Franklin Holwerda grew up as the youngest of three children in a home where his mother was a Democrat and his father was a Republican. He suspects he is a namesake of the 32nd president, and that his mother made that decision.
“Of the three children, I was the only one that my parents didn’t have the resources for my mother to deliver me at a hospital, so she had me at home with a midwife. However, they were able to send my siblings and [me] to a Christian school all the way through graduation.”
Education, and continuing education, has been a passion for Holwerda. He is inspired by the words of Henry Adams: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
“I remember in the late 1960s while working on a six-story building in Grand Rapids, a Davenport University professor said while looking at the construction, ‘The deeper the foundation, the taller the building.’ That has really stuck with me. I believe education broadens the individual and provides value that can’t be measured.”
But his goal of attending college was delayed by his family’s heating and air conditioning business. He worked for it for several years and eventually purchased it in 1963 when he was 30 years old. He renamed it the Franklin Holwerda Company, which is still its name today, even though he sold the company in 1981.
At 48 years old, after selling a successful company and retiring, he fulfilled his dream of attending college.
His retirement wouldn’t last, however. Seven years after selling his company and initially retiring, Holwerda jumped back into the workforce in 1988 at Quality Air, a Western Michigan company, as a vice president for service. He became a stockholder and part owner.
“Some tell me that I was lucky, but I don’t believe that,” says Holwerda. “I’ve have the good fortune of having good people surround me my entire life, and that’s no accident.”
He left Quality Air in the late 90s, before a life-changing experience in April 2003. A near-fatal auto accident gave him more perspective on how delicate and precious life is. “We often feel that we are 10 feet tall and bulletproof, but a situation like that makes you more circumspect.”
Holwerda believes in the Mackinac Center because he shares its passion for civil liberties, freedom, free markets and independence from politics. He believes individuals make better decisions for themselves and their communities than a government can do through central planning.
“The reason why I stay in Michigan is because I was born here. I have an attachment with family and friends. My wife and I already have our burial stone ready here. We have a home in Florida, too, for the winter, but I am a resident of Michigan and intend to stay for the rest of my life and help improve our state. Right-to-work was a leap forward for our state. I have no regrets being a union member earlier in my career and working closely with union organizations, but I believe workers should have the choice whether to financially support the organization.”
Franklin Holwerda and his wife Gerri have six grown children. He plans on building a home north of Lowell in the coming months.