Kermit Holderman

Kermit Holderman dedicated four decades of his life to teaching. But his generosity didn’t end there.

During his many years teaching high school English in Colorado and the Bay Area, Holderman was known for the care he took with his students. He would check in on them, even taking them out for a meal if they were feeling down.

His generosity extended to leaving his body to science.

After he died from COVID-19 on March 31 at age 73, his body was transported to UCLA, where researchers will study his brain to gauge the effects of the virus on older patients.

“From the moment he was able, to the end of his life, he was always super-selfless,” his eldest son, Zack Holderman, said.

After retiring eight years ago, Holderman and his wife, Susan, moved in with Zack and his family in San Diego, staying in a casita in their backyard. Holderman enjoyed playing catch with his grandson Nash, watching San Francisco 49ers games in the living room and being the go-to driver for family airport pickups.

In early March, Holderman picked up his daughter-in-law Kelley Holderman from the airport after a girls’ trip to Vail. It wasn’t until after the trip that they found out the popular skiing destination was the center of a coronavirus outbreak.

Kelley later tested positive, though she suffered only a mild case of COVID-19. Her mother-in-law, Susan, later tested positive and also only had mild symptoms, but Holderman became severely ill and was sent to Thornton Hospital at UC San Diego with pneumonia. A day later, he tested positive for the coronavirus infection.

Zack spoke of Holderman’s relationship with his daughter-in-law. The older man taught Zack and Kelley in high school, where the couple first met: “He loved her as a daughter and she loved him as a father.”

Holderman exercised daily, ate healthfully, and didn’t drink or smoke. Nevertheless, his illness was severe, requiring that he be intubated and placed in a medically induced coma. He never woke up.

Since Susan and Kelley had coronavirus antibodies, the doctors allowed them into the hospital room with masks and other protective gear. Zack was also able to see his father one last time.

Holderman’s body was transferred to a UCLA medical center to study the neurological effects of COVID-19 on his brain. Kelley and several of her friends from the trip have been donating plasma and participating in statistical and medical studies since recovering from the virus.

Holderman is survived by his wife; sons Zack and Dane; and his grandchildren, Layla, Nash, Finnley and Connor.

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