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Obituary for David L. Holliman

Obituary and Tribute for David LeRoy Holliman You cannot count the multitudes of people across this great globe who will claim they have a genuine and unique relationship with David Holliman. He has now answered his name in God's roll call, but if we called roll here, asking those who had a meaningful connection with the man to raise their hand, your own hand would be among the many hands raised across the world. You might have known him from the earliest days, like JoKatherine, his sister, nine years younger, from when they grew up on Lafayette Street in Denver. You may have created a family with him, as did Racelle, mother of Lisa and Rhoda, David's beloved daughters, who he called Cuppy and Squeaky, respectively. You may have travelled the world with him, and all the vital pathways of love and commitment for 44 years, as has Mildred, his loving wife, mother to Michael, who Dave loved and raised as his own. You might have met him at his parents' house, built by Ernest, his father, and made a home by Dorothy, who loved David as her own since 1931. You might be among the legion of Shriners around the world who know the former Imperial Potentate as both servant-leader and the brother you follow. If you are a brother or sister of Campbell Chapel, you might have sung with him in choir, or been inspired by one of his Bible Study lessons, journeys into sacred verse he would take days and weeks to prepare. Regardless of your faith, if you pray, you know God has known and will know him the longest. You may have only interacted with him for a moment: a warm smile in a quick exchange or brief, welcoming handshake, but you felt the focus of his full attention and the authenticity of his warmth. There may be as many people who can recite one of David's quick-witted replies when asked how he was doing. One of them goes something like this: Friend: Hey, Dave, how you doing? David: well about ninety-eight and two… Friend: what?! David: I'm ninety-eight percent all right, and working on that two! This humility and levity was quintessential David L. Holliman: never known to complain; making light of the lean; walking rocky roads with balance; extending a genuine handshake to welcome both leaders and the least among us; and finding a calm, measured response when most might blow their top. If you came out of the New Negro Movement, which fanned south and west from the Harlem Renaissance, you might say he was a shining example of the Talented Tenth, the best of our best workers and thinkers. Though he earned his college degree, he had lived as a wise man decades before he graduated from Regis in his sixties. If you embraced the spiritual and cultural movements of self-determinant Black folks in the 70s, you might claim him as a shining example of what brothers should aim for as a Ten-Percenter, striving for the higher plains of self-determination, cultural uplift, and spiritual morality. Always humble, David might jokingly make more of the numbers racked up or lost by his beloved Broncos, for which he was a decades-long season ticket holder. But make no mistake, however, as the numbers that mattered to David were— as any God-loving man knows —already written, so the numbers he valued most marked the books, chapters, and verses in the most important book in his life, The Bible. With all due respect to anyone's calculations, those who knew him will tell you, he was always a 100-percent man, engaging everyone and everything fully in all the ways that counted. The measure of this man cannot be made simply in numbers, but it is this pursuit of that elusive two percent that provides a fitting tribute of the man… David LeRoy Holliman was born in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 13, 1929, to Ernest William Holliman, then a Pullman porter for Santa Fe, and his mother, Adele Banks, died when he was two years old. His father moved the family from Pueblo to Denver, where he attended Denver Public Schools. He graduated an East High School Angel in 1948, and soon after enlisted into the United States Coast Guard, where he served our country for four years. After active duty, he spent another three years in the Army Reserves. It was while stationed in San Francisco where he began offering janitorial services to make ends meet. This young entrepreneurial spirit would blossom in Colorado, where he founded a small janitorial business that offered cleaning services to office buildings in Denver and throughout the state. In 1966, he joined Continental Airlines in the maintenance department, becoming one of the first Black Americans to gain long-term employment, and would go on to be a leader among his co-workers, and even his superiors, when he successfully fought racial bias to retain cultural traditions important to Black employees. Holliman later served as president of United Maintenance Incorporated and vice president of Queen City Services, Incorporated, whose contracts spanned from the smallest of offices to the largest buildings in the state, including work for the Air Force, Stapleton Airport, and many luxury apartment buildings in the heart of Denver. Though he retired from work for