When Holt was a freshman, it was quite an accomplishment just to make the team. The team was quite good back then, so though Holt was a good player he did not begin his tennis career at Walter Johnson as the “star” or even a regular starter. However, as Mr. Laukaitis pointed out, he worked hard and was always concerned about “the team.” It came as no surprise to anyone that by the time he was a senior, he had worked his way to earning the number one spot and being voted captain by his peers.
I had the privilege of working with Holt both on the tennis court on a game he really loved and in the math classroom on a subject that was not his favorite.
As a coach and teacher here at Walter Johnson I have had to listen to many parents tell me that their son or daughter should be playing higher on the ladder, or should have the number one position because “their kid was special.” Or they say “my child should get an A or a B in math because my child is special.”
Jan and Linton, you never did that. You never felt the need to point out that “Holt was special.” You were content to let Holt’s deeds determine his success and failures and what others thought.
After what has happened, I can imagine that you now want to shout to the world, “MY boys were special.” Know that you don’t need to. Every time someone speaks about your sons in their quiet, sad voices --
their words shout from the mountain tops that your sons were special.
We are dedicating a memorial to Holt today, not because Holt was a good tennis player, but because we all knew that Holt was a special young person. It is rare to meet a teenager so aware of the larger world around him and his responsibility to contribute to making that world better for others and the Walter Johnson community is a better place for having him as a student and a player.
This Memorial is at the tennis courts because here is where he would want it. He spent a lot of time here with his friends working hard, having fun, competing, sometimes he won, sometimes he lost, he was
sometimes joyous in victory and frustrated in defeat. Holt experienced many emotions of life here and so it is appropriate that this memorial be placed here.
In the years to come many players and students will sit on these benches maybe to savior a victory, or to support a friend in a big match, or just to relax. Some will see this memorial and ask “Who was Holt Weeks?” and Mr Laukaitis and I will be so happy to tell them about this special young man.
And eighty years from now when we have all joined Holt and Stone, people will sit on these benches: maybe students trying out for the team, or players after a tournament, or perhaps parents after giving their child a tennis lesson. They will ask themselves “who was Holt Weeks?” Though we won’t be there to tell them, this memorial placed here by his high school community will let them know “he must have
been someone special.”
William Weeks.....that was the name I called on my first day at Walter Johnson High School and in the Leadership class. A clear “here” and moved on, but a former student from my days teaching middle school
(David Brennan) responded, “His name is Holt” for which I thanked him for the clarification but, of course, forgot by the next day. William Weeks...I called on the second day...and for the following two days,
with still a clear response of “here”... but continually corrected by David Brennan. On the fourth day I walked up to William and asked, “Do you go by and prefer to be called Holt?” for which he replied
something to the effect of “yea, but it’s not a problem if you call me William for attendance”.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “What’s the point of this story?” Well, in thinking of what I would say that captured my thoughts and feelings, I was brought back to my first days in the Leadership class, this
introduction, and how I came to know this incredible young man we all know as Holt. And at the time, I didn’t realize just how much he would impact my life and the lives of so many others.
When many of us first think of Holt, we think of his gregarious nature, engaging and unique sense of humor, and his overall zest for life. And as significant as these traits are in knowing and loving Holt, it was his calm, respectful, yet determined spirit that, for me, truly captured his essence.
You just had to experience Holt in action....
Whether it was coming up with ideas and a plan for the SGA pep rallies -- Planning, organizing, and recruiting donors for the blood drives -- Or creating the now annual and famous Triple P Tournament --
Holt always initiated and persevered with a calm, determined, and enthusiastic spirit and attitude.
I remember when Holt was first involved in the Leadership class’sannual blood drives. The goal was always to increase the number of blood donors in order to increase the supply of badly needed blood. Holt recognized that there were many students who were able to give blood but were anxious and afraid. Holt’s action plan.....as students were registering during the lunch period, Holt walked around and talked with as many students as he knew, encouraging them to donate blood. He was never “in your face” and forceful or tried to make anyone feel guilty for failing to register. Holt appealed to each student’s sense of compassion, educating them on the importance and necessity of blood donation, always recognizing and never minimizing their anxiety and fears. Instead, he promised to sit beside and share the experience with them, whether holding their hand, talking them through the fear, or just being there to serve as a distraction and
ease their anxiety.
