Remembering Notre Dame’s Beth Holtz
Beth Holtz, wife of 1986-96 head football coach Lou Holtz, passed away Tuesday (June 30) at the age of 83 after having battled throat cancer for more than 20 years.
The initial diagnosis was made in 1997, the year after Holtz stepped down as the Fighting Irish’s head coach after producing a 100-30-2 record, highlighted by the program’s most recent national title in 1988 and a couple of near misses in 1989 and 1993.
That rare form of cancer back gave her a five-percent survival rate back then, but she beat the odds dramatically to live 23 more years despite reportedly going through 83 radiation treatments. Over the past year, she had been on a feeding tube.
Her funeral Mass will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame’s campus at a date to be named later.
In June 2015, the couple also survived a lightning strike that caused a fire which destroyed their $1.6 million Lake Nona home in Florida. The former head coach lost numerous memorabilia that included pictures of himself with U.S. presidents and two popes, and the torch he carried for the 1996 Olympic Game in Atlanta … but his most prized gift remained.
“You can’t replace a parent, a spouse, a child,” Holtz reasoned. “We didn’t lose anything we were going to take to heaven anyway. … The only thing you can take to heaven is your children.”
He also recalled how shortly before the fire how Beth had reminded him to be grateful of their blessings.
“She said, ‘This belongs to God. God has everything. This isn’t ours,’” Holtz said. “So when that fire was burning I said, ‘God you need to take better care of your home.’”
An extremely private person, Beth Holtz was awarded an honorary Notre Dame monogram on Sept. 13, 2008 — the same weekend a sculpture by Notre Dame Stadium was dedicated in her husband’s honor on the campus.
“Beth was not only an advocate of our university’s mission and a loving presence in the Notre Dame family, but a wife to one of our coaches, a mom to one of our student-athletes and a supporter of many students through the Lou & Beth Holtz Scholarship at Notre Dame,” Fighting Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick said in a released statement. “Our university community mourns the loss of Beth and our prayers are with the Holtz family at this time.”
Lou and Beth Holtz founded the Holtz Charitable Foundation in 1998, whose mission is to promote Christianity, education and charity. It has provided important funding to several causes including trade scholarships, homeless centers, Christian ministries, and nearly $1 million in scholarship funding for 54 Notre Dame undergraduate students who have demonstrated financial need.
In addition, they funded the renovation of chapels in three student residence halls and established the Liz Holtz Endowment for Excellence for Lyons Hall to provide an annual operating budget and provide for future needs and enhancements for residents of the hall.
In 2015, the couple received the Notre Dame Prize for Catholic Education.
“Beth was an extraordinary human being who possessed the quiet strength necessary to support her equal, Coach Holtz,” said Notre Dame assistant athletics director of alumni relations Reggie Brooks, who in 1992 as a senior running back finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting for a 10-1-1 Irish team. “While Coach Holtz was in the spotlight, Beth was the foundation for the Holtz family which extended beyond their four biological children to include hundreds of young men coached, mentored and cared for throughout their many stops.
“She was a comforting mother for me and so many others whose mothers were miles away.”
Last year, Beth and Lou contributed $100,000 to the Lou’s Lads Endowed Scholarship (now named the Holtz’s Heroes Foundation), a need-based scholarship for the grandchildren of former Lou Holtz football players and for other students who have demonstrated financial need.
Last October, Beth was honored in Florida by the Leaving Legacies Foundation with their namesake award, which recognizes personal accomplishments and dedication to philanthropy and service.
The couple, who would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary on July 22, has four children: Luanne; Louis “Skip” Jr., a 1987 Notre Dame graduate and current head coach at Louisiana Tech; Kevin, a 1989 Notre Dame graduate; and Elizabeth, a 1991 Notre Dame graduate.
Tim Brown, the 1987 Heisman Trophy winner under Holtz who played on the initial Holtz team in 1986 with Skip took to Twitter:
“On behalf of every player who has ever played for Coach Holtz, we send our sincere sympathy and deepest regrets on the loss of Mrs. Holtz. Skip, please tell your dad we all are here for him and praying for peace for him and the family. Godspeed.”