Jogging in memoriam
Annual GC’s Run honors a local teacher and her legacy
Four years ago next month, an accident south of Chico claimed the life of a loved and respected elementary school teacher, Carrie Jean Holiman. While running along Oro-Chico Highway about a mile east of the Midway, Holiman was struck by an SUV.
The avid jogger was 56 at the time of her death. Each year since the accident, her friends and family have organized a run to raise money and award scholarships to Corning High School students for use at either a community college or four-year university. Holiman taught fifth grade at Corning’s Olive View Elementary School.
“We thought it would be a good way to remember her after she died and a way to get people in the community together,” explained her daughter, Sequoia Stephens. “Running was something that she loved to do. It was a big part of her life and so we thought it would be a great way to have us all get together to remember her.
“We thought we should probably find a way to make some money so we could also put together a scholarship in her name, so those two things came together.”
The event, scheduled for Saturday (June 7), is called GC’s Run. “GC” is what her four grandchildren called her and stands for Grandma Carrie. The run will be held on property owned by Duke Warren, Holiman’s partner for 23 years. Stephens said her bond with Warren is deep.
“When I was 8, they started hanging out together,” she recalled of her mother and Warren’s relationship. “Then we lived together from the time I was 10. I introduce him as my dad. That’s because he raised me.”
Virginia Bacigalupi, who was Holiman’s colleague for 28 years, also has helped organize the annual event.
“People have been really generous donating for the raffle that takes place during the run,” Bacigalupi said. “Plus, people throughout the year have been making contributions.”
Bacigalupi said there are certain criteria asked of the students who apply for the scholarships, one of which is having attended Olive View.
“We also wanted them to have participated in high school sports, or taken a foreign language,” Bacigalupi said. “Carrie was athletic and bilingual. She taught the [English as a second language] program for a while at Olive View.”
Students pursuing a career in education also are considered.
For the first time this year, two scholarships of $2,500 each will be handed out at the event, Bacigalupi said. Eight students have applied. That makes a total of five $2,500 scholarships handed out to Corning High students since 2011.
The scholarship program is funded through donations to the Carrie Holiman Memorial Fund, held at the North Valley Community Foundation. The money raised by the event will will be used for scholarships next year.
The annual donations, Bacigalupi said, are a reflection of the way those who knew Holiman cared about her, including her co-workers and the many students she influenced over the years.
“She had a great laugh,” Bacigalupi recalled. “When someone asks about her, that is the first thing I think of—her laugh. She was an extremely kind and giving person. I found that over the 28 years we were friends, I changed for the better because of her impact on me, like learning to forgive yourself and being nice to yourself. I watched her live her life and it helped me to become a better person because of that.
“She loved the kids, though of course, on any given day, they would drive her crazy like they drive all of us crazy,” she continued, with a laugh. “And they loved her. I have former students talk to me about her and the ways she influenced them—things like her paying extra attention to something they were having trouble with that was not necessarily academic.
“She loved her family, the grandkids. Everybody at work knew that. She just was there for you when you needed something, even if you didn’t know you needed it. She knew you did.”
Stephens described her mother as “incredibly loving.”
“The way she operated in her life was if things weren’t quite working out, she just added a little more love and that was her solution to difficulties,” Stephens said. “She was very proud of her family and she probably drove her friends crazy talking incessantly about me and her grandchildren. I would describe her as extremely fair. She was always thinking about the other side of whatever the situation was.”
Stephens said her mother came to Chico in 1972 to attend college and that she fell in love with the town.
“I think that was one of the most difficult things [about her passing] because she seemed very content and very happy with where her life had taken her,” Stephens said. “And she expressed that a lot. I agree with Virginia that her laugh and sense of humor were very refreshing. And she was a very principled person.”
Stephens said that when she and Warren get together each year to organize the event there is some “grumbling” involved.
“There are tasks that we don’t really like or it’s just an organizational thing that we put off each year as we near the event,” she said. “But then, of course, the event takes place and we are so glad that we did it. I think that’s because, for the most part, the outcome is always very healing for us. It feels like we’ve done the right thing and I just get a sense that my mom would be so touched.
“She would be completely in awe of how the people come together each year and support it; I think she would be very proud of what it has turned into.”