I don’t know the number of students who donated blood due to Holt’s encouragement and compassionate support, but I do remember him sitting beside many students, holding their hands or talking and laughing with them while they donated blood for the very first time. Needless to say, blood donations increased that year by more than 60 units, and I know without a doubt that Holt played a critical role in making that happen.
That was Holt ..he just “got it”..... he always knew and understood the guiding purpose and goal of each and every task and activity and never lost sight of its significance ....whether to earn money supporting the work of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, finding much needed donors for the blood drive, or supporting and motivating his tennis team toward victory. Not only that, but you witness to the fact that Holt thoroughly enjoyed being involved with and helping others, often turning traditionally mundane tasks into something motivational and fun.
Holt knew what it meant to be assertive yet respectful, bold butpositive and encouraging, and honest yet caring and compassionate. How many of us here know just how much he respected, admired, and loved his mother, Jan, his father Linton, and his brother Stone. Their support, guidance and love played a critical role in who Holt was to become as a person and how he will always be remembered....and I know Holt would agree and had shared as much in many of our conversations. He knew and understood the true meaning and importance of “giving”, not in terms of gifts or money, but with time, encouragement, support, and love. Holt was always “giving”....as a family member, a friend, and most importantly as a human being.
I conclude with a quote from Kahlil Gibran, one which I feel serves as a testament to Holt and how he may serve as motivation and inspiration to all of us.
“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.”
It is extremely difficult to be brief about Holt and Stone. I could go on for quite a while about their commitment to community and their dedication to making the world a better and more peaceful place. But in the moments when I remember them best, what stands out is their love for people and their rare ability to
immediately put others at ease. Holt and Stone made their friends their family, and their family their friends. I cannot think of any other individuals who blurred these lines so completely. They had the gift of empathy. In the film To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus talks with Scout about the meaning of empathy… he says that you need to walk around in someone else’s shoes to understand them. Holt and Stone walked around in everyone’s shoes.
I first met Holt through organized team tennis when I was only 8 years old, initially thinking that he would be nothing more than a temporary teammate. Little did I know that he would soon become one of my closest and most trusted friends. Holt and I never attended the same school, but this did not prevent us from seeing each other and spending time together whenever possible. Without a doubt, the weeks that we spent together at Swarthmore tennis camp each summer were among the best and most memorable of my entire life. This was not because of the competitive tennis or the incredible counselors at the camp. It was because these were the weeks during which Holt and I realized that we were utterly inseparable as friends. And this was evident to others as well. One year the counselors even put on a skit that they called “Dolt,” a skit in which they combined our two names and similar personalities into one lovable character. Now while this was obviously comical and undeniably amusing, I have come to realize that there is an underlying truth to their observations.
Recently, thinking about our relationship, I have come to understand why we seemed to be so alike. I used to believe that it was because we were just innately similar in nature, but now that I have been forced to think deeply back on our priceless friendship, I see the truth. The truth is that when I was around Holt, I wanted nothing more than to be just like him. Although we were the best of friends, I idolized Holt in a way that I have never idolized any other person that I have been so close to. His personal magnetism was one of
the infinite number of characteristics that made Holt so unique and special. He set the bar high for himself and, in an unassuming way, made those around him want to be better and challenge themselves to reach high as well. I have strived to be a caring individual and a good person, but it was the time that I
spent with Holt that caused me to want to be an exceptional person. And I will always be eternally grateful to Holt for that. Holt brought out the best in me, just like he brought out the best in everyone else that he came into contact with over the course of his life.
Now I know how much Holt loved history, so I thought I would end with something I recently read about the first Great War. During the War, the British Imperial Graves Commission asked British writers to come up with some words to inscribe on the gravestones of young British soldiers who lost their lives fighting on
the Western Front. Although it turns out that Kipling wrote most of the official inscriptions, one family of a fallen soldier submitted an inscription that I think is particularly appropriate for Holt. The inscription read, “If love could have saved him, he would not have died.”
