Piner High School senior Holley Maassen is a founding member of the school’s chapter of the Health Occupation Students of America. Photo by Kent Porter of The Press Democrat


Holley Maassen’s dream is to become a forensic pathologist and unravel the mysteries of how a person died.
It’s an interesting goal, given that the 17-year-old Piner High School senior describes herself as a sunny person who enjoys nothing more than being around other (live) people.
It’s also noteworthy given the teen’s experience with her father’s untimely death. Kim Maassen took his own life in 2010 when Holley was just a freshman.
Wouldn’t she rather aspire to something a bit more calming?
“I think I can handle it,” she said. “I’m pretty calm in most stressful situations.”
Indeed, Maassen has had to confront things that some people never have to in the course of their entire lives.
The sudden death of a loved one. The police coming to the house to conduct an investigation. The consuming nature of grief.
“I came to terms with it really when we got to see him one more time before he was cremated,” Maassen said of her dad.
Pathologists play a central role in similar situations. Their job is to determine how a person died, and in the process, perhaps bring some sense of closure for those left behind.
Maassen has the smarts for the work. Among her many accolades as a student, she was Piner’s designate to Girls State last year and also was a founding member of the school’s chapter of the Health Occupation Students of America.
She’s president of Key Club and a member of the school’s varsity soccer team.
“Holley is an amazing student,” said Piner teacher Judy Barcelon, who noted Maassen’s “investigative spirit.”
Maassen said she has a deeper understanding of mental illness as a result of her father’s ordeal. Kim Maassen was a longtime advocate for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill, and at the time of his death, was clinically depressed, his daughter said.
“I understand why he felt that way and what happened,” she said.
She said the experience solidified her resolve to go into the medical field. She has applied for early admission to the University of North Carolina, which is known for its medical training and affiliations with medical providers.
When life gets heavy, Maassen finds comfort in a book or in the company of friends. She said she loves the cable TV show “Dexter,” which is a comedy based on the life of a a serial killer.
It’s yet another paradox for a girl who paints her face weekly to show her school spirit.
“I’m just a really happy person,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or

Holley Maassen

Age: 17
Birthplace: Santa Rosa
Lives with: Mom, Marion, and brother, Bradley, 15
What’s in her iPod: Bruno Mars, big bands, Panic at the Disco!
Favorite hobby: Exercising and traveling
Favorite TV show: “Dexter”
Favorite food: Sushi or Thai
Quote: “I want to create greatness.”