Demure Beth Holtz leaves powerful legacy behind after dying at age 82

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

As recently as last October, Beth Holtz was trying — and succeeding — at making the world a better place.

That and her remarkable resilience in battling throat cancer for more than two decades will be a prominent part of her legacy, after the wife of Notre Dame football coaching icon Lou Holtz passed away Tuesday.

She was 82.

Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown was among the many members of the Notre Dame family who took to Twitter to express their condolences.

“On behalf of every player who has ever played for the coach Holtz, we send our sincere sympathy and deepest regrets on the loss of Mrs. Holtz. Skip, please tell your dad we all are here for him and are praying for peace for him and the family! Godspeed.”

Skip is the second-oldest of the four Holtz children, a graduate of Notre Dame and a former Irish assistant coach and player. 

“She’s a very quiet woman,” Skip, the head coach at Louisiana Tech, told the Tribune in an interview earlier in his coaching career. “She’s not an attention woman. She doesn’t want to be the center of attention or in the limelight or on TV. That’s not her.

“She’s a behind-the-scenes woman. She’s an incredibly religious woman. I think she is the glue to this family.”

Lou Holtz coached at Notre Dame from 1986 to 1996, compiling a 100-30-2 record and bringing the school its most recent national title (1988). Beth was battling throat cancer at the end of Lou’s time at ND.

By the time Lou resurfaced as the head coach of South Carolina in 1999, his final coaching stop, the cancer had spread to Beth’s liver, lung, ovary and adrenal gland. 

But she battled then and until the very end. 

Beth underwent 83 radiation treatments to help stave off throat cancer, but the aftermath of those was that the lining of her throat and esophagus were destroyed. 

“My wife is No. 1,” Lou Holtz told the Tribune, speaking of his priorities, in an interview last October. “She has been on a feeding tube for the past year, will be for the rest of her life. She can’t travel or anything else — so taking care of her.”

Beth Holtz was involved in numerous charities over the years, including as recently as nine months ago to benefit pediatric ear, nose, throat and audiology work at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Fla.

“They put eardrums into children who can’t hear,” Lou Holtz said. “And if you can’t hear, you can’t speak. They’re making miraculous things happen.”

Born Beth Barcus, she and Lou were three weeks shy of their 59th wedding anniversary when she died.

In September of 2018, while Beth was battling pneumonia, Lou took to Twitter to give thanks for the support she received.

“Thanks for all of your prayers for my wife, Beth,” he tweeted. “She needs them. I don't pray for her anymore; I pray to her. And being married for 57 years means that I am an expert on following instructions.”

Funeral arrangements/live stream

A visitation will be held on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 North Bendix Drive, South Bend, Ind. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday at 9:30 a.m., at the Basilica of Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, with burial to follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery at Notre Dame.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be live-streamed at or by clicking "watch mass" link on

In lieu of flowers, please send memorial contributions to Holtz's Heroes Foundation, Inc. Attn: Brian Baker: 9630 Claymount Lane Fishers, IN 46037 or at

The Dawson Funeral Home of East Liverpool, Ohio is in charge of arrangements.

View Beth's memorial webpage and express condolences online at

Lou and Beth Holtz celebrate a return to the Notre Dame campus in 2008.