Hi, my name is Lauren and as most of you know I dated Holt for quite a while during high school. Because of this, the Weeks family has been another family to me for many years now. I met Holt out of the coincidence of not having a ride home from a party one night. In the attempt to find someone, my friends and I followed a car and knocked on the window. Holt happened to be the lucky one driving. From that
day on we stuck together and he showed me what it meant to live, laugh and love.
He inspired me to live life to its fullest because he made sure to live every moment with no regrets. He always did what he wanted, took opportunities as they came and experienced them to their fullest potential. Even the little things mattered to him, from making me sing karaoke -- to get over a fear to taking the chance of going to school in Alabama for a better experience.
Holt also taught me what it meant to laugh so hard your abs hurt. I felt as if he had a personal goal to make sure everyone around him was either smiling or laughing. Whether it be at a silly outfit he was wearing or a new word he came up with to describe how cool something was. One day he even made me approve of an outfit that consisted of red and white plaid picnic pants and a band t-shirt. When I responded with a half unsure smile he laughed and said, “then its perfect.” From that day on I learned to just smile and nod to all outfits knowing they would all be perfect.
Finally, he taught me how to love. To love is something people take advantage of these days and look over as a common feeling. But Holt showed everyone what it really meant to love. He had more friends than anyone I know, he befriended teachers and coaches, and he adored his family to the bottom of his heart. He would mention to me at least once a day how much he loved his friends and wouldn’t change them for
anything in the world. To love is to care for, support and enjoy life with those around you and that is just what Holt made sure to do.
To know Stone was to know Holt but a foot and a half taller. Stone was the inspiration to Holt on how to live life. He was just as into karaoke and crazy clothes and was just as outgoing. However he is the only person I know that can pull off a seersucker suit. Now the day I met Stone was actually planned unlike how I met Holt. This day was much anticipated since Holt had been talking about it for days on end. It was the day I got to meet his big brother, his Idol. The most memorable part of that day was the moment that Stone
discovered I was the perfect height to be his personal arm rest. From that day on I knew why Holt looked up to Stone so much. He was such a caring person and determined to obtain his goals in life while helping
everyone in his path.
The day I met Holt was the start of a new life for me that I continue to live. I know that Holt is looking down on me, guiding me to where I need to be. I fell in love with Holt and his personality, he changed
my life for the better and I thank him so much for that. These boys are an inpiration to me and many others. I hope they have come to inspire you as well.
I sat down to write this speech and I couldn’t think of where to begin. Do I begin with a testament to Holt’s character? Do I talk about the inspiration he had on people? Or his goodness and happiness that he spread like the most miraculous benevolent virus known to man, the Sonzy virus? How could I attest to his memory, how could I do him justice? I thought about the words needed to do all these things and I realized words could never suffice. The only thing that could truly honor such a great man is people. The people who knew him, who cared about him and who miss him and surely the 6 billion more who would
have, had they the gift of knowing him. It is the faces of everyone here today and the people who wanted to be here today but couldn’t that honor Holt Weeks. The people who have shed a tear for Holt, the people who don’t go 24 hours without thinking about Holt, and a mother and a father who can’t go one minute without thinking of their lost beloved sons, it is all these people harboring the collective compassion, wisdom, happiness, knowledge, humor and generosity that embodied Holt that pay homage to his memory.
I met Holt in the 6th grade. We soon thereafter discovered a shared passion that bonded us together, a passion for the John Grisham novels and an ambition to become lawyers one day. We remained friends throughout middle-school but it was in high-school that we became best-friends. I just loved being around Holt. He was smart, witty, hilarious, and he loved to have fun. We were risk-takers, jokers, pranksters, best-friends, and as a lot of you know political rivals, but that’s why I loved my relationship with Holt so much. When it came to ping-pong or ultimate Frisbee, Holt and I were always on the same team, that bond we formed in middle-school was still present all those years later, celebration would consist of a fist bump and an enthusiastic lawyers baby. Off the field though, Holt and I were infamous for our political debates, we would be at a party and would literally bring it to a stand-still shouting at the top of our lungs at each other, but once it was over and we calmed down we would hug it out, saying you know I love you
It was that kind of unbreakable bond that I had with Holt that I think characterizes Holt as a person. He was steadfast, honest, true to himself and to others, which is why I think this dedication, a boulder, is so perfectly symbolic of who Holt was. He stood up for what he believed and never backed down, which is exactly why neither of us ever won our debates, but he had a sense of humility that so few have. He looked up to his brother, Stone, because Stone had all these qualities as well. In fact, Holt and I would be in the middle of one
of our debates and he would stop and say, “omg, I have to call Stone”and he would hand me the phone. After talking to Stone for a minute or two, Holt would say, “See dude, I told you I was right.” Holt and Stone’s relationship was the quintessence of brotherly love.
