Remembering Hollis “Holly” Herrell

Kawaga Family,


It’s with a heavy heart – but with deep gratitude – that we let you know of the passing of our friend, mentor, and role model, Hollis “Holly” Herrell.


Lou Ehrenreich met Holly during the winter of 1966, and immediately saw that this English teacher from Waukesha, Wisconsin was someone special who could bring much to Camp Kawaga. Holly’s first year on staff was as Head of the Waterfront in 1967 (forever known as “the rainy summer”). That summer, two Kawaga legends, Tom Karpan and Gene Farrell, were Head Counselor and Head of Chip Lodge, respectively; both men spent more than two decades on the Shores. Holly wrote in his first counselor message, “I felt it a privilege to be a part of the Kawaga Nation.” Though he walked proudly in the shadows of Tom and Gene that summer, beginning in 1972 he modestly went on to most capably fill their shoes as Program Director and Head Counselor. Holly wrote, “The position of Head Counselor has added a new dimension to my insight as to what Kawaga is and what she stands for. Kawaga has, and always will, play an integral part in the development of the men of tomorrow.’” As did his predecessors, Holly served Kawaga in leadership roles for two decades. 


Kawaga dedicated the 1975 Annual Pineneedle to Holly. That dedication read, in part: “It has been a joy for all of us in close contact with Holly to watch the growth and development of our Head Counselor. Today, only the boundaries of his clever, innovative mind limit the varied and unique programming of Kawaga. This gentleman from Waukesha makes a special contribution to camp life, whether he is broadcasting over the P.A. system, casting for that eternally escaping muskie, or discussing life and literature with the older campers. He represents devotion to principle and uncompromising honesty, with the goodness and strength of a camping man and educator dedicated to working with youth.”


Stories of Holly abound. Bill Fisch, who has remained in close contact with Holly through the years, tells of the time he caught a muskie while Holly rowed the boat just off the T Dock. At the first sight of the muskie’s teeth (and despite Holly’s instructions to quickly grab the fish and remove the hook!), Bill hesitated and the muskie got away. In Bill’s retelling of the story year after year, Holly loved how the fish kept getting bigger and bigger.


Duke Fisher, who was Co-Director with Holly in the summers 1987 and 1988, said that he learned many lessons from his senior partner. Holly taught Duke – more by example than with words, that demonstrating confidence and a steady hand help to calmly navigate life’s difficulties and challenges. 


“…the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.”


David Zazove, one of the 1972 CITs who were in Holly’s Cabin 25 that summer, sums up how Holly touched the lives of so many in the simplest yet most memorable ways: “Everybody remembers their CIT counselor, and we will certainly always remember ours. Holly exuded a quiet strength and wisdom beyond his years. He provided guidance and compassion when we needed it, discipline when we deserved it, and he gave us the space and confidence to try new things and not be afraid to fail. I’m sure everyone remembers him entering the cabin each morning (he never slept there) before Reveille. Instead of simply coming in to wake us, he would just ruffle through a bag of hard candy that he kept in his drawer. It was just loud enough to make sure none of us could sleep any longer. I’m sure we all look upon our time with Holly as one of the great treasures of our lives.”


Holly taught so much to those of us who were fortunate to know him, work with him, and call him a friend. He modeled a sense of integrity and humor that inspired all of us to be not only better campers and counselors, but better people. 


Our condolences go out to Holly’s family – to Holly Jr., Mark, and Dave. 


As was often sung in the Mess Hall: “Who’s the guy we love the most, H-O-L-L-Y. Holly Herrell, Holly Herrell, he’s our guy!”