Continental in 1986, Holliman always kept his thriving janitorial service going, a business that remains intact today under the name Select Team, which still acquires clients through word-of-mouth referral, and maintains clients through following a simple motto from the United Maintenance days, "clean as a snowflake!" Throughout his professional life, David received many honors, including mayoral appointments to the Denver City and County Board of Appeals, the Mayor's Black Advisory Committee, the president of the Barrett Elementary School's Parent and Teacher Association, and he carried an honorary captain's badge in the Denver Police Department for his work in easing the devastating gang violence that plagued Black youth in the 1980s. In 1990, at the age of 61, he completed his studies at Regis College in Denver, Colorado where he received his B.S. degree in administration, business, and economics. Most notably, Holliman is known world-wide, capping his decades-long service to the Shriners as Imperial Potentate of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine and Jurisdiction. In that capacity, he travelled the world, meeting and associating with people from all walks of life, treating the man who cleaned his hotel suites with the same attention and respect as he gave to national leaders and celebrities who came to meet with him. If we took that world-wide roll call, asking folks to raise their hands if they were touched by David, many might connect their experience to one of the many phrases David could spin out with the timing of the sharpest comedian or poise of any seasoned leader. A philosopher once said, "words are deeds," which, of course, implies that words, along with deeds, reflect the quality of a person. What at first seem to be pithy phrases David would use are glimpses into a man who walked what he talked. . . . "I'm Blessed" These days, it's trendy to embrace the ethic of emotional intelligence among effective leaders, and using that ethic as the glue to meaningful relationships, personal and professional. While it is clear that David had intellectual and emotional intelligence to spare, what was most important to him was spiritual intelligence, a notion not as trendy, and much harder to package into infomercials, best-selling speaker tours, and sayings on coffee-mugs and pastel-colored t-shirts. One might encounter David at a moment when others were deeply stressed, or as he might have been facing a challenge, be that standing up for Black employee rights at Continental Airlines, or working to stand again after a devastating stroke. If asked how he was doing on a bright sunny Colorado day, or on a day when he was visibly tired, he would simply repeat one of his favorite sayings, "I'm blessed." When first meeting David, or after having known him a long time, one would clearly understand that, with humility, grace, and, as Dave was known to say the patience of Job, which helped him walk a path he never forced on anyone, and yet from which he never left. That pathway took him to great heights of brotherhood and leadership in the Shriners, an organization founded on service, community, and Godliness. Through the years in Denver, he rose in stature in the Masons, becoming a 33 degree Mason and on to the Shriners, among which he became the Imperial Potentate of the entire organization, worldwide. In this capacity, he traveled to many countries, including Japan, Germany, and England, where he met with the first Black Member of Parliament. In his work through the years with the Shriners, he traveled to Memphis and contributed to the St Jude's hospital. He also would host meetings in Denver that joined the White Shriners and Black Shriners. While most men might mark their well-being through titles and travels, David's contentment and commitment was more solidly grounded in how he was right with his God; so much so that, regardless of title and accolade, you were more likely to find David seeking his blessings in humble ways, meeting life's challenges like Job: patient, penitent and focused; studying the Bible among his fellow Shriners or Campbell Chapel parishioners, and devoting hours of study to shine the light of God's word on those who attended his Bible Study classes. Many count their blessings in gold, but, following in the tradition of many West African cultures, David counted his blessings of wealth not in the money he earned, but in the wealth that is his children, and his children's children. David took great pride in watching his granddaughter, Michelle, graduate from Colorado State University, and he will watch down with that bright smile of his when Michelle, Michael's daughter, graduates with a master's degree from David's alma mater, Regis. His blessings extend through his grandson and namesake, David, Lisa's son, with whom he had a strong bond despite the distance between them. When it came time to mark his own 80th birthday, David preferred to celebrate by surprising "DaMac," as David called him, by rooting from the stands at his high school football game in Phoenix. Both Michelle and David have matured as adults under his mentorship, advising and modeling them on to how to live a blessed life. "Get Close To Your Work" There is now