That’s the feeling I felt with Holt, he was more than my best-friend, he was my brother, my fallen brother, who I will never forget and I will always love and miss.
Holt Weeks…there are not enough words in any of the world’s dictionaries to describe such an amazing person. Holt and I met in 6th grade at Tilden Middle School. We were both going through our “awkward stage” (wasn’t everybody?), and hit it off quite well. Rachel and I would walk to the park in the neighborhood and meet Holt to shoot some hoops. For anyone who has seen me touch a basketball, they would know the game ended up being Rachel vs. Holt, with Anna stealing an occasional touch of the ball—strictly by means of force. Anyways, Holt usually went easy on me, but he beat me enough times for me to realize that basketball was not my forte. Our friendship only blossomed from here. Holt was the kind of person who only comes along once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky. At the young age of 11, he was more compassionate, more generous, and more full of life than anyone I knew. He pushed everyone to try to do good in the world, even if “good” was just to get a better time on the “fun run” in middle school. Holt constantly brought such an incredible light and charisma anywhere he went.
Throughout high school at Walter Johnson, we remained good friends. Ask most students in high school, and they will tell you there are numerous “cliques”. There is of course the popular crowd, the jocks, the nerds, the Goths, etc., etc. To Holt, none of this mattered. Holt didn’t care who was considered “cool”, and who wasn’t, he treated everybody as an equal. This was one of the lessons I will carry with me throughout my life. Holt was friends with anybody and everybody who he ever came in contact with. It was impossible not to be friends with someone so amazing. Anytime I would walk down the hall with Holt, he not only high-fived almost every single student he passed, he also attempted to high-five any teachers, hoping they would reciprocate.
Holt and I still stayed close when we went off to college. We would reminisce about high school and how much fun we had together. He would send me random text messages that made no sense, but were
hilarious. I would call him at 2 am on the weekend and tell him about the feast of chicken nuggets and scrambled eggs that I just made. His response would usually consist of “sponzeeee”, “you’re so college”, or
“squa”, of which I only understood the 2nd phrase. Whenever we were home for breaks we would always get the crew together and karaoke, which Holt and Stone were phenomenal at. Holt and Stone would tell me
to play the drums during Rock Band, just so they could stand there and laugh at my sad attempts to be decent at an instrument, a fake instrument for that matter.
Words cannot express how much I miss Holt. How much I miss his laugh, how much I miss his unique vocabulary, how much I miss his presence in general. I am so incredibly thankful for the memories of Holt that I will be able to cherish forever. He was truly one of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I only wish that as I grow older, I will be half as decent of a person as Holt was in his short life.
I would like to end with a brief poem by George Santayana:
With you a part of me hath passed away;
For in the peopled forest of my mind
A tree made leafless by this wintry wind
Shall never don again its green array.
…But yet I treasure in my memory
Your gift of charity, and young hearts ease,
And the dear honour of your amity;
For these once mine, my life is rich with these.
And I scarce know which part may greater be,--
What I keep of you, or you rob from me.
Thank you, and Holt, may you Rest in Peace. I’ll see you again someday.
When you look at the number of quality individuals that have come out of Walter Johnson High School over the years, for the class of 2007, Holt Weeks is a great example of what our grade aspires to be like. If you didn’t have the privilege of knowing him, I’m sure you’ve probably gotten a pretty good idea from the people who have. The best way I can describe Holt is, never a dull moment.
