Nurturing father was role model and mentor
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent April 28, 2013 7:22PM
J.F. Holder SUBMITTED PHOTO
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:13PM
When Michael Holder was growing up in Lockport Township, his home was the center of parental-supervised, neighborhood fun. But that fun came with a requirement: All homework assignments must be completed.
“I remember kids in the area coming with their backpacks and sitting at our picnic table because we had to have ours done before we could go outside and play,” Holder said. “Our home was like a mini recreation center in the community. Many kids came by to play basketball, baseball, etc., in a safe, drug- and gang-free environment.”
He attributes his unblemished childhood and adult successes — he’s the principal of Jay Michael, a membership-based VIP lifestyle and entertainment company based in Las Vegas — to his father’s insistence on a good education and consistently nurturing his children’s hopes and ambitions.
“He encouraged the goals I had,” Holder said. “All kids have big aspirations to do things in life but not once did he tell me I couldn’t do them. He always said, ‘I’ll support you in whatever you’re doing.’ ”
Before J.F. Holder died Feb. 28 at age 77, he and Michael established a foundation (www.fairmont89.org) to ensure all Fairmont community youth could receive that same guidance, reinforcement and backing.
J.F. — a man of God with a heart of gold, who would do anything for his family, church and community, Michael said — believed when underprivileged youth had access to such opportunities, their self-esteem and leadership qualities blossomed.
“He was a role model and mentor that always encouraged the youth to be the best they could be,” Michael said. “He would say, ‘Don’t worry about what other people are saying. Just stay true to yourself and follow your dreams. As long as you believe in what you are doing, good things will happen.’ He encouraged us to always have a plan, set goals and keep learning.”
J.F. was born in Mississippi, the 13th of 14 children. Because of “good family upbringing,” he graduated from Bay Springs High School and then moved to the Joliet area to provide a better life for himself and his family.
J.F. practiced leadership by example. He was a deacon, trustee and overseer of video production at Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Joliet. He served multiple terms as president on the Fairmont School District 89 board of education. In 2012, J.F. was president of the Caterpillar Joliet Retirees Club.
Two of J.F.’s proudest moments occurred on May 31, 2010. He met President Barack Obama at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, and later reflected in a CBS News interview on the privilege of being a U.S. Veteran.
J.F. was a doer, not a talker. He was approachable and willing to help anyone in need, almost to a fault. When it came to personal beliefs and devotion to those he loved, J.F. was an immovable rock. Because J.F. was so humble, Michael was surprised that a thousand people attended J.F.’s wake.
“For someone that didn’t demand the spotlight,” Michael said, “that was a tribute to the type of man he was.”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or