We lost a family member at the Statesboro Herald Friday morning. After many years of dealing with multiple health issues, Holli Deal Saxon passed away. She was 56.
Our prayers are with her husband Dean, her mother and her family.
For those of us lucky to have known Holli, we will miss her warm heart, quick wit and a boundless compassion for all animals, particularly horses. She also was stubborn and opinionated and had a temper. She was human.
I first met Holli when I became editor of the Herald in 2002. I had read her clips prior to becoming editor and it was clear she was an excellent writer and reporter.
At a small newspaper like the Herald, reporters cover just about everything, but Holli’s beat was crime. From the daily police report to breaking news of shootings and robberies to feature stories about our law enforcement personnel, including K-9, and their good works, there wasn’t a crime story Holli didn’t cover or write at some point.
During the downtown hostage standoff in 2006, I came into the office the morning after it started and Holli was there. She said she didn’t want to leave, in case something happened overnight to report.
That was just one example of her dedication. I have countless others.
Holli wrote thousands of stories during her approximately 23 years working for the Herald. She earned many writing awards from the Georgia Press Association and the Associated Press. Of all of them, I have a personal favorite.
In August 2008, 17-year-old Thomas Puckett of Portal was killed in a tragic accident while working at Georgia Southern. About three years later, I noticed a middle-aged woman in the office who had visited with Holli on several occasions.
Finally, I asked Holli who she was. She was the mother of Thomas Puckett. Puckett was an organ donor and his heart was used shortly after he died to save the life of a young man who was dying of heart disease at age 29.
The mother was sharing with Holli that they were arranging to meet her son’s heart recipient who lived in Atlanta. The mother was nervous and, as a person of deep faith, helped the mother cope with her anxiety.
I will let you read Holli’s inspirational story of that meeting – “A beautiful heart” – for yourself. Please click on this link: https://www.statesboroherald.com/life/a-beautiful-heart/
Working with Holli
Holli worked with many people at the Herald over the years. Herald President Joe McGlamery was there from her first day.
“Among many duties, Holli was instrumental in helping research and write the biographies of the Deen Day Smith Lifetime Achievement honorees and the Statesboro Herald Humanitarians of the Year,” McGlamery said. “Also, when a prominent person in the community passed, she almost always wrote the front-page obituary. She could always make that connection with family and friends.
“We will miss her and our thoughts are with her husband and family.”
Herald Assistant Editor Eddie Ledbetter worked with Holli for more than two decades.
“There was never a dull moment working with Holli," he said. "She was as passionate a person as you’ll ever find about anything that crossed her desk, or even her mind.
“She was a dogged reporter who wasn’t afraid to fight for the underdog, and would do so with complete commitment," he said.
"And the opinion columns she wrote resounded very strongly with our readership. She could be very eloquent, yet direct, with the written word," he said.
“Of course, she’ll be missed greatly by all of us who spent so many years working alongside her, and we certainly have her family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”
Herald reporter Al Hackle worked with Holli as a colleague for 15 years.
"As a reporter, Holli had a talent for getting people to share things with her – tell her things, I mean – that I can really only admire and not replicate,” Hackle said. “I think people opened up to her because she was always so genuine. Holli had some strong opinions and wasn't afraid to share them on a personal level, but professionally was as objective in her reporting, maybe more, as anyone I've ever met. She respected other people's humanity, even when she disagreed with them."
As Holli’s health struggles worsened over the years, it became clear to me how much she loved working at the Herald and how much she loved writing. While she had sick days, she came to work – all through the worst of COVID. As it became harder and harder for her to see, she made the type on her computer screen larger and even used a magnifying glass.
That’s how badly Holli wanted to be here and how badly she needed to write.
Holli loved to write columns. Some were political in nature and she fell strongly on the conservative side. Many of you may remember Holli and former Herald reporter and editor Jake Hallman would write “dueling” columns from opposite sides of the political spectrum. They were always civil and respectful, whatever their disagreement on a subject. We even had T-shirts made with a photo of each, one proclaiming “I’m with Holli” and the other “I’m with Jake.”
She told me many times how much she loved the camaraderie she felt with all of us at the Herald.
Friday was a sad day for me and for all of us here who worked with her. As I mentioned earlier, Holli had a deep faith and I know that helped carry her through the health issues that may have overwhelmed others and kept her looking forward.
In many of her columns she shared her love of life with all of us through her gift of writing. One of my favorite columns of hers is from 2011. I have included a few paragraphs from “Nature is calling my name” below. You can click on the link and read it. There is even a link to Holli reading the column. Hearing her voice made me smile and shed some tears.
“…Long before adulthood took over and tried – but didn't succeed – to bury the Nature's child that was raised to appreciate the tiny blue flowers that appeared in the small glen, the fairy ring of mushrooms that would burst forth after a rain, the owl that lived in the hollow tree.
That child still lives, but has been imprisoned by time, responsibilities and structure. But soon, for a short while anyway, she will escape.
She will taste freedom and wildness in the air as she sits somewhere on a fallen log, maybe a dog beside her or a cat at her feet, listening to bird song and remembering.
If you can't find me, I'll be in the woods.”