A son, a brother, a friend, a teammate, a philanthropist, a dog owner, the list goes on. Holt exemplified exactly what our society wants out of its individuals. And Holt was just that: an individual. Someone who had a refreshingly original blend of style, intelligence, humor, loyalty, humility, and grace. In such a short-lived life, Holt’s well-rounded approach and perspective on life is something we
can all only hope to attain.
To get up here and go on about what kind of person Holt was would not do him any justice. The fact remains: Holt’s life was taken and nothing can change what happened or alleviate the pain of his void. Having known Holt since first grade, I’d like to share a memory that, in many ways, encapsules Holt’s approach to life.
Around the time all of us were preparing to enter high school, Holt realized his future varsity sport would be tennis. Being the hard-working person Holt was, this meant he would have to give up two other sports Holt enjoyed: basketball and baseball. Ever since elementary school, Holt and I had played on a baseball team coached by my dad. The team consisted of a bunch of neighborhood kids that were far from serious athletes, much less kids with notable baseball prowess. Year in and year out, Holt was always the kid who was on the fence about rejoining the team for another season, claiming he didn’t have enough time. Yet the lure of having fun, challenging himself, and helping a team eventually tipped the scale. Even before our first game of the season, Holt was having more fun than everyone. The team lasted through our senior year, despite Holt’s ambivalence. At the end of the day, Holt’s contribution helped keep the team together and
his improvement spoke for itself.
Like Holt demonstrated on the diamond, there is something to be said about knowing where you came from. Holt was a quick learner when it came to just about anything other than arguments, failing to realize that your point doesn’t carry any more weight when you raise your voice.
After what has been a rough year for many of us, I am proud to stand before this community to carry on Holt and Stone’s legacy by dedicating two benches and a boulder to their memories.
Every time I speak on behalf of Holt and Stone, I am instantly humbled and reminded of the reality that is life. Holt and Stone had a way of celebrating life and making a huge contribution in the process. I firmly believe that from every negative, one can make and take a positive. If there is one thing Holt has taught me, it is okay to be who you are. Holt always saw the positive side of things.
In the spirit of his memory I’ll conclude with a quote by Howard Thurman used in the program of Holt and Stone’s service at the National Cathedral, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Holt was undoubtedly alive; so much so that he rubbed off on everyone else in the room. He rubbed off on me. Forever. Thank you.
Dr. Chris Garran
Good evening. I would like to again welcome you to Walter Johnson High School. I thank all of you - and our speakers - for being here and for sharing this time with us. Obviously, Holt’s influence remains far-reaching and powerful.
As a final reflection, I would like to talk with you a little bit about Holt’s Memorial. After all, you will see it every time you enter our tennis facilities or pass this beautiful area of our campus. It sits right here - very close to the Wildcat Walkway. So bear with me, I might take a little longer than some others, a principal’s
prerogative, but I would like us to think about some of the words on this plaque: Six of them to be specific.
The first word is “amazing” - the adjective selected to modify the other five words: Amazing – as in awe-inspiring, causing surprise & wonder and making a vivid impression. To use “amazing” to describe
Holt is what I call being “spot on.” He inspired us. He surprised us. Sometimes, he really made us wonder… And without a doubt, he made a vivid impression. Last summer, at the services at the National Cathedral, I used this very word in my eulogy. I said that Holt had a laser like focus on the positive and he never mistook the glass as half empty. When people were down, he worked to bring them up. The beautiful thing is that he was able to do this with adults with just as much ease… I remember a young man who always greeted me with a handshake and a smile. Walking in the halls or on campus, Holt was the kid that I wanted to see… What an amazing (there it is) quality – a truly amazing quality - To be a person who exudes that type of
positive energy and enthusiasm.
The second and third words are “son and brother” - an awe-inspiring and surprising son and brother who made a vivid impression upon Jan, Linton and his brother Stone. Again, to reflect on what I said at
National Cathedral, I saw a young man who truly loved his parents and was so proud of them. In high school, it is rare to see kids “bragging” about their parents. Yet, he had so much respect and admiration for his parents. He was so proud and so loved… And while I never had the privilege of meeting Stone, Holt let us know what an incredible older brother he had. Holt admired him so much. Idolized is an appropriate word. Fred Dellelo told me that Holt never texted during his class… except to his brother. About everything… from a topic being debated about which he wanted Stone’s thoughts or news on the personal front. What an incredible love and bond.
