Anne, Kathleen and Stephen, and their spouses; 12 grandchildren; his brother, Ralph; and many extended family members, business associates and friends who were just like part of the family. He was predeceased by his parents; his sister, Helen Jean; and his close business partner and childhood friend, Kenneth Y. Knight.
Earl was fortunate to have the best group of nurses and aides ever assembled to work with him since his 2002 stroke, and the family would like to extend gratitude to each of them for their excellent care. The family also expresses appreciation to Dr. Craig Harmon, Dr. Elaine Skalabrin and Dr. Ted Kimball, along with the entire team at the University of Utah Stroke Center.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 27, at the Federal Heights Ward, 1300 E. Fairfax Rd. in Salt Lake City. Friends may pay their respects at a reception to be held Friday, April 26, from 6-8 p.m. at the Grand America Hotel, 555 S. Main St. in Salt Lake City. A private burial will follow at the family’s Wyoming ranch.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memory of Earl Holding to the Boy Scouts of America or to the University of Utah Stroke Center.