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Loss of Knott leaves hole in community

By Staff | Feb 16, 2018

Toni Milbourne/Chronicle Adele and Bernie Knott spent time volunteering at the carnival ticket booth at the Jefferson County Fair.

Jefferson County lost an active member of the community on Feb. 5, with the passing of Shepherdstown resident Bernard W. Knott.

In 1970, he married the love of his life, Adele Abrahamson. In addition to Adele, he leaves behind his legacy in his children, their spouses and grandchildren: John and Melissa Knott, Rudy, Leila and Riese (Ranson); Matthew and Laura Knott, Alexis, Zachary and Sierra (Harpers Ferry); Mark Knott and Rachel Hochman (Woodstock, Vermont); Rebekah and Barry Bridgette, Anthony, Emma and Jackson (Bakersfield, California); Luke and Kristine Knott, Cooper and Paige (Martinsburg); and Sarah and Nathan Cross, Hendrick (Martinsburg).

He served in the United States Navy as a computer specialist in the Vietnam War.

Knott was a farmer by trade, according to his son, Matt.

“In the early 1980s with the high interest rates and milk prices falling, he got out of farming and went back to school full time with six children at home and my mom staying home as well,” Matt said. “He worked through his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and then doctorate, all while working and raising six kids.”

Knott retired from Jefferson County Schools in 2012 after serving as Jefferson High School’s assistant principal since 2004. He also served as a math teacher prior to taking the administration position, both in Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

Knott was born in Frederick, Maryland, to Mary Anna and the late Bernard Anthony Knott. He was raised on a dairy farm and developed a love of the farm life. His interests and hobbies were wide and varied – gardening; reading, especially science fiction; raising rabbits; and building things.

Judy Matlick, former director of the county’s extension office, said she knew Knott as “Wayne.”

“My earliest memory of him was when he was providing for his family by doing dairy testing and going to school,” Matlick said. “I always admired his strength and determination.”

He was actively involved with the Kiwanis Club of Shepherdstown, the West Virginia Kiwanis Key Club Committee, St. Agnes Parish, the Blue Ridge Rabbit and Cavy Club, the Jefferson County Farm Bureau and the Jefferson County Fair, where he was on the Board of Directors and served as the 4-H rabbit project advisor.

Knott’s love of children was apparent in each of these activities, as well as in his career as an educator.

Fellow teacher Anne Portrey shared memories of Knott who, she said, taught her son math.

“Bernie was such a compassionate man who always looked for the good in people,” Portrey said. “My son had attention problems and was lucky enough to have Bernie for a math teacher. Bernie kept him on track and my son flourished under his guidance.”

Knott was dedicated to serving youth in the community; he was Key Club advisor at Jefferson High.

“Dr. Knott was full of laughter and kindness,” said Marsha Lynn Holmes, a secretary at Jefferson High School. “He greeted students with a hand shake or a hug in the mornings. He loved working with the kids in Key Club.”

“I will truly miss him-he was so kind to everyone,” she added.

Matt Knott recalled his father’s commitment to helping troubled students.

“He really liked working with kids that were having trouble at school,” Matt said. “One time at Jefferson, a kid had brought a gun to school in his backpack and had apparently been threatening some other kids. Dad contacted the kid and brought him into the office, where he got the kid to hand over the gun.”

Knott loved to have fun and enjoyed spending time with his family as well as his students.

“Occasionally for fun, we would go fishing and listen to the Baltimore Orioles games on the radio,” Matt said. “Dad liked to split wood, take care of the animals and read a lot. Later in life, he and mom liked to travel together.”

According to Matt, the only vacation the family took growing up was to a goat farm in West Virginia.

“All six kids rode in the back of a pickup truck with a cap on it,” he said. “Our outings included going to church every Sunday and to family reunions in the summer.”

Matt explained that the family was pretty poor growing up, but that was never a deterrent.

“He and mom always taught us not to let that define us,” Matt said. “He said we would be able to go as far as we chose in life. He taught me the lessons of hard work and perseverance.”

Knott shared those philosophies with the children he taught and those he mentored. He did it in a way that drew respect from the youth, and an admiration not often found for teachers or administrators.

Stephanie Poe, who taught ROTC at Jefferson during Knott’s tenure, said her favorite memories of Knott were of him and his wife chaperoning the ROTC Military Ball.

“They always came and stayed for the evening,” Poe said. “It was so much fun to see the two of them dancing with each other and with the students.”

Dancing was enjoyable to the Knotts, according to local resident Michelle Palmer. Palmer said her favorite memory of Knott was when she took square dance lessons with the Knott family at what used to be the community center near T.A. Lowery Elementary School.

“What a precious couple,” Palmer said.

Knott’s compassion for children was apparent in the small things he did that weren’t publicized, but were a blessing to others.

“When my grandson was born, Bernie placed a carton of eggs in my mailbox every week so he could have a healthy breakfast,” Portrey said.

“He said ‘I know you struggle, so Adele and I want to help,'” Portrey said. “It is amazing how a carton of eggs can rejuvenate one’s spirit. He was truly one of a kind and I will miss him.”

A celebration of life was held for Knott at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Shepherdstown on Saturday. Those interested may make donations to the WV Key Club District Foundation, c/o Mrs. Jan Shelburne, One Bank Plaza, Wheeling, WV 26003, or the St. Agnes Scholarship I Fund, P.O. Box 1603, Shepherdstown, WV 25443.