The fourth word is friend. From so many reflections tonight, we see the gift for friendship that Holt gave freely to others – peers and adults. With friends, he believed fiercely in having fun. He believed in making people laugh. He wanted his friends to be taken care of… And they wanted him around. Last summer, I remember Rachel saying that if you were about to get in trouble or just got in trouble, you wanted Holt to be there. He would make you laugh. He would make it better. He could even make trouble look good.
The fifth word is teammate. I would like to share again a story that Mary LaFratta told me. It seems that she needed someone to practice with our #1 female player. She did not feel any of the girls were really giving her the competition that she needed. So, she asked Holt. Now, speaking for myself, I can imagine an initial fear as a male player: what if I lose! After all, we are talking about high school. Yet, Holt did not hesitate. It meant helping someone else. As a captain of one team, it meant helping the girls’ team. So, he did it. Also, he continued to play when he went to Eckerd and just recently the Athletic Department there created the Holt Weeks Sportsmanship Award to be given to a member of the men’s tennis team.
The final word is leader. Academically, Holt did very well at WJ and was a leader inside of the classroom… especially when it came to debate and to argument. As an academic leader, he was a National Merit
Commended Scholar. Yet, when I think of Holt’s leadership, I am truly impressed by what he did as a member of our leadership class. Let me tell you a story that Jan and Linton and some others have heard. Yet,
for me, it truly speaks to Holt’s leadership. It is what sets him apart as a leader. It is about risk-taking. So imagine me sitting in my office: Principal of this fine institution of learning behind us. Holt enters - with some peers – and proposes an idea. Let’s have a school-wide pong contest. Quickly, in order to avoid being tossed out of my office, he throws in there… It’s for charity! As a part of our Pennies for Patients campaign to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Holt felt that we should take a risk… tap into an
activity to which students would flock – make it “clean” – which meant water and no drinking if the ball goes in the cup. Also, sell it this way, “C’mon Dr. Garran… anything can be a drinking game? We need to
Now, let me tell you why that’s leadership. One – you’re proposing an idea to a hostile audience. It takes courage. Two – you have your arguments down. You’re organized. You have the counter points ready. Three – You believe in it. You have no doubt that it will work. Four – you know your audience’s weak point – How can the principal say no to charity? Five – You are outside the boundaries. You’re stretching somewhere new and different. You’re taking a risk. You have an idea that does not fit within its current surroundings - playing approved pong in high school – and you are going to make it happen. And he did.
This spring, WJ led the county – again – and came in 5th nationally – by raising just shy of $30,000 in the Pennies for Patients Campaign… and for another year, students gathered in crazy costumes and played
the approved Triple P – Pong for Pennies for Patients.
So this plaque speaks to an awe-inspiring, surprising, wonderful young man who has left an incredibly vivid impression… as a son, brother, friend, teammate and leader… and all that those words mean for the people who knew him… and for those who did not know him, but who will pass this spot… who will maybe sit, rest, linger for a while.
And let me finish by quickly mentioning that next to the plaque we have these two benches that stand side-by-side – just as Holt and Stone always stood by each other. Here – these brothers continue to do
And this boulder upon which we have placed the plaque: Know that the word “boulder” comes from a Scandinavian source, “bullersten,” from “bullra” – to roar – and “sten” or stone or rock. Thus, we have a
roaring rock - a stone in a stream causing water to roar around it– and thus, “bullersten,” boulder, noisy rock. Well, knowing Holt, I believe a noisy, roaring stone is exactly what he would want. It reminds us of him and of his brother. And so we place this plaque on a noisy, roaring stone: you hear the debates, the laughs, you hear the music. Together, with these brothers’ benches, this is Holt’s Memorial
at Walter Johnson.
Now, in the spirit of that noise and in recognition of Holt’s love for music, let us listen to Holt’s Prayer for Us – Bob Dylan’s Forever Young.