only a parking lot where his childhood home on Lafayette used to stand, but if you spun back time, to when he was a rail-thin teenager, you might see Dave walking south on the block on an early Saturday morning, when most were in bed, to clean and polish cars stored in the garage on the corner. There, he learned that any sloth or short cuts he took in polishing cars would show up in smudges and dust, and that would be a reflection on him. In this way, he began a life of matching his value to the quality of the work he did with his hands. Later, as the lanky seventeen year old that would go on jobs with his father, Ernest "Dub" Holliman, he learned quickly from Dub that there were no shortcuts to quality work. He recalled how hard it was to lay flagstone with his father, who would expect no complaint or half-measure on a job. But it was Dub's attention to detail that stuck with Dave, admonishing him for taking a short-cut with a power tool when getting on his hands and knees to work by hand was what a given job may call for. Get close to your work, Dub would say, a phrase David carried throughout his professional life. David passed on this work ethic to his daughter, Rhoda, who has also spent many an hour getting close to the work with her father on janitorial jobs and coming to inject her father's work ethic into a successful career at the Library of Congress. When most dodged service, David joined the military. When most dodged hard work in the military, David embraced it, in one instance working with a crew to row a boat in 30-foot swells to rescue an officer from a ship in the icy-cold Bering Sea. But Dave got close to his work by seizing upon opportunity, so that, when he wasn't steaming out on Coast Guard cutters into the rough waters of the Pacific, he got on his hands and knees to strip and wax floors of offices in the San Francisco area. Or, while assigned to the US Tanney in calmer waters than the North Atlantic, he took training and courses at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut. When he returned to Denver, he moved from his maintenance work to work as a skycap for Continental Airlines, where being close to your work meant serving customers with care and good service— notions we hardly connect to any airlines today. And if you spun that clock back to just a few years ago, with Dave in his early 80s, you would find him still working contracts with his janitorial service, applying the same care to a floor in high-end Capitol Hill condo he applied to those cars all those years ago. Or you might find him among a crew of four men, stripping a floor in a 13, 000 square foot store, a job that engaged for two twelve hour shifts over two nights, work that many men in their twenties would run away from. It was hard, back-breaking work for anyone, let alone an 84-year old man, but rather than point and tell them where to use a hand-scraper to clear old wax from a corner, Dave would be down on his hands and knees, getting close to the work, showing the next generation how do things the right way, which is not always the easy way. Throughout the arc of his working life, he was never afraid to lead with dignity or by example. "Have a Penny, Have a Plan" When you run a cleaning business, you find a lot of loose change, in cushions, in the trash, plant pots, under rugs, in vents, down drainage pipes, under desks, and the dusty corners of floors to be stripped and waxed. Though he drove Lincolns, dressed to the nines when the occasion called for it, lived in a high-rise condo with mountain views, and traveled the world, David was never too proud to pick up loose change. He'd pull a coin from a dust pile and exclaim "if you have a penny, have a plan!" It was this entrepreneurial spirit that got him started in San Francisco, cleaning offices on his leave time when most men would be out in the bars. When he returned to Colorado, he expanded his business by never turning down a job that could help expand his business, even when that meant hauling heavy equipment to jobs across the state. He realized that, if one never skimps on quality work, builds business through face-to-face relationships, and sets out a plan to chart one's course, pennies become dollars. Having a plan and a few dollars to build toward that plan is greater than burning dollars for show with no plan to represent forward movement beyond the next paycheck. This vision allowed him to expand his business from small contracts acquired by door-to-door inquiry into the word-of-mouth success he valued over trendy ads and bidding-war tactics to drum up business. His last years as a business man involved him guiding the business through weekly "board meetings" with his nephew over pork chops at Pete's Diner on Colfax and rubbing shoulders with the new generation of business owners in weekly meetings at Business Network International, the largest business networking organization in the world. In this way, his old-school ethics and new-world flexibility continued to expand his pennies into dollars. But he did not reserve his planning to business alone. He knew that people need to have plans and direction when times are hard. When his sister, JoKatherine Holliman Page, found herself a single mother