A Moment of Love | In Loving Memory of William "Bill" Holena Jr.
Catherine, who did this family session, is out of the country right now, but we wanted to take the opportunity to feature a very special man and his family. I have a heavy heart as I do my best to write this blog.
A month ago, Catherine took a trip to Shavertown, PA to visit a good friend of ours from college, Rachel and her family. Rachel had reached out to us months ago asking to do a family session while she was home for the week. The Holena family was growing, and their pictures needed updated! As a teacher in California, she used her spring break as an opportunity to go home and spend time with her family and get pictures together.
Although I never got to meet Rachel's family, I got to hear a lot about them after their family session. Catherine called me on her way home from the session. "I LOVE THE HOLENA FAMILY! Their whole session, they were amazing!" She went on telling me about how happy she was to see Rachel, how on point Adam and his wife, Danielle were taking their couple pictures, how great of parents Bill and Kathy were to their little William (the 4th William in the Family) and how much love Mrs. and Mr. Holena shared. She loved seeing them with their first grandchild! She talked about how similar our families were and how Mr. Holena reminded her of our dad - both small town, big family, deeply rooted and proud but gentle men. She told me about how Mr. Holena's father (the first William Holena) built many of his children's homes out of the stone from the ground. While Catherine got to learn about Mr. Holena's family, Mrs. Holena prepared a feast of snacks and veggies for everyone during their shoot. Catherine couldn't stop talking about how at home she felt even though it was her first time meeting Rachel's family.
We didn't know how important this photo session would be until a few days ago when Catherine got a text from Rachel telling her how grateful she was that they had their family session when they did.
A few days ago, Rachel took to her Instagram.
"If you spoke to anyone that met my father, they would tell you how kind, special, and compassionate he was. He was a fount of useless knowledge and would always offer a hand of help. My dad did things how he wanted and when he wanted. He has taught me so many things in life and most importantly how to be a good person. I am so very grateful for the special times we shared, having a cheer dad, and sharing the love of Penn State sports. Four years ago we had a scare but he was a fighter and wanted a second chance to live life to the fullest. We really embraced every moment since then. Today, surrounded by his loving wife, children, and grandchild, my dad was ready to not be suffering anymore, I am truly lucky to have him as my dad and he absolutely can take the title of World's Best Dad." She then asked for everyone to share their fondest memories that they shared with him to help remember the legacy of Hurricane Bill".
Comments flooded in speaking about his hard work, selflessness, and compassion. They wrote about his forgiveness, empathy and grace. They complimented him on behalf of the wonderful children he and his wife raised. Rachel's close friend, Taylor wrote,
"Your dad was a hardworking, selfless, and deeply compassionate man. He was full of grace and lived a life led by his beliefs, and put others before himself. Always. He knew the answer to any questions you could think of and knew how to host a perfect tailgate. He showed me forgiveness, empathy, and a little tough love when I needed it. Most importantly, he raised my best friend to have and value all these traits that he exemplified so perfectly."
Others posted about his role as the perfect cheer dad, their childhood memories, and the wonderful times they had the opportunity to spend with him and the Holena family.
"I'll never forget cheer competitions with him and how him and my dad used to be even better cheerleaders then we were!"
"Every time I would come over to your house, I would eat dinner with your mother and father and it was always such a great time."
"He always made me feel at home and like part of your family."
"I was sucking on a huge slice of watermelon, but being a kid, I didn't finish most of it. Your dad picked it up and didn't hesitate to finish it for me. My mom said that's how she knew he was a good man, because he didn't care about my sticky icky kid hands. I'll see your dad again someday, and I promise to give him his own watermelon slice this time."
I sadly never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Holena or any other members of Rachel's family during this session. However, after getting to know Rachel well, talking to Catherine about their family session, and reading the many comments, I can tell that this family is a fighting one, bonded by love, and raised by supportive and strong parents, who brought them up with similar values. To Mr. and Mrs. Holena, thank you for raising such caring, passionate, and joyful children, and one of our dear friends. Thank you all for welcoming Catherine and sharing this session and these moments of love.
Catherine also shared her condolences, and memories when she heard the news.
"Taking photos is sometimes seeing a moment of love and snapping. The Holena family’s session was so full of love that I couldn’t stop snapping. Much of that love was seen in the soft, gentle eyes of Mr. William Holena. My heart is heavy as I pray for @rachhole44 and her family as they say goodbye to Mr. Holena who passed away just a month after these photos were taken. Though I met him only once I felt so welcomed into their family. I felt so bonded by his stories of growing up in a big family, living in a home made from the stones that were once the part of the foundation, and listening to his stories about growing up in a small town where family means everything. I felt bonded through our PA roots and the unequivocal family focused lifestyle which made him the man he was. The pride he showed looking into his wife’s eyes, talking about his children - a teacher, a husband, and a new father, and the JOY he showed holding his grandson, William Holena IV will always be special memories for me. These photos were special to me once I took them, but now I think they might be the most important photos I’ve ever taken. I truly feel blessed to have been a small part of capturing a moment that I hope the Holena family will look back on for generations to come. Mrs. Holena, Rachel, Will, Adam, Kathy, Danielle, and sweet baby William, my heart is with you. Thank you for sharing such a loving sweet soul with the world."
If you ever were lucky enough to share a "moment of love" with Bill or the Holena family, please share! We would love to read about it! Sending our love and prayers with you all during this time.
So much love,
Samantha, Catherine and Evan
We lastly wanted to share a wish of Bill's. He wished that donations of the Gift of Life be given in his memory for he was a recipient of a gift and it provided him with needed time to see his family grow. Please consider being an organ donor.