In loving memory: Barbara Holt

Barbara Holt

Photo: Lifetouch Church Directories

Barbara Holt (née Nelson), of Hudson, Wis., lost her courageous battle with terminal cancer on Oct. 1, 2020, at the age of 75. 

She was born in Florida while her father was stationed at Camp Blanding during World War II. Barb was the second of four siblings and spent her childhood in South Minneapolis, graduating from Washburn High School in 1962. She attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., and transferred to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in occupational therapy in 1967. Barb excelled at working with physically disabled children. 

Upon graduation, she was offered a position at the U. of M. Rehabilitation Department and became a pediatric supervisor at the U. of M. Children’s Rehab Center in Occupational Therapy. Barb later held a double appointment (half academic and half clinical) at the U. of M. Medical School and the School of Occupational Therapy. She also served a two-year term as president of the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association. Some of her patients and co-workers continued to stay in contact with her for decades.

In 1974, Barb married the love of her life, David Holt, at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. They were blessed with three children. Barb was a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. She adored her children and grandchildren and played an important role in their lives. Barb demonstrated tremendous strength, patience, and grace as she dealt with significant health challenges over many years. Those who knew Barb describe her as positive, kind, compassionate, loving, and a faithful Christian. She was a great conversationalist and made others feel special by how she took an interest in them.

Barb traveled extensively and was proud of her Norwegian and Swedish heritage. Her maternal great-grandfather emigrated from Rotneberget, and her maternal grandmother emigrated from Arneberg (both near Flisa) in Hedmark to Minneapolis. Barb enjoyed six visits to Norway and maintained contact with her Norwegian relatives. She spent countless hours volunteering with non-profit organizations, including: Bethel Lutheran Church and their Scandinavian Food Fest; Boy Scout Troop 140; the P.E.O. Sisterhood; and many others. Barb enjoyed cooking, baking, sewing, and being the family historian. She collected cookbooks and had an uncanny ability to taste a new food item and decipher its ingredients.

Barb is survived by her husband of 45 years, Dave; her daughter, Karin Holt (Martin Bertilsson), her son, Paul Holt; and grandchildren: Nils, Elsa, and Ingrid; her sister, Marilyn Svenson Alexander, brother, Dr. Douglas Nelson (Dr. Susan Mackel), and sister, Cindy Korpela, and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her son, Kent Holt; her parents, Dr. Lloyd and Olive Nelson; a nephew, Douglas Svenson; and brothers-in-law, Hooper Alexander III and Daryl Korpela.

Because of the pandemic, a private memorial service was held at Bethel Lutheran Church on Oct. 25th. You can watch a recording of the service on Bethel’s YouTube Channel at: Memorials may be given to Bethel Lutheran Church (, the University of Minnesota Occupational Therapy Program ( or Norway House ( 

Services were entrusted to the O’Connell Family Funeral Home of Hudson, Wis.,

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 13, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.