March 3, 1932 - May 10, 2023
Rosemary Arnn Holt, humanitarian, activist, community leader, and devoted wife and mother, died peacefully on May 10, 2023 at age 91. A long-time Utahn, Rosemary died in Durham, North Carolina, where she had lived in recent years to be closer to family.
Rosemary was a passionate advocate for peace and social justice in a fractured world, and humanitarian work became her focus in the 1980s. Rosemary was involved with the local group Women Concerned/Utahns United and its championing of nuclear disarmament. She was its president for two terms. During the later years of the Cold War, she made several trips to the Soviet Union to forge relationships with other peace activists. After the fall of the Soviet Union, as the US began to dismantle its chemical weapons, Rosemary sat on the citizens’ advisory council overseeing weapons destruction at Utah’s Tooele Army Depot.
As an advocate to end nuclear testing in the US, Rosemary was proudly arrested (along with many other activists) during peaceful civil disobedience at the Nevada nuclear test site. She also visited and wrote about the people of Karaul, Kazakhstan, whose village sat downwind of a Soviet test site, to further draw attention to the devastating impact of nuclear testing on neighboring communities.
Through her social action, Rosemary was introduced to activists in Ukraine, which was the location of the bulk of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal. She became instrumental in expanding Salt Lake City’s sister-city relationship with Chernivtsi in southwestern Ukraine. Her work included humanitarian medical missions, and broadening cultural, educational and economic connections between the two cities. She organized multiple visits of Salt Lake City and Chernivtsi officials, as well as faculty and student exchanges to enhance nursing and medical education, and helped Chernivtsi establish non-governmental institutions to assist with social needs. Rosemary’s work in Ukraine led to many lifelong friendships, including one university educator in Ukraine who still refers to Rosemary as his American mother.
Rosemary’s interest in understanding other cultures was a product of her love of travel. She visited every corner of the planet, always paying attention to local cultures and people. Every trip resulted in meaningful purchases, often including delicate tea sets and heavy rugs. She was always jokingly asked, “Who’s going to carry that home?” In later years, she shared travel stories as a contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune. Rosemary had a photographer’s eye and captured many extraordinary images of people and places during her journeys.
Rosemary Patricia Arnn was born in Del Rio, Texas, on March 3, 1932 to Isaac (Ike) Isom Arnn and Deola (Dee) Irene Guess Arnn. Her father was an engineer and inventor, and the family moved frequently with his work. Rosemary spent her formative years in Austin, Texas, before the family moved to Murray, Utah, where she graduated from Murray High School. Shortly after high school, Rosemary married Stanley Wilson Smith, her high school sweetheart. That marriage ended in divorce and Rosemary later married Reed Lester Holt of Salt Lake City. Rosemary and Reed remained inseparable for over 55 eventful years before Reed’s death in November 2022. Whether on a ship in the North Atlantic, a burro ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or just holding hands on the couch, their love for each other was deep and profound.
Rosemary’s early marriage interrupted her educational ambitions, but she returned to them in her early forties, earning a degree as a registered nurse from Weber State College and a degree in anthropology from the University of Utah. Her entire family was extremely proud of her mid-life accomplishments. She worked in the medical profession for many years before she began to devote herself to community service and advocacy. She spent several years on the University of Utah Medical Center’s Institutional Review Board, which addressed ethical issues arising from medical research, including the historic approval of the total artificial heart.
Rosemary had many deeply held convictions and loved nothing more than discussing them. She was well known as an avid contributor to the letters to the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune. She was a striking redhead who was comfortable with all manner of people. In her youth, she was often mistaken for Debbie Reynolds. In midlife, for Shirley MacLaine. At the end, her personality was more like Ruth Bader Ginsburg—tenacious in everything she did.
Rosemary is survived by her three children and their spouses, Lawrence (Lory) Smith and Andrea Torrens of Cold Spring, New York, Colby Smith and Holly Sloan of Telluride, Colorado, and Heather Holt-Lister and Joseph Lister of Durham, North Carolina; three grandchildren, Ariel Taylor Smith and Andrea Taylor Smith of Vermont, and Weston Sloan Smith of Colorado; and three great-grandchildren, Kayce, Renny and Magnolia, all of Vermont. She also is survived by her sister, Colleen Arnn Benas of Phoenix, Arizona, and brother, Gary Stroh of The Dalles, Oregon. We will forever miss her energy, focus and love in our lives.
The family wishes to thank several of those who provided support to Rosemary in her final months, including Dr. Teah Bayless, Nancy Ranta, and Tara Lowman and the team at The Retreat at Cary.
Rosemary will be interred with her beloved Reed at Arlington National Cemetery at a date yet to be set by the military. A memorial service for both Rosemary and Reed will be planned at that time.