of two children and no child support coming in, he advised her to make a plan for her future, building on whatever meager savings she had. He said that having a plan was vital, because at least she would be moving forward, inching toward that goal and keeping count of savings to maximize happiness for her children when no other money was coming in. David has been looking after his sister since they were kids with the love, pennies, and plans they have shared, most notably in the financial moves they have made to secure their parents' home on Cook Street for future generations. "In Your Corner" Though Dave's pithy replies were often welcoming, disarming, and entertaining, it would be wrong to think they were as simply stated as that. Many have recounted how a simple Dave Holliman phrase echoed throughout their life and became richer for them as time passed. When called upon for advice on personal and professional relationships, David would often advise that, when picking a business partner or partner in love and life, make sure they are "in your corner." This is a phrase that can be easily relegated to the culture of pugilistic cliche, but if one expands the meaning of what it is to have someone in your corner through the fight of life, one understands how profoundly valuable this advice can be. When his daughter, Lisa was beginning to go commercial with her small business of making and distributing gourmet popcorn, she was challenged as many young companies are, but Dave was in her corner: as father, when she needed encouragement; as entrepreneurial guru, when she needed business advice; and as spiritual advisor, to keep her focused on building on her business and following a dream she left the corporate world to achieve. His nephew, Jason Page, recalled the many times when checking in for advice on life, David would listen carefully and ask questions before asserting advice. In terms of relationships, his steadfast advice was "make sure she's in your corner." Jason affirms that, as with many parts of his life, David led by example, so that his 44 year relationship with Mildred is a palpable model of this partnership ethic. David's life bears the signs of loyalty, coming in and going out. From forming lasting bonds to community at Glenarm YMCA, the source of his sports and activities, where Leon Porter was one of the mentors who was in the corner for multitudes of Black boys when the Jim Crow era could have easily broken their spirit. The mentorship and commitment of "Mr. Porter," as he was known, was solidly installed into David, who carried on that sense of loyalty to new generations of Black boys who faced new challenges in the 80s. He collaborated with Reverend Leon Kelly, who worked with the Bloods and the Crips here in Denver. One of David's fondest memories comes from when they mentored representatives from deadly rivals Bloods and Crips, and sat them down together, both with the Denver Police and at a national summit in Atlanta to end Black-on-Black gang violence. In both occasions, the Bloods and Crips were dressed in suits and ties, no gang colors in sight. For his work to heal the neighborhoods and protect the City of Denver, David received an Honorary Badge from the Denver Police Department. "Ninety Eight and Two" As David has already begun to open the cycle of his Eternal Life, and we close the circle of his life with us, it becomes clear that he lived a full life. His son, Michael Burney, has profoundly recounted what many of us know: David is "the measure of what a man should be." Marcus Mundy, widowed husband of David's niece, Leslye, has remarked how he was a man of quiet and honorable conviction, while also being "a gentleman and a gentle man." With all of this depth and life fully-lived, how do we reconcile David's math: ninety-eight and two? If we were to ask David about this, his humility would never allow him to say he was a complete man, reserving his pursuit of that remaining two percent to represent the ultimate goal, being complete and 100% only in God's Kingdom. So, though his reply may have served as pithy entertainment or worthy example of how to strive and survive, we can view him as having given all of his 98% to the world. As for the rest, he would say it is in God's hands. But as for those he leaves behind, perhaps all of us raising our hand in that roll-call of folks influenced by David Leroy Holliman can make up that earthly 2% with the life we have left. David is survived by his wife, Mildred Holliman, his daughters, Rhoda Holliman (Washington, DC) and Lisa Hudson (David) (Phoenix), his stepson, Michael Burney, his granddaughter, Michelle Burney, his grandson, David M. Hudson, his sister, JoKatherine Holliman Page (Jerome), his nephews, William (Hank) Lewis II and Jason Page (Maggie), and his sister-in-law, Jewelene Johnson. David was preceded in death by his parents Ernest and Dorothy, and his niece Leslye Mundy (Marcus). David leaves behind an uncountable host of other relatives and friends. Link to David's legacy: http://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/david-holliman-41

Funeral Home:
Caldwell-Kirk Mortuary
2101 Marion Street
Denver, CO
US 80205


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