Lawrence William Buchholz
March 16, 1925—May 10, 2021
Lawrence William Buchholz, age 96, died peacefully surrounded by his family on May 10, 2021.
He led a humble yet revolutionary life. He was born into a German-speaking family on March 16, 1925, in Tripoli, Iowa. Like his six siblings, all of whom were older than him, he worked on his family farm until he was in his twenties. But, unlike his siblings, who had to quit school after 6th grade to work on the family farm, he stayed in school all the way until he completed high school. Refusing to stop attending Iowa School for the Deaf (ISD), where he could communicate freely in his heart language, American Sign Language, he ran away from his home with the help of his only Deaf sibling, Herman. From there on, every summer he went back home to work on the farm and then ran away again a few months later.
His time at ISD was the best of times and the worst of times. It was where he discovered sign language and Deaf culture. It was where he met many of his life-long friends. It was where he developed love for sports. When he was in high school, he was the captain of both the football and basketball teams. During his last year at ISD, he led the football team to an undefeated season, the only undefeated 11-man football season in ISD history, He was also chosen to be the homecoming king that year. Sadly, things were different in the classroom. During his time, Deaf schools all over the United States banned sign language in the classroom and forced Deaf children to learn how to speak. Lawrence, like many other Deaf children, endured a great persecution. This cumulated in school denying him a high school diploma simply because, as the records show, he couldn’t speak.
But, defying the world’s expectations for a Deaf man who can’t speak, he led a very successful life. He moved to Des Moines, got a job, bought a nice house, got married, and had five beautiful children. In addition to making a good living, he was very involved in the local Deaf community. He was a long-time member of the Iowa Association of the Deaf, Des Moines Silent Club, and Calvary Lutheran Church of the Deaf. He also continued his storied sports career. He and the Des Moines Silent Club basketball team won three national Deaf basketball championships. His career as a pitcher and third-base player on the club’s softball team was highly decorated as well. In 1970, he was inducted in the Midwest Athletic Association of the Deaf’s hall of fame.
After working at Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. for 42 years, making semi-truck tires, he retired. However, it was not his last milestone. Upon finding out the true reason why Lawrence was denied a high school diploma, ISD, now supporting Deaf children’s right to sign, decided to grant him a high school diploma. At 64 years old, he finally graduated from high school. Being a true family man and loyal community member, he dedicated the rest of his life to spending time with his children and grandchildren, and sitting in the bleachers cheering local sports teams and Deaf youth athletes. And, of course, he kept enjoying drinking Coke and eating cheeseburgers, cherry pies, vanilla ice cream, and vanilla wafers.
He was preceded in death by his parents (Herman and Louise), all his six siblings (Clifford, Clarence, Herman, Gertrude, Elmer, and Raymond), his first wife (Virginia McDuffey), and his second wife (Gertrude Hendricks). He is survived by all his five children: Darryl Buchholz and wife Leanne of Davenport, Iowa; Debbie Buchholz and husband Allen of Olathe, Kansas; Darla Buchholz and husband Jim of Des Moines, Iowa; Denise Hodges and husband Kenny of Altoona, Iowa; Darlene Walczyk and husband Greg of Portland, Oregon. He also is survived by his seventeen grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00am on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at Hamilton’s Funeral Home, 605 Lyon St., Des Moines. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8:00pm on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the funeral home. The service will be livestreamed on his obituary page at www.HamiltonsFuneralHome.com. Burial will follow services at Lowman Cemetery in Runnells, Iowa. The family respectfully requests guests wear masks and practice social distancing.
Memorials may be directed to Deaf International (www.deafinternational.org).
Thanks to Noah Buchholz for writing his inspirational obituary about his grandfather.