Friends, family to remember Greeley man who was driving force behind Stampede Western Art Show | MyWindsorNow.com

Friends, family to remember Greeley man who was driving force behind Stampede Western Art Show

Mike Peters
For The Tribune

Sunday, they'll say goodbye to Tuffy.

There will be a lot of people there, friends and family members, who loved him and knew him as the good man he was.

His funeral will be at 1 p.m. at the Greeley Country Club.

Willis "Tuffy" Holland died on Sept. 22, after a long illness, but before that, he lived an amazing life.

He and his wife, Shirley, met at Colorado A&M, what is now Colorado State University, where Tuffy was an All-American wrestler and played on the football team. He is in the CSU Hall of Fame.

After college, he was in the Army for three years, then worked with his father-in-law, expanding Pueblo Chemical Co. and joining with Balcom Chemical of Greeley, and finally growing it into United Agri-Products. They moved to Greeley in 1984 when he became vice president of United Agri-Products.

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And it was in Greeley where Tuffy and Shirley grew into the Greeley Stampede and helped form the Stampede Western Art Show, one of the best exhibitions of western art in the state.

Chris Ruth of Greeley worked for Tuffy for many years: "He treated me like I was a member of his family," Chris said. "He was a big man with a gruff voice, but a good heart. He had a great giggle, and people were always surprised to hear it coming from a big old bear of a man."

In later years, Tuffy Holland sat down and wrote a family history. He wasn't able to complete it, but the stories, in his words, reflect his vision of life, love and sense of humor.

» Early life: I was a rather large baby, weighing in at 10 pounds. … I received my nickname from my uncle Wash, who was visiting at the ranch (in Wolcott, Colo.) and looking at me in the crib, and apparently I was raising hell as babies do from time to time. He looked at me and said, "He's a regular toughie, isn't he?" And that is how I got my nickname.

» Childhood: Another startling event was when I got into the Ex-Lax and thought it was candy and ate a whole box of it. Mom rushed me to the doctor and he said everything would come out in the end. And it did.

» Teen years: Dad built a little irrigation pond about 50 yards from our house. He would let us scrounge any lumber we could find to build a fire near the lake when we skated. I was the official neighborhood ice tester. If I could go out on the lake and jump up and down and not break the ice and fall in, then the rest of the kids could skate.

» College at Colorado A&M: Jack Willis (a roommate) had a car and went home almost every weekend, but if you wanted to ride with him, he was always out of gas. The only way you could ride was to fill his tank with gas. I think gas was 25 cents per gallon back then.

» Marriage: At the wedding, I was 6-foot-4, my best man Jack Willis was 6-foot-6, the preacher was 6-foot-4 and my bride, Shirley, was 5-foot-2.

» First daughter: When Kristi was born, she was two month premature, and of course scared everyone. She only weighed 3 pounds, 8-and-a-half ounces when she was born. I'll never forget the first time I saw her, and I could have slid my wedding ring around her arm.

» In the Army, in Germany: When the Berlin Airlift started, they moved our unit up on the border and issued actual atomic artillery shells to fire. At one time I was in a room with 50 atomic artillery shells, all equal to what was dropped on Hiroshima. It was kind of scary to think of all that destruction in that one room in those neat looking steel canisters.

» Business: After I got out of the Army, my friend Harlan Smith had started Pueblo Chemical after he noticed a friend had sprayed his lawn with a chemical called 2, 4-D and it got rid of the dandelions. He was selling and treating lawns with the chemical. I found myself in a truck loaded with chemicals and headed for the Kansas wheat fields. We moved to Garden City, Kan. To sell the products.

» Greeley: In 1970, a company out of Greeley called Balcom Chemical was pushing business against us in Kansas. It was run by a guy named George Doering, and I thought of him as that damn Texan who was trying to take our customers. In the fall, I got a call from him, and he wanted to meet. I thought he was wanting to buy us or sell out to us. I met with him and talked for a couple of hours. I decided I liked George's philosophy, and we shook hands and agreed to merge our companies.

In 1984, they moved to Greeley.