Celebrating the wonderful life of Randy Holland

Family, friends, colleagues remember man who served as mentor, inspiration to many
May 3, 2022

Randy Holland's motto for life was, “Your life is your message.”

And what a far-reaching message he has left behind to those who were fortunate enough to know him.

Those who attended the April 30 celebration of his life received a true insight into a man who was equally as passionate about the law and Delaware history as he was about his family and friends.

Holland passed away March 15 at the age of 75.

Dozens – of the thousands – of people who had their lives changed or bettered by associations with Holland took part either in person or via video during the celebration at Delaware State University.

His list of accomplishments and awards could fill a book. From his humble upbringing in Milford, at the age of 39, he became the youngest justice appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court and served for 33 years, the longest term of any justice in state history.

Among those awards he cherished most was being named an honorary Master of the Bench of Lincoln's Inn in London, England, one of only three Americans to receive the honor.

A devoted family man

Among the many tributes and remembrances offered during the celebration, the most poignant and touching were those from his family, including his brother, James; his son, Ethan; grandchildren Rori and Chloe; and his wife of 50 years, Ilona.

James talked about growing up two years behind Randy in school. “He set a standard to emulate. He was a leader and teacher, and we all learned from him. I always recognized that Randy was a teacher at heart. I owe the parts of me that I most value to Randy,” James said.

The celebration featured a video of his granddaughter Chloe's dance performance in her grandfather's honor. She danced to “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” which was one of her grandfather's favorite songs.

Granddaughter Rori talked about some of the memories she shared with her grandfather. “He went to great lengths to make people smile. There are so many memories, so many laughs and we had so much fun,” she said, adding she would always cherish the songs they sang together riding in the car.

His son, Ethan, said his father's message to him was always the same – work hard, never cut corners and always do what's right. “He was never late and never canceled anything with the family,” he said. “He was focused on his tasks and never said anything bad about anybody.”

He encouraged Ilona to get her master's and doctorate degrees at Harvard. Ethan said from the time when he was in third grade until he was a junior in high school, she commuted to college in Cambridge, Mass.

Ethan said his father and mother met in 1964 after a pep rally at Milford High School. Randy was captain of the football team.

He said his father was proud that he retained his commercial truck driver's license, he didn't like clutter, he prayed on his knees every night and the family ate dinner together on a linen tablecloth with candles every night.

He said his father relaxed at night by watching “Law and Order” and Agatha Christie mysteries, and he went to bed every night precisely at 10:15 p.m.

“He believed that no matter what, justice would always work. He never broke character, because he was always being himself,” Ethan said.

Even while he was in the hospital during his final days, he took time to help two nurses with some legal issues.

“He died at 10:15 pm. He was the king of consistency. Now, he lives on in each of us,” Ethan said.

Ilona took a few minutes to thank everyone who attended. “Randy touched your lives and now you have touched our lives deeply, too. I'm hugging each of you in my heart. I can't tell how much we have appreciated your guiding words,” she said.

She also thanked staff at Delaware State University who donated the use of the facility.

“Randy would have been touched by this, but he would have tried to divert our attention away from him,” she said.

The celebration ended with a sing-along of “Sweet Caroline,” by Neil Diamond, one of Randy's favorite singers and songs. It was performed by family friend Doug James.

Piano selections were played by Nancy Holland, and the Rev. Earle Baker, who was the family's pastor in Milford and Lewes, served as chaplain. Speakers included Gov. John Carney; Chief Justice Collins Seitz; longtime secretary Rina Marks; friend and colleague William Chandler; William Koch, representing the American Inns of Court; E. Norman Veasey, former Delaware Supreme Court chief justice; Gale Lafferty, one of his law clerks; and lawyer H. Garrett Baker.

By video from Taiwan, Professor Chen-En Lo spoke about Holland's volunteer service for 30 years in that country. Also by video, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who is first president of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, said Holland was held with great affection in England.

Career started in Georgetown

Justice Holland spent the early years of his career as a lawyer working in Georgetown after he was admitted to the Delaware bar in December 1972.

He was appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court by three governors starting in 1986.

For 25 years, he served as a liaison for the Delaware Court Improvement Project for neglected children placed in foster care.

He championed high ethical standards for lawyers, and was a constitutional expert, noted author and historian, sought-after speaker, advocate for children and families, teacher, mentor, and a champion for women in the law, but he was also a Skeeball wizard, an accomplished athlete and sports enthusiast, loved dressing up for holidays and loved to walk hand-in-hand with his wife.

Because of his influence, the Conference of Chief Justices passed a resolution requiring all law schools to offer courses on state constitutions.

In a class of his own

“We have lost a giant and man who was in a class of his own. He was the leading light of Delaware judiciary. I feel like he had so much left to teach us,” Carney said. “He was one of the smartest persons I have ever met, and when he spoke, you could hear his mind thinking.”

Koch, a longtime friend, said Holland visited inns in 40 states while serving as president of the American Inns of Court.

The American Inns of Court strives to help members become more effective advocates and counselors with a keener ethical awareness, learning side by side with the most experienced judges and attorneys in their community. Each local inn is devoted to promoting professionalism, civility, ethics and legal skills among the American bench and bar, in a collegial setting, through continuing education and mentoring.

“He taught us that each day is a gift, and that's why they call it the present. He remained a good ol’ boy from Milford who was never after glory or fame,” Koch said.

Veasey said Justice Holland championed the highest ethical standards of the bench and bar, and was a true icon of judicial excellence. “He was truly a good man. We are all honored to have known Randy as a colleague, family member and friend,” he said.

Marks served as his secretary for 31 years and helped him write four of his books. She talked about the Randy Holland way of grace, consideration and compassion.

Chandler, another of his cherished friends, worked closely with him. “He had his priorities right. I remember he stopped studying for the bar exam to marry the love of his life,” he said.

“Show, don't tell, was Randy's guide to a good life. I can hear him telling me it will be all right in the end. Teaching, guidance and compassion are his legacy. It's a huge challenge to live up to his example,” he said.

During the celebration, his law clerks throughout the years provided video clips of their remembrances. They all said their year with Justice Holland was life-changing.

Two funds have been established in his memory at the Delaware Community Foundation: The Randy J. Holland Family Law Chair Endowment Fund,, and the Randy J. Holland Memorial Fund for History and Civics Education,

See more about his life at



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