Holli Ann Ewoldt Safley entered the world to loving parents, Roy and Marilyn (Hedin) Ewoldt, on Nov. 30, 1951.
Holli grew up in a joyful and devoutly Christian household alongside her older sister, Laurie, and two younger brothers, Bill and David, in Paullina. Their parents often sent them outdoors to explore, play and discover all day long. Holli was very active in recreational sports growing up, and she was always the first pick in the local co-ed baseball games.
Holli attended Paullina Public School and graduated with one of the highest honors, salutatorian, in 1970. She chose Drake University in Des Moines as her college of choice. Holli’s musical talents inspired her to major in music education. In her spare time at Drake, she played and excelled in several sports in the women’s clubs (volleyball, basketball, and track and field events), as there were no NCAA-sanctioned women’s athletics at that time.
Holli graduated from Drake with distinction in 1974. She began her career at Ackley-Geneva Public School, staunchly teaching middle school music and assistant coaching the girls’ basketball team. During her final year at Ackley-Geneva (1979), the girls’ basketball team triumphantly earned fourth in the state when there was still one class.
While at Ackley-Geneva, Holli was introduced to a veterinarian by her best friend, Cile Beecroft. Several years later, on Aug. 4, 1979, she and Dr. Bill Safley exchanged vows and were married in Paullina at First Presbyterian Church. Holli soon moved to Peterson, where Bill lived. That same fall, Holli began teaching middle school instrumental music in Aurelia, and kept her love of sports alive as an assistant coach for girls’ basketball, volleyball and track. Her last year of teaching at Aurelia ended on a high note as the high school jazz band finished third in the state.
Holli took a break from teaching after son Matthew was born in 1985. She returned to teaching middle school music at the South O’Brien School District, which reaped success with all her students at group and solo contests and concerts, and lifelong friendships with her colleagues.
In the late ’90s, Holli was recruited to teach middle school music at Storm Lake Public Schools by dear friend and co-music teacher Frank Hoskins, whose friendship began at South O’Brien. She, along with the faculty of the Storm Lake Public School Music Program, received the highest honor and distinction a music program can receive in the state of Iowa in the early 2000s.
Holli somehow still managed to find time to play her trumpet at many functions and churches quite often during her life. She continually participated in Summer Community Bands in the Northwest Iowa region, and was a dedicated member of the Cherokee Symphony orchestra.
Holli decided to retire in 2016 after 42 years of teaching.
During her time as a retiree, she adjudicated groups in the state and conducted many regional honor bands. She also spent more time on her hobbies, such as reading, enjoying the outdoors, traveling and spending time with her family and friends. After Bill’s retirement in 2018, they fulfilled many of their travel plans by venturing to Yellowstone, the Northeast, the Atlantic Ocean Coast and even Jamaica.
In January 2019, Holli was diagnosed with lung cancer. Despite time in and out of hospitals and continual ups and downs, she always maintained a bright, gracious temperament. Holli’s last months were unexpectedly filled with significant improvements with her health. With the use of a multitude of doctors, she surpassed what she and her family felt were possible. Unfortunately, her health went downhill rapidly in the middle of September.
Holli sadly passed away on Sept. 26 at the Avera Medical Center ICU in Sioux Falls, S.D.
She was preceded in death by her parents and all her siblings, Laurie, Bill and David, and many friends and relatives.
Holli is survived by her husband Bill; son Matthew; daughter Erin and husband Michael Drew; several nieces and nephews; Uncle James and Aunt Joanne Ewoldt from St. Louis; and many, many very close friends.
A funeral service was held on Oct. 2 at InnSpiration Winery in rural Linn Grove, with the Rev. Grant Mangold officiating.
Burial will be at a later date at Prairie View Cemetery in Paullina.