GENOA CITY — Donald Holden had a passion for snowmobiling.
“He just loved to ride,” his son, Jeff Holden, said. “He was constantly looking forward to snowmobiling; it was what he loved to do.”
Between volunteering for local clubs and sharing his hobby with his loved ones, Donald proved to be an avid sportsman and community activist who never stopped pursuing his passion.
“Those were our family vacations,” Jeff said. “I never went to Disneyland. We went snowmobiling. That was just what we did. I was born on a snowmobile.”
Donald Holden, a resident of the village of Bloomfield, died Jan. 28 at the age of 80.
Throughout his life, Donald donated his time and energy volunteering as a member and president of GenaSnoers, Genoa City’s snowmobiling club, and as secretary of the Wisconsin Association of Snowmobiling Clubs.
His love for snowmobiling left an impact on the community, enabling new generations of hobbyists and sportspeople to enjoy winters in the Lake Geneva area.
Donald was born in the Bloomfield area on March 18, 1938.
He spent much of his work life as a quality manager for the Diecast Equipment Co., first at a plant in Woodstock, Illinois, and then in Lake Zurich, Illinois. He also served in the U.S. Navy.
Donald first took an interest in snowmobiling in the late 1960s, which is when, according to his wife, Gail, the hobby became popular in the area.
“He’d see people out riding,” Gail said. “And he thought he’d ought to have one.”
The couple purchased their first snowmobile from Skiroule, a company that manufactured snowmobiles from 1966 to 1977. The interest became a hobby, and the hobby became a passion.
Donald’s love for the sport was contagious; his son, his wife and his friends all partook in the hobby together.
For decades, the Holdens and their friends from GenaSnoers would take trips to northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan each winter to snowmobile, often for weeks at a time.
GenaSnoer club members Tony and Janet LaPlant of Bloomfield, who accompanied the Holdens on many trips, said they took away plenty of fond memories and funny stories about Donald from their time together.
“We had a ball with them,” Tony recalled. “We had so much fun together.”
They continued the tradition until 2013 — the year of their last trip.
“We have a lot of good memories,” Janet agreed. “He was a good man.”
Donald joined as a member of GenaSnoers at the time of its founding, in the early 1970s. He served as president during the 1980s, and stayed involved with the club even after stepping down.
“He had those leadership qualities about him,” Gail said. “He got things done.”
As president, Donald ran the meetings, enforced the club’s bylaws, organized fundraising events and directed management and development of snowmobiling trails that ran through Genoa City.
“We did a lot of riding along roads and stuff, because there weren’t a lot of trails to begin with,” Gail said. “They expanded a lot.”
The trails in the area, which are still enjoyed by the current GenaSnoers and other local riders, required plenty of planning for their development, including negotiations with landowners.
The trails also require grooming each year with heavy equipment, which is currently provided by the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobiling Clubs.
“It was a lot of work, and it still is a lot of work,” Jeff said.
Still, Donald shouldered the responsibilities and sustained the organization in the area, helping the snowmobiling community thrive in the Genoa City and Bloomfield areas, and turning him into a beloved community activist, even after his passing.
When asked why Donald spent his life investing so much into the Lake Geneva area, Gail’s answer was succinct.
“We just couldn’t image living anywhere else,” Gail said.