(July 17, 2008)
Elena “Leni” Holliman died July 17 of ovarian cancer. Leni was born November 6, 1965, in Casper to Don and Mary Helen Holliman. Her family moved to Billing when she was in the first grade. During her grade school years, she began playing the violin. When Leni was 17, she moved with her parents to Tulsa, Okla., where she joined the Tulsa Youth Symphony. In 1984, she graduated from Bishop Kelley High School and later from Tulsa University with a degree in English literature and a minor in violin.
After her graduation from college, Leni moved back to Billings. Her next adventure took her to Alaska to work on a fish processing boat. Leni returned to Montana and eventually began her career as a radio producer, starting her own production company “At Large with Leni Holliman,” and her association with Yellowstone Public Radio, where she worked until her death. She interviewed authors, painters, dancers, actors, sculptors, journalists, musicians, scholars, arts administrators and a broad variety of others. Each year she brought the Montana Festival of the Book and the High Plains Bookfest to the airwaves. Leading a team of volunteers, she helped bring to life the Journey of the Corps of Discovery with the series “Day by Day with Lewis and Clark.”
Leni was a supporter of the arts and humanities throughout Montana. She worked with the Montana Committee for the Humanities, the Western Heritage Center, the Parmley Billings Library, the Alberta Bair Theater, the Yellowstone Art Museum and Broad Comedy, to name a few. She was also involved with the Northern Plains Resource Council, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and PFLAG.
Leni was a driving force in the 2006 MSU-Billings production of “The Vagina Monologues” which underscored her commitment to women’s rights and her hope for a world where women would be powerful, safe and free. Leni had interviewed Eve Ensler and was inspired by the playwright’s compelling message. Her dream was to continue in performances that would champion the causes against injustice.
Leni’s bright spirit, winning smile, unmistakable laugh and unforgettable eyes will be missed by her many colleagues, friends and family members, especially her partner, Denise Kelsay; her mother, Mary Helen Holliman; her sister and brother-in-law, Denise and Doug Lee, along with their children Derek and Theresa (Brett) Johnson; and her brothers, Jim Holliman and Joe (Mike) Holliman. Her father, James (Don) Holliman and her niece Katheryne Emma Lee preceded her in death.
A memorial service was held on Monday, July 21 at the Smith Downtown Chapel in Billings. Cremation has taken place.