Faces in the Crowd: Mark Holdship

October 29, 2019

The Holdship Family

When Mark Holdship purchased Fosnaught’s Funeral Home from Dick Root in 1998, he had no idea what the future had in store.

21 years later, with funeral homes now in Cadillac, Lake City, Manton, Houghton Lake, Prudenville, McBain, and Marion, Holdship’s Family of Funeral Homes has become one of the most trusted names in the industry.

And it all started with that first purchase in downtown Marion.
The son of Michael and Carolyn Holdship, Mark credits his parents with instilling the values needed to make a living in what can be an emotionally trying industry. Values such as empathy, kindness, and consistency. His parents showed him the importance of being positive, and always being yourself.

For the last 21 years, Mark has been there for others in some of their most difficult times.

But there’s more to Mark than the funeral business. Along with his wife, Angie, and their four children, Holly, Michael, Dylan and Emma, there’s never a dull moment in the Holdship household.

We caught up with Mark recently where we talked about the funeral business, his family, and the importance of being yourself. We learned that Mark Holdship is more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: Where were you born and raised?
Mark: Carson City, Michigan. Graduated in ’86. My parents were educators – my dad was a high school principal and my mom was a school teacher.
MP: What kept you busy, growing up?
Mark: I lived at the high school with my dad. Locking up, going to basketball games; going to sporting events. And when we weren’t doing that, my brother and I were usually getting kicked out of the gym after-hours by the custodians because we were playing basketball.
My dad was also an athletic director at one point – he graduated from Central Michigan – so we grew up going to all the games. We went to all the high school state finals. He’s still to this day a big sports fan.
We knew everybody in town; people would show up at our house all times of the day. My dad was involved with all kinds of organizations and groups – we were just very involved.

MP: How’d you get your start in the funeral business?
Mark: I worked for a funeral home down in Ithaca. I got my apprenticeship and ended up going to Wayne State. I was working in the Detroit area for a couple years, and nothing was coming available. And all of a sudden out of the blue, my last boss, Dale McCullough, who was in Edmore and Lakeview, he called me and said, “Hey, I need a licensed director, would you come and work for us?’
I ended up moving there – I was going to buy that funeral home, but a big consolidator company ended up buying it.
In the interim, Mr. Root, a mutual friend of [Dick Root and myself] had mentioned that he was looking to retire. That’s when we got involved with coming up here. We took that over July 1st, 1998.

MP: Were you familiar with the Marion area when you purchased Fosnaught’s Funeral Home?
Mark: I knew about Marion. I’d been through here, but I didn’t really know the town. It’s funny, when I met Dick Root I had no preconceived notions – We’ll talk to him, and if it works out, great, but if it doesn’t, we’ll understand. I had my ducks in a row because I was trying to buy that funeral home in Lakeview, so when this came about, I was ready to do that.

MP: 1998 was when you started in Marion, but since then you’ve added a number of funeral homes in the area.
Mark: Pretty much all of those were retirement related – it wasn’t planned. People ask: ‘Why do you have so many funeral homes?’ I don’t know. We’ve gotten those opportunities and we’re good at what we do, and people like the way we run our business and take care of stuff. Going back to Dick Root all the way to Dick Young – these people are icons in the business, been there for years and years, and are well thought of. To think that they’d let us take their business over, we take a lot of pride in that.

We’ve grown, and our business has grown. Marion’s very important to me. I’ve established a lot of relationships here. I want to do good things by people. I’m still the same guy I was 20 years ago when I came here. It’s a lot of work doing it right; a lot of people don’t understand that. Behind the scenes, a majority of the work is not the deceased, it’s the people. Trying to make sure we’re doing right by them, taking care of things, and doing it the right way.

We’re constantly trying to make sure things are good. We take a lot of pride in what we do.

MP: Tell us about your family.
Mark: My wife Angie and I have been married for five years. We’re a blended family; I’ve got a son and a daughter with Angie: Dylan and Emma. My older children, Holly and Michael. Holly is married and is a pastor in Jacksonville, Florida. Michael is a senior in college at the University of Miami in Florida.

Holly and [her husband] Dean will be moving back the first of December to join the business. I’m proud of the fact that they’re coming back because they want to come home. Holly’s a perfectionist to a fault. She’s very smart; very talented. It’s fun to go watch her at her church now, what she’s done.
Angie’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. She does help out at the funeral home. She helps me out; helps with the kids. She coaches volleyball at St. Ann’s – we’re very active with our church in doing different things.
MP: So faith is a big part of your life?
Mark: Absolutely. I couldn’t do what I do without it.

MP: What was it initially that made you want to get into the funeral business?
Mark: I think it’s because growing up the way I did with my parents. They’ve always been reaching out to help anybody. I think watching that as a kid – and I appreciate it more as an adult, looking back – with helping people with funerals it is tough; sometimes it’s not fun, and the circumstances are really rough. But we provide a lot of comfort to a lot of people, and we help people – and that’s the reward part of it.

One of the nice things about having a lot of staff and people, is that we can structure it so that people don’t have to work until they’re burned out. They can have time to their families. It’s important to me that I want my staff to do a good job for people, and that they’re excited to come to work. Not that they’re excited about death, but you’ve got to have the attitude that you want to help and serve, and you have to have the right mindset.

I just want people to know, if they want to see Mark Holdship, I’m always available. All they have to do is ask for me to come. If I’m available, I would never turn anybody down. Marion has been so good to me. I have a lot of great friends here, and a lot of people who I’ve served over the years. I have a soft spot for Marion, because that’s where I started, really, as an owner. I think that hopefully is going to continue on, as long as I’m at the helm.

MP: Northern Michigan has been your home for 21 years, what do you enjoy the most about living here?
Mark: I just love the people and the slower pace of life. I love raising my family here. My wife and I have great friends here; we enjoy doing the things we do, whether it’s going out on the lake, or out to my property. I’m a big hunter; we have some property that we hunt on – my wife thinks I’m crazy because I spend a lot of my free time working on that. Angie and I love spending time together and doing things as a family. With our kids in sports, and she’s coaching, there’s a lot of times where we’re on the go until nine or ten o’clock at night.

MP: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
Mark: Be positive, and be yourself. Try not to worry about what the world says. Be yourself, and do what’s right. My dad – as a principal, living with him – from day one [stressed] helping make good decisions, have a smile on your face, work hard, and do what’s right. I was blessed – I had two great parents. It’s not because we had a ton of money, or possessions. We enjoyed the stuff we’d do and the people we surrounded ourselves with. That was the biggest part of it.

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